The new year is here, and with each passing day, I get closer and closer to becoming a father.
For those who don't realize it, parenthood requires a greater responsibility than any other change in life. (And believe me, there are a lot of people that don't realize it.) Author Michael Levine wrote in his book, "Lessons at the Halfway Point": "Having children makes you no more a parent than having a piano makes you a pianist." This one sentence has changed the way I view parenting. (I actually haven't read Levine's book but this was quoted in Armin A. Brott's "The New Father: A Dad's Guide to the First Year." Great book. A must read.)
When you find out you're going to be a dad, you have to start getting prepared to teach your child, boy or girl, how to find their place in this world. This isn't always an easy task but a necessary one. Let's face it though, we can all think of at least a couple of people that missed this particular memo or just plain ignored it. When, as a dad, you find out you're going to have a daughter, you're given an added challenge -- like an increased difficulty level in gaming -- that fathers of boys just don't have.
If you have a daughter, especially when she's your first, then you know exactly what I'm talking about. And at this point I'm only speculating at how much harder it really is. I'm sure some of you dads with girls can tell stories that would leave the father of a boy curled up in the fetal position ... crying.
Comedian Louis CK has a bit about the time one of his daughter's toys broke and she demanded that he break her sister's toy to make it fair ... and he did. How terrible is that? Look, I grew up in a house with three boys, and though we did our fair share of physical damage to things like the house, the car and each other, the psychological damage that comes with having a daughter -- I fear -- far outweighs any broken beds, broken windows or broken arms.
This is what I'm facing though, the emotional and psychological roller coaster that comes with having a daughter. Imagine, she's 4 years old and I bring her home a teddy bear because she loves teddy bears. I'm a hero to this child. Her face lights up with joy and she thinks I'm the best dad ever. Then I tell her she can't eat ice cream in bed (that's what kids want to do, right?) and now she hates the sight of me.
Up and down, up and down.
Or she's 15 and wants to go out with a couple of friends and I say yes. Again, I'm a hero -- a god in her eyes. Then I tell her they all have to come in to meet me at which time I proceed to tell them all that I know the chief of police very well and I have his number on speed dial. She's mortified and won't speak to me for days.
Up and down, up and down.
One of my best friends and his wife are also pregnant right now. They're having a boy, their third boy, and are about 10 days behind us. When he found out we were having a girl he told me, "It takes a better man to raise a girl." I think he's right and I hope I can be a "better" man -- I have to be, because my daughter deserves it. She's going to need me.
You see, where there are those ups and downs over a teddy bear or a night out with friends, there are also those moments, serious moments, when she doesn't understand why some people get treated differently because of their beliefs, race or orientation. She's going to need a better man to explain to her why that's wrong and how looking at the "what" instead of the "who" dehumanizes us; those moments when she questions everything she believes and has ever been taught. She'll need a better man to encourage to seek out the truth, no matter what others say, and to look for grace, beauty, hope and peace in every aspect of life;
Those inevitable moments when she's faced with life altering decisions. My little girl is going to need a better man to tell her that nothing in this world has more value than true happiness and to pursue that happiness, regardless of what others want her to do.
I can be that better man. I've done it once before, eight years ago when I met someone who literally changed my life forever. In April, when my wife and I hold Caroline for the first time, everything else we've ever done, ever created, ever accomplished will appear so minute in comparison to this little girl who has made us better.
As always you can visit www.thejedidad.wordpress.com for more or follow me on Twitter at @TheJediDad. May the force be with you.