Today is Father\’s Day so I have another excuse to write about fatherhood again.
How am I qualified to talk about fatherhood as a first-year father? Well, even with my limited experience, I\’m certain about one thing:
Fatherhood is making me a better person.
Let me explain.
The other day, my mother-in-law and I played with my naked son in his blowup pool on the porch. After ten minutes of doing circle laps on his belly, he started pooping. In the water. My mother-in-law tried to fish the poop out with a strainer but she couldn\’t catch it, so she just used her hand.
If that\’s not love, I don\’t know what love is.
As I was holding my boy and watching grandma dispose of the floating poo, he started pooping even more. A lot. I immediately put my hand down and caught it on its way out. With my bare hand.
In that moment, I completely surprised myself. I never thought I would grab another human\’s fresh feces with my own bare hand.
Well, that\’s fatherhood in a nutshell, I suppose.
Later that day, I tried to nap with him since I was also tired but he would not go down easily. After pulling out every trick I have in my pocket, he eventually went down but now I couldn\’t sleep. The idea of taking a nap together backfired.
Since my wife is still on her parental leave, she gets to deal with this all day, every single day. How does she do it? While I feel this immense amount of gratitude toward my wife, I\’m also sad that I sometimes feel useless as a father.
And I wonder: how the hell do other fathers do this?
So I interviewed the father I know the best, my dad, to see how his first year as a father compared.
Q. When did you become a father?
A. When your mom and I found out that she was pregnant with your brother. I was 32.
Q. What changed the most since becoming a father?
A. A sense of responsibility. I was now fully responsible for raising a baby, which changed the way I lived. For example, I used to sail competitively when I was younger. There was a time during a competition that I thought I might get lost in the sea due to a storm. But I kept telling myself, \”I can\’t die here because I need to provide for my family.\” Since then, I stopped taking big risks.
Q. So you stopped sailing completely?
A. No, I didn\’t quit sailing. I just quit doing dangerous things.
Q. Was there any differences between how you thought fatherhood was going to be and how it actually was?
A. I read a lot of parenting books and sought advice from other parents but when I actually became a parent, what I learned from books and others wasn\’t very useful. So we had to learn from our own experiences.
Q. I\’m assuming men taking paternity leave wasn\’t even a thing back then. Did you think about taking time off of work?
A. I was self-employed and had my own business so it wasn\’t much of an option.
Q. What\’s the best thing about fatherhood?
A. There is a quote by the CEO of the first company I worked for: \”Matsuo-kun, I\’m not sure what you think about kids but children are your legacy. No matter who you are, you are leaving a legacy on this planet through your offspring.\” We were poor when I was young so we didn\’t think we could raise a child. But this quote changed the way I thought about having children. And I find it very true.
Q. You have been a parent for 40 years. If you could do it all over again, would you change anything?
A. Going back to the past isn\’t an option so I wouldn\’t change a thing. That doesn\’t mean I didn\’t make any mistakes along the way. But those mistakes were the best lessons to be a better parent in the future.
Q. You had me four years after your first child (my brother). How did you think about raising me differently?
A. I used to only want just one child. But your mom really wanted to have two because she thought having two would make our parenthood experience different and she wanted your brother to grow up with a sibling. She was right – it was great to have two kids.
Q. Wow, I didn\’t know that. I wouldn\’t have been here if it wasn\’t for Mom! I\’m eternally grateful for her. Why didn\’t you want more than one child?
A. Because it was so difficult to raise just one child. It was our first experience and we didn\’t get much support from others. \”How would we live with another one of these?\” We used to think that way. But that motivated us to work harder to make a better living. We got creative with how we lived. Being a parent changes you. It gave us a reason to live stronger.
Q. What advice do you have for new fathers like me?
A. It\’s easy to look at your own child through a special lens. But it\’s important to look at parenting objectively at times. Always ask yourself, \”is this the best for my child?\” At times, it\’s important to learn from other parents about their parenting style. It\’s having a balance of freedom and responsibility. It\’s important to create boundaries. Most importantly, enjoy the time you have with your child together.
Every child has a different personality. And kids tend to be self-centered in the beginning. Make sure you are providing them opportunities to give and share.
Parenting will never go according to whatever the plans you may have. So stay patient and be generous to your kids and yourself. Spend time doing what your child loves to do. Be present.
Even though I thought I had a close relationship with my dad, I learned something new about him through this interview. Like the fact he only wanted one child? Since I\’m the second born, I have eternal appreciation toward my mom for having me. I\’m glad that they are happy having two children.
For me, the best gift on Father\’s Day isn\’t a new tool box from Home Depot, a trophy that says, \”#1 Dad,\” or even a set of personalized golf balls. It\’s quality time with my son, making life-long memories. Maybe one day, he\’s going to want to interview me about fatherhood.
How do you like to spend Father\’s Day?