Today is my brother’s 40th Birthday. It is this monumental occasion that inspired the Great American Road Trip that we are currently on. It is also a reminiscent moment in my family since my dad’s 40th birthday was a raucus affair.
My mom planned a surprise party for him. It seemed like everyone he knew was there. He had been on a work trip only to return to 200+ people waiting in our house to surprise him. This sounds like a nightmare to me, but he loved every second of it.
At the time 40 seemed ancient. The dozens and dozens of ‘over the hill’ t-shirts and mugs he received as gifts only confirmed this belief. Now that I’m less than 3 years away from it myself, I have a slightly different perspective.
So with this memory of my father’s 40th birthday and the trip to celebrate my brother’s 40th birthday, I’ve had the number 40 swirling around my head. Then I came up with the idea of writing 40 Great Things About Fatherhood.
It’s a great way to commemorate my father and celebrate my brother (a father of three girls). Plus I wanted to give my kids a chance to see how I view fatherhood. To let them know how they’ve changed my life. So with that preamble out of the way, here’s the list:
40 Great Things About Being a Father
- Laughter – My kids make me laugh all the time, sometimes intentionally and sometimes not. Just yesterday my youngest (6 years old) was eating a chocolate ball. He asked me, “Do you know the secret ingredient in these chocolate balls?” “No, what’s that?” “Sorrow.” <suppressing a smile> “Why’s that?” “Because I always feel sad when I eat them.” Then he beamed his brilliant smile and I burst out laughing.
- Pride – There are few things more rewarding than watching your child (unprompted) act in a way that makes you proud. My heart was filled when I watched my oldest (7) stop in the middle of his soccer game to check on his friend who had fallen down.
- Love – Having kids redefines your understanding of the word. It is beyond measure and beyond words. It can only be experienced.
- Fun – You just do more fun things with kids in your life.
- Curiosity – Kids keep you curious. Their curiosity about life is contagious.
- Learn New Things – You don’t realize how little you know about the world until your kids ask you “why?” With the wonders of technology the answer is usually at your fingertips. I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned from my kids asking me why?
- Patience – Kids provide an amazing opportunity to strengthen your patience muscle.
- Courage – As a naturally shy individual, I’ve found that my kids give me courage. I’m willing to do things with and for my kids now that I’d never consider doing before I had kids.
- You Smile More, a Lot More – And not just when you are around your kids. I often find myself grinning like an idiot out in public after thinking of something funny my kids have said or done.
- Maturity – Having kids helps you grow up. Putting someone else’s needs above your own.
- Make Healthier Choices – I eat healthier because I know my kids are watching. Plus we just have healthier food choices around the house.
- You see the world through the wonder and excitement of your kid’s eyes. Kids have unbridled enthusiasm for life and it is hard not to get swept up in their excitement.
- Safer – I was never much of a risk taker, but I am far more safety conscious now that I have kids. Gone are the days of flying down the highway at 20-30 miles over the speed limit. Kids are also great accountability for texting and driving.
- Confront and Correct Hypocrisy – Kids help you recognize the hypocrisy that exists in your life. It’s hard to tell them not to eat so much sugar, when you yourself consume mountains of candy each week. Or to tell them not to call names, when you just called that driver that cut you off an “idiot”.
- Routine – It’s no secret that kids need structure. I’ve found that my life functions better when I have a routine to follow. Since structure doesn’t come naturally to me, the desire to make my life easier has provided the motivation to set and stick to a routine. Without my kids, this would not have happened.
- Accountability – As I’ve alluded to above, kids will keep you accountable, whether you want them to or not.
- Affection – I’m not naturally demonstrative, but my kids keep me affectionate. There are few things more rewarding then a spontaneous hug from your child.
- Cleanliness – I’ve become a much cleaner person since having kids. This is likely a reaction to the mess and chaos that they bring with them.
- Company – My kids are great company. I particularly love one on one time with them.
- Compassionate – I am a far more compassionate person because of my kids. The screaming baby in the grocery store no longer annoys me. Rather I feel for the mom or dad trying to quiet the inconsolable baby. And I’m grateful it isn’t me.
