What does it mean to be a dad: Learning from children.

Thus far I have
covered some rather deep topics.  Looking at this like a working thesis we
can see how I am hoping to continue building. Noting that we learn a little
about what it means to be a dad from our fathers (or father role models), from
our peers, and from our spouse, we are still no closer to depicting what it
means to be a dad.  Not letting this weigh us down (or at least I am not
letting it weigh me down), shall we soldier on?

Regardless of what you hold as your faith or
belief, there is a clear and distinct moment where a person becomes a father.
 For some, as it is for me, it is at the moment of conception.  For
others, it is at the moment of birth.  Noting that there are two drastically
opposed viewpoints that could hinder this quest; can we accept, as a community,
a few things before we go on?

There is a moment when you realize that your
life is going to change.  Not minding one’s definition of life, there is a
very real impact of that little plus sign, smiley face, or word on that little
plastic device. Finding out that you have a child on the way should spurn
thoughts of what this means for the rest of your life. Many, deep down (some
deeper than others) spend some portion of the next nine months wondering.
 

This time spent wondering is in preparation
for what is to come.  During the next nine (or so) months that follow the
discovery that a child is to be born a man’s mind is full of questions.
 The severity and nature of these questions change drastically with each
subsequent child, but they are still there.  Most of these questions stem
from the sense of unknown inadequacy when it comes to raising a child.

Accepting these two ideas, we can move to the
most defining moment of the journey that we call fatherhood.

After nine months of waiting there comes a
point in time when the wait is over.  I am currently reading “Beyond the
Grip of Craniosynostosis: An Inside View of Life Touched by the Congenital
Skull Deformity” by Kase D. Johnstun. You can read my wife’s review HERE and I
will attach my review HERE once it is written.  In this book Johnstun has
a beautifully written depiction of this very moment that I would like to share
with you.

“She screams and grunts and
cries. She walks and breaths and squats. And with one final push, a child
explodes onto this earth in a discolored bath of hope. The world’s light shines
into her newborn irises for the first time. Mom and dad look upon their
miracle, their creation, and their new and immediate love. In a matter of a few
painful hours, the future they had imagined for nine months has become present,
present in the wiggling fingers and stretching larynx of a newborn. For a brief
moment, they bask in the wonders of new life in the wheezy gasps of their
child, they hug, and they stare into each other’s eyes, exploring the depths of
their bewilderment and wonder. Their future has arrived.” (Johnston 6).

Let that sink in for a moment.

Let it reach the marrow, the fiber of your
being.

Regardless of your belief, at this moment a
person becomes a father.  Why do I keep phrasing it that way, using
‘person’ and ‘father’?  Early on in my journey I realized (and posted
here) a simple fact, “Even a boy can become a father. All it takes is a little
sperm and a lack of judgment. However, it takes a man to be a dad. Man up and
become the dad your children need”.

In the days that follow this moment, ones
journey into fatherhood progresses. As much as we would like to think that it
would be a nice leisurely stroll through a bright and beautiful part, it is
more akin to braving a hurricane, in shark infested waters, using a kick board,
on your way to summit Mt. Everest, in winter, naked. This is not to say that
the journey is void of amazing moments or beautiful sights. To the contrary,
these moments and sights make what seems like such a perilous journey more than
worth it.

For me, the largest quandary in trying to be
the best dad that I can for my amazing kiddos, is exactly why I am writing this
series.  How does one know what it means to be a dad, until they are one?
It is because of this that the idea of learning from our children came into the
lineup.

I know, I took the long road to get to this
point.  It is my hope that the result may be full of eye-opening, thought
provoking splendor to reward your for your patience.

The simplicity of understanding that one
cannot understand what it means to be a dad until they have children is very deceiving.  But it is in the advent of having children
that many truly begin to wonder.  It is
only when we can peer into the innocent eyes of the lives that we have created,
that we are shaping, that we are molding in hopes of becoming someone better
than ourselves, that we can see what affect our actions, and the lack there of,
have.  And this, my dear readers, is the
sharpest of the two edged swords.

In trying to learn what it takes to be the
best dad that we can for our children, we will stumble… often. Though this
could leave us feeling as though we are attempting to crawl out of an abyss, it
should be a ray of hope.  By watching our
children, listening to them, and loving them, we can learn so much about what
it takes to be the dad that they need.
Knowing that each child is different, means each relationship is
different, and also means that we must always be learning from our children.  Learning what it means to be a dad, to them.

I AM A CRANIO DAD, I
am scared out of my mind, and you may think that this series is over, but there
is so much more to come.


Cited

Johnstun,
Kase D. Beyond the Grip of Craniosynostosis: An Inside View of Life
Touched by the Congenital Skull Deformity
.  Jefferson: McFarland & Company, 2015. Print. (Purchase HERE)

What does it mean to be a dad: Learning from our spouse.

