On Fatherhood

The Lifelong Lessons of Being a Dad



EpicStockMedia/Shutterstock.com

What is being a father? It’s, at least in part, about beginning. It is rejuvenating to locate ourself near the start of a child’s life. There are so many chances to get it right. The thought that we might also get it wrong flits across our mind, but it’s gone before we can even shiver at its presence. It’s also about returning to that question again and again, each time failing to acquire additional insight.

“What isn’t being a father?” is a better question. Being a father isn’t indifference, but neither is it a steady stream of calm wisdom or a place of consistent self-control or a clearly delineated set of exercises engineered to help produce self-knowledge in offspring. Bridges are engineered. We stare into our little one’s eyes, beaming thoughts that we hope are received, translated and appreciated, waiting for a beam to come back to us. Child rearing is worked toward, clumsily, imperfectly, with a deep and near religious faith in trial and error. Children are refined over time with the assistance of many imperfect philosophies.

When our second child opted in, my wife and I compared baby pictures of the two boys. “They look different,” I said.

“That’s not why I’m looking at them,” she said. “I want to remember this.” I remember looking at the pictures with her only because she has told me about it.

If, in part, fatherhood is remembering things that did not exactly happen, it is also forgetting things that did happen, some transformative to a degree that I could not have imagined five seconds before they occurred. Afterwards, I knew I would never be the same again. But I was.

As children grow, they are not the same again. Parenting boys instead of babies is already a grand departure from everything I have learned up until now and I am just coming to see that it will always be this way. Recently, in trying to figure out when a man that is not a father becomes a man that is a father, I remarked to my sons, “Even though I know being a father has changed me forever, I remember certain things that happened, but not as many as I would have thought.”

My older son explained, “Maybe it’s because you are thinking of us more than yourself. Maybe you want time to pass so we can get to the next thing in our lives.”

My younger son zeroed in, “The problem is that you think it’s parenting when really it’s childing.”

He’s right. What is being a father? It’s letting someone else be a child. It’s suffering through certain kinds of abstract pain so that they don’t. It’s bearing the brunt of disappointments so that they can go on feeling invincible. It’s teaching how to forget as much as it is teaching how to remember… but it is still very near the beginning.


Ben Greenman is a widely published author and journalist in Greater New York. Connect at BGreenman.com.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

More from Natural Awakenings

New Life-Changing Perception

Healthy Foundations, in Northbrook, is now offering a five-session, cutting-edge technology called EVOX, a modality invented by the ZYTO company.

Eat Wheat Again

For the three in four Americans that suffer digestive distress, straightforward strategies—including eating whole wheat and grains—will rekindle normal digestive function and even restore full liver and gall bladder function.

Expect a Miracle

The miraculous enters our everyday lives when we are grateful, proactive, adventurous, generous and intuitive.

Harold Koeing on Why Science Finds Faith a Healthy Choice

People that have a strong faith enjoy better social, physical and mental health and possess a firm foundation to lean on in times of crisis, says the bestselling author.

Lutein in Greens and Eggs Slows Cognitive Aging

In a University of Illinois study, adults that ate large amounts of leafy greens, avocados and eggs had levels of lutein, a brain and eye nutrient, on par with younger people.

Add your comment:
Edit ModuleShow Tags

See More »This Month

Explore the Mind’s Hidden Secrets

Professional intuitive, trainer and reiki master Linda Schiller-Hanna will conduct an immersive one-day workshop.

Evolving Qi: The Art of Energy Cultivation

Evolving Qi is a two-day transformative experience that brings together the healing arts of qigong, energy practices, meditation, breathwork and holistic living.

RealFit Gym Grand Opening in Highland Park

Local residents Cecily and Lucy Casey recently opened RealFit Gym in Highland Park, and will hold a grand opening celebration September 13.

Drug Pollution in Our Great Lakes

Recent testing of Lake Michigan water has revealed the presence of pharmaceutical byproducts, raising concerns about potential long-term health threats to anyone drinking water from the Great Lakes.

Ellen Goode Helps People Rebuild Their Lives

In practice since 1988, Ellen Goode is certified in bio-energetic analysis (a form of body-based psychotherapy), addiction counseling and somatic therapy.

NowStudio Expands to The Loop

Nors Beatriz, healer, owner of NowStudio and creator of MojoOwl, a line of healing jewelry, has opened a new office location at 79 West Monroe Street, Suite 827.