- Learn New Skills – I’m a much better cook than I was before kids. I now know how to get all kinds of stains out of clothes. And I can swaddle, although I might be rusty as it’s been a few years.
- Intentional – I’m far more intentional about my choices. Being aware of the values I want to instill in my boys has made me more thoughtful and intentional about my own life.
- Time Conscious – How I choose to fill my time is different since having kids. I value my time more and only fill it with things that are edifying.
- Tolerant – I am much more tolerant of inconveniences. A spilled cup of water at the dinner table. No big deal. Having to stop to use the bathroom 20 minutes into a 4-hour drive to grandma and grandpa’s. Oh well.
- Creativity – Whether I’m thinking of a story to tell my boys or helping them build a robot for a school project, I’ve definitely become more creative since having kids.
- Positive – I want to instill in my boys the skill of optimism and as a result I myself have become a more positive person.
- Adventurous – I’ve learned to say yes to a lot more opportunities that I may have previously avoided.
- Curate Your Own Childhood – I’ve tried to introduce my own kids to some of the best parts of my childhood. Reading to them the books my mom read to me. Traveling with them. Taking them on Magical Mystery Rides (stay tuned for more on this).
- Little Helpers – I’m sure this will change, but currently my kids love to help out. Whether it is relaying a message to their mother or getting the mail, it is nice to have someone so willing and enthusiastic to help.
- The Stories – Having kids brings with it great stories. One such story is when I came down stairs in the morning to find my kids had gotten into the paint. They had already painted their feet and walked through the house. Just as I walked down stairs, my youngest had taken off his pants and was in the process of painting his butt. I shutter to think where he planned on sitting.
- The Never Ending Stream of Victories – In my How Time Changes When you have Kids post, I posit that time seems to speed up because kids change so much in the first 18 years of their lives. This change also means as a parent you are always in awe of your kid’s accomplishments. From crawling, to walking, to speaking, to potty training, to reading, to riding a bike, getting their first A on a test, the list of accomplishments is never ending.
- All the Firsts – Similar to the stream of victories and growth that you’ll experience as a parent, you’ll also get to experience a whole host of firsts all over again. The first goal in soccer, their first flight, taking them to their first football game, their first date, etc.
- Become more of a Planner – I’ve always been pretty good at planning, at least when it came to long-term plans. However, having kids has forced me to kick it up a notch. When they were younger, we learned to plan around their nap times. As they got older, we learned to plan ahead for meals and snacks (turns out kids get cranky when they haven’t eaten for a while).
- You Get To Play With Toys Again – There have been times where my wife and I have had more fun playing with Lego’s than my kids have.
- Greater Appreciation for Silence – Kids bring with them a cacophony of noise. Our house is constantly filled with chatter, banging, crying, screaming, fighting, and electronic toy noises. I don’t realize how much I miss silence until I find a rare moment of it. I’m far more appreciative of silence now then I ever was before kids.
- Date Night – After bringing my oldest home from the hospital, I remember having the realization that my wife and I could no longer just leave the house. Since having kids date nights have been fewer and further between, but more special and enjoyable.
- Community – When you have kids you are automatically accepted into this community of parents without even realizing it. I can’t count the number of times I’ve exchanged knowing looks with other fathers after one of our kids misbehaved in some public setting. A look of both sympathy and solidarity.
- Evolving Relationship – At seven and six my kids are still relatively young. However, at this point in their development I’ve enjoyed how my relationship with them has evolved. I’m able to do more with them and carry on more interesting and complex conversations.
- Intensity of Emotion – All emotions become more intense with kids. Frustration, joy, fear, pride, disappointment, love, etc. This overwhelming flood of emotions creates a more intense connection to life.
- Better Person – What this list boils down to is that I am a better person because I am a father. I’m more appreciative of the good in life and am more tolerant of the struggles. Fatherhood is a life altering experience and there is nothing else that compares to it. It is the thing for which I am most proud. It is a privilege and an honor to be a part of my boys’ growth and development.
I’d love to hear from you. What would you add? How has the experience of parenthood changed your life?