Reed Markham once said, “Being a great father is like shaving. No matter how good you shaved today, you have to do it again tomorrow.” For those who have become fathers, fatherhood is a daily responsibility with no time outs, and as the adage says, “Practice makes perfect.” I’ve never met a perfect dad, but I have met individuals who have become better men upon becoming fathers. Bruce Linton, Ph.D. says, “No life transition- – not getting married, changing jobs, moving, or completing educational goals- – will have as long-lasting an effect on a man’s sense of purpose as becoming a parent.” This sense of purpose can truly make dad a better person.
Being a daddy reminds me to be a positive role model. As fathers, we must be mindful that pairs of little eyes and ears are monitoring our behavior. Children mimic those who are most influential in their lives. This parroting can be gratifying if the child copies positive behavior or humiliating if the child repeats colorful verbiage dad expresses during a fit of anger. As dads, we should strive to model an exemplary life, so that when we are impersonated, there is no fear of shame.
If patience is not in a new daddy’s vocabulary, fatherhood offers the opportunity to learn the virtue. Crying babies, youngsters asking a plethora of questions, and unexpected leaps connecting with sensitive parts of the body, are all experiences fathers face. “Hurricane” baby can demolish an organized bookshelf or scatter DVD’s in moments. There will be instances when the van is packed and the kids are being buckled, when one announces, “I have to go potty.” Invariably this occurs on days when the clock taunts, “You’re already late.” Can these circumstances be frustrating? Sure, but before losing your cool, remember children grow up quickly and one day you will yearn for the days of wearing a cup while lounging in your favorite chair.
Fatherhood teaches men to love. Upon learning that we were expecting our first child, preparations went into full swing. We painted a room, labeling it nursery. We added furniture and upon learning the sex of our child, added touches of masculinity. All of this for a child in which we had only seen ultrasound pictures. Delivery day came. After eighteen hours of labor, my wife and I both wept as we held our firstborn. Holding a newborn puts life in perspective. The weight of fatherhood was firmly upon my shoulders, and even though I was a bit fearful, it did not compare to the overwhelming love and high hopes I now had for my child.
Can becoming a dad make you a better person? Sure. How do I know? My wife told me so. As she enumerated ways I’ve changed over the years, I realized how my heart has softened to love more and my shoulders have broadened to bear more responsibility. But something else has happened, I cannot remember what life was like before becoming a father, nor do I want to. I can’t imagine life without my children. Clarence Budington Kelland said, “My father didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.” By the grace of God, my children will observe a man who is not only daddy but also their hero.