Why Being a Dad is the Shit

Here’s a rather cynical yet hilarious poem by Philip Larkin that I’ve loved for years:

“This Be The Verse”

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.

While that poem never fails to make me laugh and there’s truth to be had in it, I think that even Larkin could agree that if we all stopped having kids….well….we wouldn’t last very long as a species. Think Children of Men, but done purposefully.

My wife and I have been a couple for over 12 years now and I vividly remember our discussions of never wanting to have kids. Why would we want to do that to ourselves? Lose our time, freedoms, sleep, money, sanity etc. Who wants that? Having kids is great and all, but it’s not for us.

Eight and half years later we welcomed our first child, a boy, into our lives. It was a very stressful period of time. Not only because we were new parents, but because Masen was born 8 weeks premature. The nursery wasn’t ready. My wife and I weren’t ready. We hadn’t even had our typical new parent freak out that comes before the baby was due. Oddly enough, our “new parenting class” came and went while we were in the hospital for over 3 days trying to keep Masen from being born so early.

I remember him coming out. I remember Lori holding him for about 1 minute. I remember barely being able to touch him before he was whisked away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). It wasn’t until the next day that I was finally able to hold him.

I remember the nurses very gingerly putting him in my arms. He was so tiny and had wires and hoses and tape all over him. He looked so frail. It wasn’t until I put him back in his bed with the help of the nurses that I completely lost composure and wept like a person of his size. Here’s my son. This little man. Helpless and cold and unaware. And there I was completely powerless to help him.

It was at that moment that I felt love in the most powerful way. It was a love that I didn’t know was even a possibility. I know my heart didn’t grow in size like the Grinch, but I did feel as if it would explode. At that moment I knew what life and love was all about.

Ever since that day I’ve experienced more revelations in love, patience and gentleness than I could ever put to paper and I freely admit that my son has taught me much more than I could ever teach him, but I try to be a good man for him, or at least, what I think a good man is. This is possibly where some of Larkin’s poem comes to light.

Almost everyday that I’m around my children my heart seems to grow ever more with love and awe. When I pull in the garage and Masen opens the door and yells, “Daddy!” He smothers me in hugs and then we proceed to have a wrestlemania the likes of which even the Undertaker hasn’t seen.

If something breaks around the house or a toy’s batteries die Masen makes sure to set them all aside for daddy to fix. So almost everyday I’m a superhero. Can you even comprehend how awesome that is? To be a friggin superhero! To my son there’s nothing I can’t do. Nothing I can’t fix. Nothing I can’t lift. Nothing I can’t overcome simply by being his dad. What other avenue of life gives you such misguided praise? I can’t tell you who will be more devastated when he realizes that his dad can’t get something done: him or me?

I’ve always liked to think, rather narcissistic I know, that I’m a pretty selfless person, but it wasn’t until I became a father that I realized how little I care for my own life in place of my son’s. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do to protect him. There’s no pain, shame or act of bravery I wouldn’t perform, even if knowingly futile, to protect him. I’m his dad. I’m Superman. I protect. To my dying day that is my purpose.

I once heard a person say that when you have kids you realize that arms and hands were meant for hugs and I couldn’t agree more. The simple warm embrace of my son with the smallest of pats on the back is all it takes to transform even the worst of days into a good day. If he really wants to slay me he merely says, “I love you, daddy. You’re my best friend, daddy.”

My son, and now my young daughter as well, have transformed me more into the man I’ve always wanted to be more than any other aspect of my life. I’ll live to my final moments working to make sure they feel loved, accepted and protected.

I can think of no greater cause or charge in life than that. I just hope I don’t ever prove Mr. Larkin to be fully true.

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3 thoughts on “Why Being a Dad is the Shit

  1. Just read this along with some others. Gotta keep up I guess!! Loved it and very true!! Know one can explain it to you, have to experience being a parent to truly understand it. Masen and Maddie are very blessed to have both you and Lori as parents as I am to have my 3 boys.
    I love you with all my heart,
    Mom

  2. Although I regret that it has a slight religious bent to it, you might find something useful in this:

    On Children
    Kahlil Gibran

    Your children are not your children.
    They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
    They come through you but not from you,
    And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

    You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
    For they have their own thoughts.
    You may house their bodies but not their souls,
    For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
    which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
    You may strive to be like them,
    but seek not to make them, like you.
    For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

    You are the bows from which your children
    as living arrows are sent forth.
    The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
    and He bends you with His might
    that His arrows may go swift and far.
    Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
    For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
    so He loves also the bow that is stable.

  3. And this —

    Children Learn What They Live
    By Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D.

    If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
    If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
    If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
    If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
    If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
    If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
    If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
    If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
    If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
    If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
    If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
    If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
    If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
    If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
    If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
    If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
    If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
    If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
    If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

    Good luck —

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