What seems like only a moment ago, I stood nervously in front of a gathering of friends and
family.  My heart racing droning out the
music that played in the background.
Then there was a pause.  I watched
as everyone stood and faced the doors in the back of the church.  

image

They opened wide and a radiant cascade of
winter sunlight poured in, momentarily silhouetting the figures standing
there.  As my eyes adjusted, my breath
was taken away.  There stood the most
beautiful woman I have ever met, and her beauty has always been more than just
skin deep.  

How did I ever get so
lucky?

On that day, in that
little church we called our home, in Richmond VA we recited vows that are
similar to what many, and countless others have recited before and after
us.  “To have and to hold, in sickness
and in health, for richer or for poorer, and I promise to love you forevermore”.
We were then charged to love and live together, seeking each other and God as
one, to be forever mindful of each other’s ideas and thoughts, and to disregard
their faults with patience and love. We shared our first communion (we split an
Oreo and dipped it in milk) as a sign of the beginning of our shared walk of
faith.  This, by the way, was the first
time that we had allowed ourselves to share communion.  The rest of the day was a blur of awesomeness,
and we hearken back upon it often.

image

Why do I share this
story? What does it have to do with being a dad?  The answer is simply complex.

As husband and wife we
constantly affirm each other that we are best friends and a team.  We have seen, over these past years, which
the distinct dividing line in our ways of thinking is complementary.  Now, it should be noted that if it was not
for the drive to fulfill how we were challenged, the vows we took, our personal
beliefs… and a hell of a lot of trying, that these same ways of thinking would
have torn us apart.  We have also learned
a lot about what makes each other tick, and how to tick off each other as
well.  We have learned how we respond to challenges,
and what challenges each other is better at handling.  All of this, and more, comprise our innate ability
to lean on each other or lift each other up.

As men, if we allow
ourselves the moment to be humbled (trust me, this is how we view it) and to
LISTEN to our wives, we will learn a great deal about ourselves as people.  We will learn how to be a better friend, how
to be a better husband and how to be a better dad.  How? This may be coming from personal experience,
but I would hope that it would apply across the board.  My beloved does an amazing job of letting me
know that I am doing things that one day our kids will look back and realize
that I am a pretty good dad.  From little
notes that she tucks into my golf bag, things that she writes on her blog, and
most importantly how she speaks of me to others, they all have their ways of
letting me know that I am on the right track… and when I am WAY off track as
well.

Recently, depending on
when you are reading this, we decided to take a family trip.  It should be said that I came home from work
early and decided that we would take a family trip, but that is neither here
nor there.  So, in under an hour we had
the kids packed up, the van loaded and were on our way to drop our dog
off.  Not bad, right? We planned on
stopping half way for dinner and in doing so found that the place we wanted to
go would be a long walk (long with two little ones, in the cold, with snow, in
a major college town) and decided to just do a drive through.  Well, that took us a bit more off route to
the effect that as the sun set we entered the switchbacks, in a national
park.  Did I mention the cold and the
snow?  The children watched Tangled as I
nervously wound up and down the mountain’s, in the dark.  As we neared our destination the utter
exhaustion from the kiddos had turned into audible wines of discontent.  Yet, somehow, we arrived.

For many this sounds
fairly normal for a family get away, but I want you all to keep in mind that
this was really the first time that we had attempted something like this with
the two of them.

The entire night was ‘fun’.
Being in a new place is always exciting for children… to the point that they
did not want to sleep.  When they did
finally sleep, it was not for long as one or the other would wake up, in turn
waking up the other, and we would start all over.  Needless to say, there was little sleep.  The next day we had planned to do breakfast,
drive around, and then go to the caverns nearby.  Breakfast was a hoot, tired kids (yet in good
moods because of food) and exhausted parents are always a great combination. Then
we took off to drive around a little.  

Now, many of you out
there know this simple fact, but somehow it never entered my mind.  Tired Kids + Food + Warm Car Ride = Sleep.
The math is sound, right?  Well, that is
exactly what happened, but therein lies more of a problem.  When we arrived at our destination we had two
tired, hungry, ready for lunch time, ready for naps, aggravated little ones and
two exhausted parents.  We had 30 minutes
to go before the tour.  I brilliantly decided
to take the kids to a transportation museum.
Yep, I thought “where better to take these two tired, hungry, ready for
lunch time, ready for naps, aggravated little ones than a museum”. Needless to
say my beloved had to dive to stop my son from climbing on a 1938 Mercedes-Benz
540K
, and twisted he ankle a bit.

Bull-headed I decided
that it was time to get in line for the tour of the caverns.  After we descended (what seemed like a
thousand)
70 steps the tour started.  As
it started… the hunger pangs must have flared for the little ones… break-downs ensued.  We called it what it was and I angrily trudged
back up the (seriously it really seemed like there were a thousand) 70 steps
and decided that it was time to go home.

