Being a Father

Happy Father’s Day! I don’t have time to write much this morning, as we’re about to leave the house and start our day.

But, I did want to highlight a cool post from Leo Babauto called “The Essence of Fatherhood.”  It’s short, well-written, and, I think, full of wisdom. Please read it.

Leo writes about his own struggles with parenting. I found this passage very insightful:

My biggest problem, apart from a dreadful lack of knowing what the hell I was doing, was a sense of entitlement. My child should do what I say, behave a certain way, grow into the person I want her to be. That’s ridiculous, I now know, but it caused me all kinds of conflict in the beginning.

I now see a father not as a shaper of clay, but a herder of cats. A father isn’t molding a child into the perfect ideal of a human being he’d like her to be … he’s trying to keep her alive, and feel loved, as she grows into whatever she already is.

In other words, a father (and, a mother) needs to express unconditional love. It is was what the ancient Greeks called ἀγάπη (agápē), about which I’ve blogged previously here. There are many types of love, but this is the most rare. Many relationships are built on a quid pro quo: you love me, and I love you.

Unconditional love is different. It’s just there. It just is. There are no strings attached.

I’ve found that children will rise up, and go down to, the expectations that their parents have for them. So, if you think the child is special, has a unique mission in life, and your relish her strengths, then she will go into the world with self-confidence. She will set it on fire. A sense of having been loved unconditionally fuels this.

But, if you don’t believe she “will amount to much,” then the child will sense this. She may then become an adult in need of much validation/affirmation from others, if she feels your love is conditional. Worse, the child as an adult may run away from criticism; rather than be open to change and evolution, she may stay immature because of a need to avoid confrontation.

Your adult-child may then be on an unrealistic quest to find a life partner who will provide unconditional love. And, we know that is tough to find in a marriage. That’s a 50/50 partnership and not a parent-child relationship. IMO, it is not your life partner’s job to make up for prior poor parenting.

So, if you’re a young parent today, and a bit concerned that you may not be doing a good job, consider this:  if you persist, stay open-minded and realize that your job is not to control the child, but instead, to love unconditionally him/her, it will all work out.

I promise.

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