12 years ago I became a dad. It didn’t seem unusual until I reflected that, out of a number of reasons, I do what I do because I became a father.
OK. It sounds silly now I’ve written it. Yet who knows what path I’d have walked down had I not been a father. Perhaps like me, parenthood moved you into a direction you’d not imagined and given you a whole set of unique experiences.
As I thought about this, an image popped into my mind of a friend who died last year. He, unwittingly, set the tone of my parenting.
Before children were even on the horizon, he, his wife and 9 year old son had come to visit. We ventured to a set of nearby hills for some kite flying. After a few air to earth crashes the kite cord was becoming increasingly tangled and knotty. It became increasingly difficult to fly and his son was getting a little tetchy with it.
I can remember seeing Charlie walk over in his mild and calm manner, and reassure his son that he’ll fix it. He gathered up the kite and cord and plopped himself on a hillock. His short legs outstretched, shoes pointing up to the sky and the afternoon sun to his back. He must have sat there for at least 30 minutes. What caught my attention was that he sat with this amazing patience. He wasn’t complaining or getting frustrated. It wasn’t even that sense of resignation of having to parent; there was no air of sacrifice about what he was doing as he slowly and gradually unthreaded the kite string. I looked and was captured by the depth of patience he displayed – unconditionally for the love of his son.
It was also special because with this patience came such tenacity, as though he was working on a puzzle or even The Times’ crossword. I watched and admired his ability to commit so much of himself to his son. In him I could see what it was – at least for me – to be a parent. To give unconditionally and withhold or pause your needs for the benefit of your child. There was something very pure in that moment that touched and resonated with me.
My mind goes always to him when I notice myself doing something similar with my children. I hope I adopt his mindset of removing expectations of what I wanted to have happen, and begin to appreciate what I am able to do. When I fully give myself to them and their wishes or wants. I hope I get to sense some of that purity and patience he showed me. In those moments, I hope I am doing what Charlie would have done: to make the child’s happiness the priority. So bravo that man, bravo.