Intro by Liz Kent: So normally, I have a brave woman I know share their story about their motherhood journey on my blog once a month. But in honor or Father's Day tomorrow and International Father's Mental Health Day, my husband so wonderfully volunteered to write about his journey into fatherhood. (Okay, I had to ask him and he hesitantly obliged-he had no idea it was International Father's Mental Health Day and probably wasn't even thinking that much about Father's Day). I am lucky enough to have both a father and a husband who take their dad role seriously. Thus, I have had the amazing opportunity to witness the powerful experience of watching a man truly engage in parenting. We certainly don't parent exactly the same, but I know our kids are blessed to have a dad who loves them well. So without further ado, here is Jack Kent's story:
Learning to Dad
My wife has this picture. It was taken roughly 24 hours after our first child was born, him sleeping mostly naked on my bare chest. It's a sweet picture to most people who see it. The reality of that picture is different than the serenity you might imagine. In fact, I see despair, fear, and a deep sense of unknown.
In that moment, our boy had screamed himself to exhaustion. My own efforts to console had failed miserably. You see, dads really only have 3 infant cards to play - (1) check/change diaper, (2) try to put to sleep, and (3) give to mom for feeding. That's it. My inability to solve the baby riddle with the tools I was equipped with was frustrating.
If I couldn't meet the needs of a 1-day old infant, how could I possibly provide for him later?
In cartoons, this is where the devil is on your shoulder whispering into your ear. But here's the reality: the question is a complete lie. Fatherhood is NOT about being everything to your children, or about provision, or about solving problems. All of those are important, but not foundational to being a father. Instead, fatherhood is love, honesty, presence, guidance, and much more. Sometimes fatherhood is encouraging a jump off the deck when mom's not looking. Sometimes it's playing tickle monster. There needs to be a "listen to your mother" once in a while.
The truth is that the scenario captured in that cute picture replays itself over and over. The context is different - a tough question, mean kids, injuries - and more often than not, I have no idea what I'm doing. No surprise there. But now, I know that things like love and presence and honesty... are enough. I don't want my kids to think I'm perfect, because I'm not. I don't know all the answers, and I can't fix everything. I do want them to know I'm here for them and I love them. This is where the devil gets flicked off my shoulder.
Happy Father's Day.
I'll end with a dad joke: Did you hear the rumor about the butter? Well, don't look at me, I'm not going to spread it. I could've told a joke about pizza, but it would've been too cheesy... I'll stop now.