We packed, checked out
and made our drive home. I felt like a failure as a dad, and as a husband.  All I wanted to do was get away from the city
with my family and show them something new.
I failed to think about lunch and naps, I pushed the kids, as well as
the limits of my beloved and I.  I was
not mad at the kids, or my wife… purely mad at myself.  Mad for letting everyone down.

Now, this is where the
entire story becomes so very important in learning about what it means to be a
dad.  

Once we were in the
car, my beloved reached over, grabbed my hand, smiled and said “This was a
great vacation honey.  The kids had fun,
they were able to see a new place and some cool stuff. I am glad that we came”.

NOTE, there was no sarcasm
in that statement, trust me, there really was not.

Not as an act of
placating, but in pure honesty, my wife picked up on my discontent and spoke
out to let me know that it was ok.  It
took her saying that for me to see that I had attempted something new, the kids
still had fun, and though it did not happen the way that I wanted, it happened.

I am never shy about
the fact that my wife is an amazing mom.
To have her say this to me floored me.
I realized that I needed to learn more from her about the timing for our
children.  As a dad, by watching and
learning from her and how she picks up on and reacts with the kids is paramount
to my success as a dad.  And if being a
dad is about learning from our fathers and our friends (and I can think of no
better friend then my best one, my beloved, my wife), then it should be
included in this journey.  

Sadly, this is not the
at-all-be-all of being a dad.  But it is
a heck of a start.  More to learn, and
more to come.

I AM A CRANIO DAD, I
am scared out of my mind, and I do not deserve someone as amazing as my wife,
but I am glad that she said yes to me.

What does it mean to be a dad: Learning from our peers.

After my last post (HERE) I found that I was a bit more sure-footed in recognizing my ability to be a good dad due to the fact that my dad was an awesome one. Like anyone striving for self-awareness, I realized that I needed to widen my perspective. Almost instantly I was rocked with the realization of being surrounded by positive and negative role models of fatherhood.  It is from this realization that I have been able to draw inspiration for this post.

How many times have we thought, or even said, “I cannot believe that so-and-so did that?“ or "What kind of dad does that?” about those around us? I feel that the sheer frequency of phrases like that may be a bit surprising, especially the ones we say, and even the ones said about us(shocking I know).  The importance of these statements and the effect that they derive on our understanding of what it means to be a dad is paramount.

Back when I was in college I found myself sitting in what would
be one of many Anthropology classes.  This one was a bit more merged with
Sociology and thus it was ever the more fascinating to me.  In this class
I learned something that brings me to where the idea of learning from our peers
comes of great importance.

Social Learning Theory, as first described by Bandura, states
that we can learn in a social context by observation or instruction.  This goes a bit more into detail about
learning from observing others’ rewards and punishments, but is much more
expansive than other theories.  But what
does this mean about learning to be a dad?
Simply, as boys become men, they have a widely observable construct in which they take so many things.  This is
not some crackpot theory; it is just a way to explain what we already know.

We learn from those around us.
We constantly are watching the actions and the reactions of others and
grooming our thoughts based on our morals and beliefs.  We have ingrained within us the ideals of what it
means to be a good dad based on what we have seen.  This includes role models that we have from
movies and television.  I could go on and
on about the negative swing in the portrayal of dads,
let alone men in general, in the recent years in movies, television, commercials,
etc.  However, there are plenty of other dad
bloggers that are bearing that cross and taking it on gallantly.  

There is a strong pull to look at these things from the ‘purist’
social aspect.  But I feel that is a
flawed and skewed perspective.  After all
we are all individuals, part of a community none the less, with our own experiences
to draw from. Instead, looking at them though the lenses of a dad trying to figure
out what it means to be a dad, let alone a great dad, I think that there is
much to glean from all of this.  In fact, Jay Pritchet (Ed Nealson) in Modern
Family sums it up extremely well when he says;

“The key to
being a good dad… well, sometimes things work out just the way you want.  Sometimes they don’t. But you gotta hang in
there. Because when all is said and done, 90% of being a dad is just showing up”.

Thus, when considering the question, “What does it mean to be a
dad?”, and taking a nod from social learning theory, we can see that there is a
gleam of hope when it comes to an answer.
Simply, being a dad is based on what we can learn in passing. There
are countless models for which we can pull from to knit together the matrix of
what it means to us, independently.
Sadly, much as before, this does not truly answer the question, but
raises others.  But on the up side, chances
are that there is no true social construct to use as a guidepost when tackling
fatherhood.  Does this mean the end of
our journey? Does the path we are on cease upon our next footfall?  

No, not in the slightest.

One thing that this does mean though, one thing that we can count on as
a fundamental answer is that the decisions we make while we are
busy trying to figure out what it means to be a dad are ever-so important.  For our little ones, and
many others, are watching us, learning from us, and deciding how much like us they truly want to be.

