Downstairs, two little boys are screaming at each other, most likely competing for some toy. They are my sons. One of them turns a year old in a few days; the other turned three years old three months ago. Between them, the sheer amount of energy I expend chasing, instructing, shouting, correcting, advising, and explaining, is unbelievable. When my second son was born, an older family friend congratulated me on moving from being a father to becoming a referee. I didn’t realize how much work referees do.
It is fair to say I could not have been fully prepared for the rigors of fatherhood. I could have been more prepared though. I could have learned about the ensuing years of distorted sleep and endless worry that would follow the highly popularized infant stage. I was familiar with the troubles of those first few months from being a sibling and a cousin to children born when I was well into my teens and twenties. But the hassles faced by not-so-new parents, I was not familiar with those. Toddlers are the real deal!
There is the constant snuggling, just to keep making body contact, even while sleeping. There is endless peeing and pooing; potty training regression on the birth of a new sibling; tantrums that come out of nowhere; screams that could drive you crazy – these were all features that felt like bugs. “Why are my children like this?” “No, brother, that’s how most children are.” To top it all, it’s almost as if they’re constantly on a mission to injure themselves and my one job is to stop them from doing just that!
I must confess though – it’s been an exciting and insightful run. Watching them grow is like growing all over again myself. And I wasn’t unequipped. The basic trait I needed was willingness to learn; that I had in abundance. I also had some first-hand as well as book knowledge. I’ve picked up the rest on the way. Occasionally, I would wish I could run away, just for a few days. But knowing these days can not be reclaimed is enough motivation to stay in the business. Also, the achievement of a new milestone by either son is a huge perk.
Overall, I feel like couples need a young parents’ crash course before making the decision to have a child (or two) – one that includes an overview of what the next two decades might look like. The education you get once there is a child on the way is often limited to surviving pregnancy and infancy; and even that may not get absorbed because of the excitement of expecting a new baby. I’m just grateful to God for His grace and wisdom. He is the ultimate guide and perfect example of what it means to be a Father.