Fatherhood Friday: Learn as You Go

Being a good parent doesn’t come easy, or all at once.

Mistakes, missteps, and mishaps are all part of being a parent. The best parents are guaranteed to have some of the biggest teaching moments. I’ve heard it said that children don’t come with instruction manuals, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be nice to have one. Sadly, regardless of how we wish we could simply have all the answers, and be a model parent, that reality doesn’t exist for any parent.

Such a truth should set us at relative ease, but for some reason it doesn’t. We still think we have to perform like a trained monkey. Some think if their kids cry for more than 5 seconds without them dropping everything they’re horrible parents. In fact, I was convinced that I was a terrible dad because I couldn’t get my son to stop crying at times, and other times I couldn’t get him to go to sleep. I have so many dad fail stories that I could tell, but one lesson that I have learned is that it’s the trying that counts.

Only by failing to try and by failing to learn from our mistakes do we truly fail our children. They are learning how to exist in the world, and the learning curve is steep. But, nearly as steep is the learning curve of being a parent to your specific child. I say to your specific child, because each one is different in very special ways. My daughter came along 15 short months after my son, but that gave me 15 months to work out the kinks, or so I thought. My daughter came into this world and all but said, “you ain’t seen nothing yet.” She does a great number of things differently from my son, and has done so from the very beginning. Therefore, I have come to understand that as they grow, so will I.

I am a better father today than I was yesterday, and hope to be a better father tomorrow. I still learn lessons everyday. For example, I learned to clean my little ones before I give them a bath, kind of like washing your dishes before you put them in the dishwasher. I learned this lesson just last night, as both children had a smelly surprise waiting for me when I went to undress them for their bath. I won’t go into details, but I can say that that was a hard lesson to learn. Some things sneak up on you like this lesson did me. I have given my son countless baths, and not once have I had any issues with anything in the diaper. Of course, once is enough to remind me to clean him off first.

Parenting has many such lessons, and going through these moments doesn’t make you a terrible parent. After all, we’d never say that a kid was a terrible human being because they may some mistakes while trying to get better and learn. Neither should we tell ourselves how terrible we are as parents because we have to try to do what’s right, instead of just doing it. Parenthood is a journey of unimaginable lessons, but on the other side is a child who knows you have done your best, and that is just how it should be. No parent should ever try to make their children feel bad because they are incapable of being the perfect parent from the very start. There is only one who is perfect in this regard, and His name is Yahweh.