I’m a little ambivilent about publishing this here; it was an article in our local newspaper for father’s day 2006, and comes across as rather gushy. I really did say these things, but I wouldn’t have edited it quite like this!
For R being a father is a fantastic adventure.
A fantastic adventure, also a steep learning curve. The father of six said he’s made mistakes learning to be a father. “I used to think I was a really nice person – and then I had children.
“The demands of caring for children require enormous sacrifice and it’s very easy to resent that. It’s easy to hit out at the little monsters that don’t behave like the perfect dolls we’d like them to be, that don’t make us feel good about ourselves, that demand we care for them when it’s not convenient for us, that cry and won’t be consoled.
“I remember an incident when I was holding my first baby, a few months old (now 15 years old). She was screaming and I could do nothing about it. I just wanted to throw her away from me; her crying was an accusation of my inadequacy. Instead I held her and did the best I could, even though I felt that it wasn’t good enough.
“That was the day I began to grow up as a father.”
For R the most important thing he can do, as a father, is to love his children’s mother; “and that has to be practical.”
“It takes time and effort and a willingness to learn to do things I don’t feel confident about doing or that don’t match my self-image.”
Self image in the reflection of his eldest son, C, was another learning curve.
“No one could wind me up like C. From the time he was six, I noticed how angry I could become about silly little things he did and said. It took me a couple of years, but I learned that I was seeing in him so much that reminded me of myself as a child, and I didn’t like what I saw. I had to learn to love and accept myself, to stop judging and condemning my six-year old self, so that I could learn to love and accept this child who was so like me.
“Having a son has brought healing into my life and I thank God for him. Of course, his brothers get an easier time of it now that he’s taught me what’s going on,” he said.
“Each of the children are so different and each responds in a different way. I have to show my love for them in the way that best suits them. There is no one size fits all.
“Of all the different things I try to achieve, most can be done by somebody else. But only I can be my children’s father. They get priority because no one else can do that job like I can.”
For R the rewards of father-hood increase with time.
“Every year, my children grow and develop into more complex and wonderful people, and my relationship with them becomes more exciting and rich.”
R said they have grown with their family and their expectations are far more realistic.
“We try not to expect them to be any more – or less – than themselves.”
He knows that being a father doesn’t come naturally. “There is a learning process, and with families becoming smaller, many people don’t get much of a chance to do that learning. It’s a lot more to do with closeness. Many want to get their children off their hands so they can get on with their own lives.
“I learnt a lot about being a father from being a son. My father taught me how to be a family man – he loved our mother and he spent time with us as children. All my best childhood memories revolve around him. Today, I love to do with my children the things my father did with us.
“Everybody knows the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child” – for us that village has been the Baptist church. They have loved us since the day we first came in the door with a pre-schooler and a baby, and their support continues today in thousands of ways.” R is now co-pastor.
“This town is a fantastic place to bring up children. It has a strong community spirit.”
“If I am a good father, it’s 90% because my children have a great mother. And I have a great wife who shares this adventure with me.”
Last year this adventure included 13 months in China. During that time R’s wife taught English as a second language while R took care of the children. The children are home schooled and for them the trip was like an extended field trip.
“It was a huge amount of fun and learning for us. In China we were our own little community. It consolidated something we already knew; that being together as family is a fantastic adventure.”