I AM A CRANIO DAD, I am scared out of my mind, and there is hope
that one day I will find an answer to this question.

What does it mean to be a dad?

Reaching out for your thoughts and ideas on topics that I should consider for this series.  I am making headway with my next posting. In fact it is queued to come out on Monday! I also have a few others that I have started working on to follow… but I want more input!!!

Feel free to read, or re-read my original post here.

This question goes out to all the dads and moms out there.  

Don’t be scared, feel free to answer.  If you want, anon is on and you can message me that way as well.  For all the readers on facebook or twitter, feel free to message me in any way you see fit.

I AM A CRANIO DAD, I am scared out of my mind and let us all become part of something bigger than ourselves.

What does it mean to be a dad: Learning from our fathers.

With some time to reflect,and compose, I decided that I would sit down and write what I have learned. I
know that some of my longtime followers may be getting sick of this phrase, but
where better to begin… then the beginning.

I am the dad that my father groomed me to be. Throughout my
childhood I have been blanketed by constant and frequent memories of my dad’s
love, patience, understanding and care that he had for me. As I have grown into
this role of being a dad, I am eternally presented with shadows of a time
before when the world looked so very different and much, much bigger. These
images, that harken from my heart and play like a silent 8mm film (sad how so
many out there will not experience that) in the theater of my own mind.

From the very moment of my daughter’s birth, the way that my dad
has been preparing me started to show. I have a crisp recollection of my tear
choked voice reaching out to him on the phone as I struggled to say “Dad, there
is something wrong with my little girl”. Even the thought of that moment in
time brings tears to my eyes as I write it now. Without missing a beat my dad
calmed me down, and walked me through what I knew at that point. He told me
that he was certain that things would be fine, and to try to hold it together, that
the need for me to be a dad, a husband, a friend, and a voice has never been
more prevalent that at that very moment. With firm reassurance he told me that
he was going to be on his way as soon as he could, that he KNEW that I could do
this, that he was so very proud of me, and that he loved me. I am sure that he
knew that at the moment he said those words, he pulled me back.

All too often, as I have come to find out during my journey, the
shock of realizing that there is an issue with your newborn baby can be so much
that you spiral into some of the deepest hell that you may ever know.
 Everyone always has this perfect being and this perfect moment in their
mind.  Yet, it is not until birth that many things are to be known, for
that is the moment that we finally get to see our sons and daughters.
 Now, I am not so vain that I am likening my situation to that of the
scores of others out there that have things much more difficult.  I am,
however, stating that I have some degree of understanding.

I can say that regardless of how I felt in those first moments,
and in the days that followed as much came to light, that my heart has been
ever growing in love with my sweet little girl. But, there is a part of me that
realizes that without my father’s pushing, without his steadfast love, and
amazing role modeling, that the immensity if not the entirety of my ability to
be the dad that my little girl needs, the one that she loves, the one that she
deserves may be called into question.  For it is through what he has shown
me, that I have been able to become who I am today.

Over the years, those words that my dad said that morning, “the
need for me to be a dad, a husband, a friend, and a voice has never been more
prevalent that at that very moment”, has pushed me time and time again. Through
the surgeries, the recoveries, the drowning in information with no answers,
through it all it has pushed me. It has driven me to find strength that resides
in me that I can see he passed on to me. Through his hard work, the tuff punishments,
the rewards, the examined failures, through it all my dad embodied me with the
resolve to be stronger than I thought I could be. Much like his love for me, I
have learned to love my children with the fire of a thousand suns, and to never
be too bashful to show it. I have learned to be a voice for the voiceless,
working with doctors and nurses to find the best for my kids. I have learned to
stand in the gap between my family and the rest of the world, the ever-present
protector.

You might think that it is in all of this that I may have found
my answer, but the reality is that only in part.

I AM A CRANIO DAD, I am
scared out of my mind, and without my dad, I could not be the dad I am today.

What does it mean to be a dad?

This subtle, deceiving
question is what I posed to myself when I started on this journey. In the last
two or three years it is quite possible that I have been presented with more
questions than answers to this one.  I
would like to take some time and try to enlighten you with my thoughts on the
matter.  I also would like to ask you
other dad’s out there to answer the same question.  You may be surprised with your answer, and
how it may be like or very much dislike others out there.  As I am always rather long-winded, and
attempt virtuous feats of prolific and heartfelt writing I am certain that this
will be a few posts long.  How long? I
guess time will tell.

The posts will be forthcoming;
it is ever so nice to finally have a queue of posts again.  So, keep an open mind, and your eyes peeled
for what may be some marvelously heartfelt writing, or perhaps utter malarkey, from
this dad… to you all.

I AM A CRANIO DAD, I am
scared out of my mind, and here comes yet another series presented by me… sigh.