With Father's Day passing this last Sunday, it got me thinking about the first night I was a father. My wife and I were in the hospital room with the portable crib close by. We were both exhausted from the events of the day and laid down to rest as our baby slept peacefully. As I attempted to go to sleep my mind kept thinking about this precious new life sleeping close by. The very act of birth changed who I was because I was now also a father. I accepted the added responsibility to care for this life and raise him with love and compassion. My mind wandered through what this meant and the hopefulness I had for what my baby's life could be.
I also vividly remember the concern I had for this baby. Was he still ok? Is there anything that could obstruct his breathing? What if I am asleep and can't respond if he needs me? These worries had me getting up multiple times to check that his little chest was going up and down. It was after some time of doing this dance from bed to crib that I found myself praying. It was in this prayerful moment where I accepted the thought and fact God gave him lungs to breath and I have to trust he can do that. It was reassuring as I was reminded that in life is power. This little baby though dependent on others is already adapting to this new world. I also recognized that no matter how hard I try I cannot always be there when things go wrong.
As a father I have to remind myself of these first moments often. When my worries sneak up into my thoughts I tell myself God has empowered us to grow and use the abilities we have in this world. Sometimes it will be difficult however we are resilient and powerful in nature. My role is helping them navigate the waters of their life while upholding their worth and value.
I'm An Imperfect Father
I am human and many times I am not at my best when it comes to parenting. Especially when there is added stress from relationships, finances, employment, etc. that impact our mood. Kids have a way of making us transform from a peaceful cat to a ferocious beast just because our litter box has been moved.
I too often overreact, jump to conclusions, blow things out of proportion, or am inconsistent in my approaches. This after the fact brings shame and guilt for not being who I hope to be as a parent. I have come to find we often do not share these thoughts which are very common. We do the best we can with what we have. But that doesn't mean we cannot work at being better and research various strategies that can help improve our approaches.
What Kids Need
Kids need love, compassion, and empathy from their caregivers. When we as parents are able to love our children and help them navigate the rough waters of their life in an empathetic way their brain responds positively. It trains their inner neural processes to feel safe knowing they have the ability to make decisions, problem solve, and work through stress. Most of our first brain development happens from age 0-4.
One study showing the impact of trauma and stress on children is the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACES) conducted by Kaiser Permanente in the 90's which looked at health conditions of obese people who experienced various trauma in their childhood. What they found was the higher number of traumatic experiences or household dysfunction among youth created more severe health concerns as adults. So what our children experience from the households we create and the interactions we have produce a lifelong affect. That's why its so important we uphold our children with value and worth and find ways of dealing with our own stress in effective, non-harmful ways. If you want to take the quiz and figure out your ACE score click here.
So what are some good resources to help with parenting? There are tons of information out there on the internet but here are a few.
Collaborative Problem Solving - Developed by Dr. Ross Greene and Dr. Stuart Ablon in conjunction with Massachusetts General Hospital as a response to the research of adverse childhood experiences by Dr. Bruce Perry. Its an approach focused on listening and creating open communication with your child while also empowering them to come up with potential solutions to concerns. If you want to learn more watch this video "Rethinking Challenging Kids".
Parenting 101 - This website was developed by the Child Development Institute which gives basic tips on parenting and how to handle various challenges.
Conscious Discipline - Is an approach focusing on creating a safe, connected, problem solving environment for your child. It works on developing choice in kids and uses moments of conflict as opportunities to teach and learn. To learn more go to the website.
God As A Father
Being a father has added a new dimension to my spirituality and understanding of God. With this added role, responsibility, and privilege I get to witness and be a part of lives growing into who they were created to be. It is truly incredible to witness the process of ongoing change. It seems everyday their perspective of the world positively impacts mine if I let it. The lessons I learn about being a father lets me continue to let go and trust in my heavenly parent.
Many times God is depicted as a male fatherly figure. This can make some uncomfortable depending on our own beliefs about the divine or our relationship with male figures growing up. The words we use try to identify the divine so we can have some contextual way to perceive God. It can be useful to try to see God in various ways to expand our understanding what God can be.
For me God as a father figure paints a picture of a loving, compassionate parent who helps me navigate the world I live in. He allows me to make decisions and learn as I decide the journey of my life. He suggests potential directions or options but ultimately the decisions are up to me. Throughout those decisions he supports and empowers me to be my best and to do it with happiness. Throughout my journey he is with me though I may not realize it.
There are times when the storms in life may be too much. During them I am always welcome to find comfort in his arms until I am able to travel again. It is in his loving arms I find peace, love, and empathy. He knows me for who I am at my core despite what roles and names I take on from the world. It is this genuine, precious life he sees and loves. His constant love abides in me.
Everyday through my kids I am reminded of this love God has for me and how he is working in my life.
Thank you for all the positive comments and those following along!
This week be thankful for the children we have in this world and say a prayer for them.
The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Community of Christ. We believe individuals should be allowed to have their own opinions and be at different places in their faith journey.