Our son turned two last weekend. Developmentally, this marks a point in his life where we’re starting to see emotion, a sense of preference and improved communication, otherwise jointly known as the Terrible Twos.
People randomly ask me if I’m scared of what’s coming next, as if some impending doom is about to descend over our household and make our lives miserable. I recognize I might be singing a different tune on his third birthday, but I see this as just another phase in his growth.
In fact, it’s a huge opportunity.
If there was ever a time to instill a sense of discipline, self-control and manners, I feel like I’m hitting the jackpot here.
Is it going to be difficult? Probably. Am I going to feel bad about being strict? Most likely. Could I fail, even with the best intentions? Absolutely.
But the prize on the other side of this trial is something that is becoming increasingly rare in our society: a respectful, focused, and well-behaved child.
The second birthday comes with a big sense of pride, as many parents will probably relate to. The little one is finally becoming more independent and capable of decision-making.
While there are still countless years ahead, you feel like they’re finally venturing out into the real world for the first time, interacting with it in new ways every day that are often surprising and unexpected.
I’ve had some time to think about how the last two years have changed me.
There’s also no doubt that the experience of becoming a father was transformational. I think most people can relate to the sense of one’s priorities shifting and the protective instinct that takes over our body and mind.
Last February, I wrote a post for Lending Tree about 9 ways having a baby changed my outlook on personal finance. Among them were things like buying diapers in bulk, and choosing functionality over “cuteness.” Almost all of those things were a function of a tighter budget or our new priorities.
But what effects did actually being a father have on me? Has the essence of who I am, how I think, what I feel, and how I behave and react changed as a result of the experiences of the last two years?
I think it would be foolish to think it hasn’t, but how has it?
Can I even remember life before having kids? (I’m only half-kidding)
I really gave it a lot of thought this week, then I counted the ways life will never be the same for me.
Changes & More
- Patience. There’s really no other way to maintain your sanity as a parent than to practice patience, especially in the face of an emotional toddler.
- Delivery. The way you present something (information, etc.) to a young child is obviously different than an adult, and it changes as the child matures. Think about not only the impacts this has on how you teach your kids about money, but the development of your own skills as a presenter to very unique audiences.
- Effectiveness. I can’t solve everything with money. If my child’s favorite toy is lost, it’s not as simple as getting another one. If I want to go out tonight, I can’t just hire any babysitter I happen to find.
- Time. When I found out that I would become a father, I instinctively recognized that the greatest gift I could give my children was time. I even recall writing it down in my notepad as a kind of reminder that that’s what was most important. I’m finding out that my inkling was right.
- Purpose. Most people think of purpose as a life-long mission, but for me, it’s even more detailed than that. What’s the purpose of this project I’m taking on? What’s the purpose of this meeting? This sandwich I’m eating? Spending $7 on a Netflix subscription? I’m questioning these things more and more lately.
- Legacy. Once we’re gone, what will be left of us? I’m lucky to be in a unique position where I’m actually producing content that my kids can and will conceivably read one day (including this very sentence). Kids shift the way you think about your own legacy, because they’ll actually have to live with that legacy as your surviving family.
- Love, particularly how you manifest love in the physical world. In the last few months, I’ve recognized that underneath all of my left-brained reasons for buying a house is an overwhelming desire to provide a home for my family, in other words–a way of manifesting my love for them in a physical way.
- Pride. Wow, my kid can do that! There’s no other feeling like it, and thank goodness for a bit of humility, or I would be really obnoxious to everyone else who really doesn’t care what my child can or can’t do.
- Lack of boundaries. A colleague once said to me, “If you’re trying to think outside the box, you’re still creating a box.” The kind of limitless thinking that characterizes kids is the opposite of the artificial restrictions we place on our creativity. I’m learning to let go of the box.
Being a Father…
is like riding a roller coaster: you see people coming out the other side and they’ve had a blast, but hear the screams of frightened patrons overhead, and you wonder how the two can coexist.
The only way to find out is to ride the ride.