On Fatherhood

The Lifelong Lessons of Being a Dad



EpicStockMedia/Shutterstock.com

What is being a father? It’s, at least in part, about beginning. It is rejuvenating to locate ourself near the start of a child’s life. There are so many chances to get it right. The thought that we might also get it wrong flits across our mind, but it’s gone before we can even shiver at its presence. It’s also about returning to that question again and again, each time failing to acquire additional insight.

“What isn’t being a father?” is a better question. Being a father isn’t indifference, but neither is it a steady stream of calm wisdom or a place of consistent self-control or a clearly delineated set of exercises engineered to help produce self-knowledge in offspring. Bridges are engineered. We stare into our little one’s eyes, beaming thoughts that we hope are received, translated and appreciated, waiting for a beam to come back to us. Child rearing is worked toward, clumsily, imperfectly, with a deep and near religious faith in trial and error. Children are refined over time with the assistance of many imperfect philosophies.

When our second child opted in, my wife and I compared baby pictures of the two boys. “They look different,” I said.

“That’s not why I’m looking at them,” she said. “I want to remember this.” I remember looking at the pictures with her only because she has told me about it.

If, in part, fatherhood is remembering things that did not exactly happen, it is also forgetting things that did happen, some transformative to a degree that I could not have imagined five seconds before they occurred. Afterwards, I knew I would never be the same again. But I was.

As children grow, they are not the same again. Parenting boys instead of babies is already a grand departure from everything I have learned up until now and I am just coming to see that it will always be this way. Recently, in trying to figure out when a man that is not a father becomes a man that is a father, I remarked to my sons, “Even though I know being a father has changed me forever, I remember certain things that happened, but not as many as I would have thought.”

My older son explained, “Maybe it’s because you are thinking of us more than yourself. Maybe you want time to pass so we can get to the next thing in our lives.”

My younger son zeroed in, “The problem is that you think it’s parenting when really it’s childing.”

He’s right. What is being a father? It’s letting someone else be a child. It’s suffering through certain kinds of abstract pain so that they don’t. It’s bearing the brunt of disappointments so that they can go on feeling invincible. It’s teaching how to forget as much as it is teaching how to remember… but it is still very near the beginning.


Ben Greenman is a widely published author and journalist in Greater New York. Connect at BGreenman.com.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

More from Natural Awakenings

A Holistic Approach to Preventing and Treating Cancer

For 45 years, Philadelphia holistic coach, naturalist and herbalist El Ha Gahn has been teaching people to "love the Earth and love themselves as an extension of the Earth."

Wide Variety of Classes at Learning Tree

Registration begins at 10 a.m., August 17, for the fall session at Mt. Airy Learning Tree.

Growing Gardens at the Pump Track

The Philly Pump Track, in West Fairmount Park, on Parkside Drive, has been revitalized to the extent that the new garden is going to be entered in this year’s Pennsylvania Horticultural Society Garden and Greening Contest, which is designed to recognize community and individual efforts.

Voyage to Well-Being Vegan Caribbean Cruise

Since 2004, Holistic Holiday at Sea vegan cruise has welcomed more than 15,000 guests, combining classes from plant-based leaders; fitness and mindfulness workshops; exotic ports of call; and gourmet food—all centered on the topic of plant-based nutrition and lifestyle.

Tour the City’s Street Art

Beginning in August, StreetsDept.com will begin offering monthly 2nd Saturday Street Art Tours,

Add your comment: