When it came to parenting, I had no clue what I was getting myself into at the beginning. I had not even so much changed a diaper let alone had a chance to fathom the sheer amount of sleepless night that I was about to experience.
All of the parenting classes tried to prepare me, and they were successful to a point. Walking out of the last class, I felt more confident in myself as a parent. I knew how to hold a baby, and I learned how to strap our newborn in the car seat so we could leave the hospital whenever the time would come. Ultimately, I discovered the important things to take care of our newborn.
Those classes though weren’t able to teach me what it means to be a father. The first time that William opened his eyes to look at me when I held in him in the hospital, I knew that there was much more than just making sure that he is fed, his changing his diaper, and rocking him to sleep.
There is so much more.
So much more, that I didn’t truly embrace fatherhood until the birth of our second child. Yes, I loved being a dad before Joseph was born, but there was an overwhelming feeling of real understanding of what it meant to be a dad as I sat there holding our second child.
As I sat there, holding Joseph in my arms, the previous five years as a dad flashed before my eyes. I saw the moments that I was too busy on my phone, tweeting, blogging, or catching up on Facebook. I saw a dad who was too busy taking pictures and immediately going to share it. I saw a dad who would let his child cry for 30 minutes until he finally went down for his nap.
But I saw a dad who is involved in his kid’s life. I saw a dad who would eventually coach his son’s baseball team. I saw a dad who would read books to his kids before going to sleep for the night. I saw a dad who was embracing those small moments with his sons because he knew deep down he wouldn’t be getting those back.
The pieces to the puzzle were there.
It was at that moment that I vowed to my boys, my wife, and myself that I would be an even better father than I was before. I wasn’t just going to say yes when my son asks me to play catch with him in the backyard; I was going to be the dad who didn’t act annoyed when questioned. I was going to be the dad who would help him and encourage him as he would feel down as he struck out during a game.
I was going to be the dad who would read each character of a book in different voices, and try to remember said voice every time the character would come back to speak. I was going to be the dad who taught him the life lessons of picking themselves back up after falling off their bike so that they could try again. I was going to be the dad who cried as his son went to kindergarten roundup.
I was going to be the dad who taught my sons to live their lives with empathy and compassion with everyone they meet, whether it is on the playground or in school. I was going to be the dad who showed his kids how to love their partner unconditionally and do the small things like buying Starbucks or flowers just because.
It’s easy for me to say that this is who I want to be as a dad. The hardest part of it all is actually DOING it. These boys, my wife, this family are the everything in my life. They are the reason I wake up in the mornings and the reason I continue to write about our lives wondering when and where the next adventure of being a family will take us.
I’ll never stop trying to be the dad I vowed to be for my family that day as I sat there holding my newborn son.