Becoming a father had – and continues to have – a profound effect on my life. I always knew I wanted to be a father yet, like everyone else, I can’t say I was ready for it when it happened. Becoming a parent is one of those things that you can never really be prepared for; you have to experience it to get it.
One of my favourite quotes about becoming a parent is from Elizabeth Stone, “Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ”
How do you prepare for that?
Today, I had the opportunity to participate in an Instagram Live chat with Olwethu Leshabane about the idea of ‘conscious parenting.’ Having to articulate my thoughts forced me to refine and clarify my thoughts in the same way that becoming a parent has forced me to constantly reflect on the kind of human being – and man – that I am.
As the cliche goes, there is no manual to raising children. We are all stumbling along, hopefully doing the best that we can. The one thing that is a given is our children spend more time watching us than they do listening to us. Whatever lessons we seek to teach them, if we are not living them – or at least attempting to living them – it is merely hot air.
What this means is that a key part of parenting is constantly refining how you live your life. If you tell your children that they can be anything they want to be, but have given up on life, they will absorb the defeat. Life has its ups and downs. How they will tackle it will be absorbed from how you deal with the ups and downs.
I am comfortably say I have become a better person, or at least a better version of me, since I became a father. My decision making is not restricted to myself. And, having a family means that they will always impact on the choices that I make. I don’t always get things right; in fact, sometimes it feels like I get it wrong more than I get it right, but I try to regularly reflect on me as a father. Where I feel I didn’t get something right, I try to do better tomorrow.
I believe that our jobs as parents is to provide our children with the necessary tools – emotional, mental, material, etc – they will need to build their own lives. It is not to dictate the paths they take but to help them make the best decisions possible for themselves. And they won’t always get it right, just like we haven’t always. But, the important thing is that they are able to navigate their way through and out of those moments just like we have.
Of course, this is not written in stone and they may turn out great despite our best or worst efforts. This is just a perspective (mine) on what it is to be a conscious parent and why I think it is important that we strive to be such. Worse comes to worse, we end up better for it.
A quote that guides me as a father is the following: “A truly rich man is one whose children run into his arms when his hands are empty.”
My two cents.