As I have written before I have kids currently in their mid teens. Parenthood for us has been a blessing and a joy and a lot of fun. Sure there are challenges and issues and fights that go along but we genuinely like our kids as people and not just because they are our kids. They are thoughtful, funny, inquisitive, opinionated and smart, kind, healthily industrious and full of life. They are very different from each other and in many ways different from my wife and me and yet very much the same.
Since the birth of my oldest, being a dad has been a learning experience. Not just in learning the practical aspects (for there has been tons of that) but in an experiential way. For as my kids grow and mature I find I am learning more and more about life and myself. When they were babies and then a toddlers it was as if I was being given a peephole into my own childhood and the rare opportunity to gain perspective on that early stage of my life. Memories of experiences that I had never remembered before came back as deja vu.
They were a reason, or should I say excuse, to play at the playground, climb on the climbing structure and slide down the slides and swing on the swings. Who would ever question the motives of a dad keeping up with his little ones, when in fact I also saw this as an opportunity to play and relive and have fun. I learned that it is ok to say yes even though my parents might have said no or that other parents might give that look. The time the rain caused the front yard to get muddy and rather than shoo everyone away because of what it would do to the lawn, I encouraged the neighborhood kids to join mine sliding in the mud. There was the time of chasing a group of kids around with a water hose and everyone, especially me was drenched. Though safety was always paramount, it was through those moments I learned it was ok for other parents to wonder where the adult was in the group.
Though I’ve always been curious, having kids opens a new world of seeking and exploring even the minutest thing. When sharing music and rocking with them in the dark or playing with the puppets, time seemed to be suspended; seemed surreal.
As they each face new challenges and opportunities and are unsure, I learn much from how they respond and how we have to encourage and coach. Setting limits and also expecting responsibility; but learning to hold back my fears and to consider the source of my caution and to decide when its best to just let them go and be on the side lines if needed. The way that I have learned and become was not necessarily how they should be or experience life.
As they face their fears and I have had to be brave for them I learned something about myself as well as them. When they fell down and picked themselves up I was also reminded of how durable I really was. When they laughed and laughed at my goofiness I was reminded to not take myself and life so seriously. When they just jumped into a group of kids they had never met and just began to play I am reminded how easy it was before we all stopped to think before doing that and more times hesitated than was good.
When they asked to come to work just to meet the people and spent a day seeing what I did, I was reminded of the nice people I work with who thought this was cool and feel good years later when my kids talk about that day. I am reminded to say yes more that no.
As they struggle with school and with friendships and with relationships I am relearning what that was about back then and that this newer perspective can be healing. I am also learning that because they are friends with each other, they will often seek out the other's perspective or advice, as being more relevant or current than what dad and mom could provide and that this is ok and good.
As my oldest nears college age I am reminded about how things will change so dramatically. For him it is an awesome and scary time and my job is to hold my fears in check and be there to talk to and guide and to hug them tight. As parents we are not only coaches we are also sometimes partners. I know that in that process they will learn; and as we help them through this next stage they will teach me as well.
I have often said that having young kids keeps you younger and more on your game and that is good.