A father’s life

My goals and objectives as a parent and as a father.  To avoid any potential for  misogynistic misunderstanding, I am using father here as to separate my own goals and wishes in parenting from those shared by both Sara and I and those Sara might have for herself.  That is not to say that these won’t be further discussed and revised as the months and years roll by.  Kate is right now 20 months old, ask me again in 2 years, or five, or ten, or twenty and I’m sure these will have changed 100 times or more.

I’ve been thinking about my goals as a father for a long time.  They are not a distinct and goal-oriented as those in other parts of my life.  I think the key to any goals I have in being a father is that they must be passive and adaptable.  By passive I don’t mean to suggest that I will sit idle or not participate fully.  Rather, I mean to think about how I support, encourage, and nurture Katie rather than demand and control.  Thinking about all of those things, here are my goals for being a father.

Be supportive.  I think this is my main goal in being a father.  Be supportive.  When she is passionate about something, celebrate her exuberance.  When she is frustrated, allow her to vent and then talk out the problem.  How can I support her in this (insert action/activity here)?  This should be my first question.

Be demonstrative of love.  Katie should always know I love her. She should always know I love her mother.  She should see that love in gestures.

Participate actively in all parts of her life.  Sara and I are in this together and there are somethings that she is going to do better.  That doesn’t mean I should sit back and not be a part of that.  The good things and the bad, the fun and the tedious.  My goal as a father is to participate fully.

Demonstrate my values through action.  My baseline moral code was instilled through watching the actions of my parents.  It wasn’t taught from a book; it was learned by example.  If I want Katie to be a good person, I need to be a good person.  Sure, we also learn from negative examples, but those are hard lessons.  Plus, these are my goals, idealized versions of what I hope will happen, what I hope I can manifest.  So I will lead by example.

Instill in her a love for the things I love.  Reading, learning, nature, animals, fish, water, science, sports, and Legos.  I will show her how much I love those things.  My hope is that in some of these things we will find a shared experience.  This doesn’t mean she has to love any of these things.  I will always allow her to develop her own likes and loves, and I will love those too.  I just want to be able to have a common shared experience, to show her that it is OK to be passionate about some things.

Allow her to make mistakes and be there to catch her.  This will be hard.  I can tell her about my life experience, my successes and failures, but ultimately she will need to make mistakes.  My goal is to keep them small and meaningful.  While she is small this means letting her explore the world and occasionally fall down or pinch a finger or skin a knee.  Then I will pick her up and let her know that it is OK and help her try again.  Hopefully, in these small actions she will know that I will always support her, pick her up, give her freedom and a safety net.

Show her how a man should treat a woman, through my relationship with Sara and the other women in my life.  I’ve never thought of my actions and interactions as they might be interpreted through someone else eyes.  I’ve thought about how others perceive me, but mostly as one adult to another.  With Katie, my actions are helping her form a social framework.  I need to remember that for a good chunk of her life I will be the most important man.  I don’t think this knowledge is going to cause me to behave too much differently.  I think just being aware of tone and behavior are as important as words.  It is interesting to think of my behavior as a man and how it will be filtered into the next generation.  Like every generation before mine, some of my actions will eventually be questioned and refuted.  But I will do the best I can, striving every day to be better.  What that really means is being open to change.

Show her how to argue with someone you love.  Hopefully, this one doesn’t occur directly between us too soon.  I think it is important that we disagree in front of Katie.  It is weird to think about, but knowing that it is OK to disagree is important.  What also might be important is to make sure she sees the resolution too.  That people who love each other disagree and still love each other is important.

Try to understand what it means to be a woman in the world and prepare her for that.  I think in many ways this will be Sara’s role in our family.  I don’t know what it means to be a woman.  For me it will be about being able to look at situations from a different perspective.  My role will be to provide some insight into the male psyche.  This kind of goal is really far off in the future, but by thinking about it early it will help me moving forward.  Maybe the goal here is to help her understand what she can expect and what she should expect and how to spot the difference.  The world is more equitable today than it ever has been, but there are still dangers and power imbalances.  (push for and support a world in which it safe and equal for girls and women)

Be demanding, do not demand.  I don’t know if I can clearly explain this one.  I think my natural inclination as a parent is to push.  I want her to succeed, I want her to be smart, I want her to be strong willed, I want her to be educated. There will be high standards and high expectations.  This again is how I am feeling now, while Katie is still little.  Being demanding now means that she learns that she can’t throw things off the dinner table.  The demand that she not throw things off the table is different.  That is a rigid thing, without understanding.  Knowing that developmentally, Katie is not fully in charge of her emotions and does not yet understand consequences or punishment.  The same can be said for things later.  If she wants to participate in sports, I will push her to be the best she can, help her strive to the best of her abilities, but I’m not going to demand that she be perfect.  This will be a complex thing for me and something I’m going to struggle with.  Hopefully as she grows I will be better able to articulate this feeling/goal/idea.