Published on November 6th, 2013 | by Robert A. Schultz, MD0
Fatherhood: It’s All About Preparation
“Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.” – Confucius, 5th century BC
It is said that the philosopher had at least two children – the first at age twenty. And we all know that he was a wise man! So I ask: Why would he doom himself to failure by becoming a father the first time? Perhaps he distinguished preparation from experience?
I’m not trying to be cute here. It is often said that nothing prepares us for parenthood…least of all fatherhood. Women seem to have some hormonal predisposition to motherhood that gears them up for the step-up in life station. Maternal instinct is protective and downright awesome. It somehow provides an indestructible link to the Creator and a safe haven for the soul–even for the most forlorn and misguided among us. The primordial cry MA! during disaster or the athletes’ shout-out Hi Ma when the camera is on are not by chance.
Whether it has to do with months of gestation or the nurturing period thereafter, or both, it is clearly a scenario from which we men are biologically excluded. Instead, we are given the climactic task of fertilizing the seed and are then expected to know how to tend the garden. Some of us are better than others and, unfortunately, some lowlifes copout altogether. But with age and experience comes wisdom. As the father of three (ages 25, 23, and 19) who was forty-one when my first was born, I have a few things to say about fatherhood. I will be brief (there is virtue in brevity). If you want the whole story, please pick up a copy of my book, Autobiography of a Baby Boomer.
- Enjoy your kids – especially when they are young and adore you.
- Enjoyment makes everything much easier.
- Practice enjoying the moment–it is all there is and why it is called the present!
- Unwrap the present gratefully so you can taste its full essence – it can become intoxicating.
- When the child becomes sixteen honker down with the wife, hold to your values, ride things out, and remember that you are not dealing with an adult but rather a part of you that is perplexed by the vastness of it all.
- Do not expect fairness, consideration, or mature logic. Although never soon enough, these things will come because you showed love and extraordinary patience.
I am including here a small excerpt from my book because it fits this narrative. It appears in Part Two (pages 380-381) and is a letter I wrote to my family before having elective open heart surgery.
Letter To My Dear Family
July 7, 2010
Dearest Deb, Eric, Stephanie and Morgan,
I love you guys so much. I will say this again in different ways. It can’t be said too much.
Having just gotten out of the hospital for the second time in two weeks I feel particularly vulnerable physically and am facing unexpected heart surgery to preserve my life and our family as we have known it.
In the past I have used others’ illness and misfortune to better appreciate what a wonderful, fortunate life we have had together; rich with prosperity, good health, and dreams. Now as I face my own mortality I appreciate it even more. Hopefully, I will survive the upcoming medical challenges and this letter need not be read. But if this is not the case, I want each of you to know how very happy you have made me even if I did not always show it.
Kids, your mother and I have worked hard to raise you to care about each other; to strive to be the best you can be; to be loyal to your future spouse; to respect others and be fair in your dealings with them. Eric, I know that getting a law degree and perhaps working in the sports industry will bring you great joy and success. Stephanie, I believe that pursuing a law or business degree will give you the independence to not have to rely on some dude to provide for you (listen closely Morgan). Morgie, you know how much joy your golf accomplishments have given me, but you have many other talents and special qualities to explore. Learn what they are and cultivate them.
Debbie, it was some ride. Thanks for sharing it with me. Now you can read the book and know that there was nothing sweeter in my life than our years together.
Stay united as a family even though you may be apart with new families of your own. If you feud remember I am watching and that stuff pisses me off. Remind each other of my wishes for harmony between us no matter what. Let’s never forget how much we mean to each other and how our love gives us strength to tackle the world.
Think of me when you can because when you do I am alive and want so much to be with you all.
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