Focus from Fatherhood
On Thursday, January 22nd, I became a father. Life hands us many unfathomably incredible experiences as we live it, but none can compare to seeing life that you halved the responsibility in making come into existence in this world. I must be forthright and admit, I was warned by many. I was told it would be an amazing experience. I was told it has to be lived to be understood. I was told I would be overwhelmed with emotion. But I don’t think I was told the real truth. Nobody warned me what it was really going to be like.
Nobody told me…
-your wife becomes an even closer treasure as she shares your joy in parenthood
-you’ll lose the capacity to speak when holding your child for the first time
-there is no chance you’re not thinking about him every waking moment
-no obstacle seems insurmountable if overcoming it means his life will be made better
-you think about him and you lose the ability to stop a smile
-you see a portion of your living purpose rise and fall with each breath he takes
-there is no greater pride than that which lives because he does
-sustaining his life is the greatest cause you will champion in your life
I was thinking about this tonight as I was driving to pick up some needed baby supplies, and I found that in simply ten minutes of his absence, I missed him incredibly. And then I realized, my experience is not unique. It is something hopefully every parent has the joy of living. And it means something beyond just my own indescribable emotions.
As I was reflecting, I was struck by the thought that this experience was sustained by every parent of the roughly 10,000 students being educated in the district where I work. And in that moment, I was overwhelmed.
Each of those parents entrusts me and my colleagues with that which they most dearly treasure. They trust us to do what is best for their children. Someday in the near future, I will place my trust in the same way in those who will endeavor to educate my son. It suddenly brings a great sense of focus to my professional purpose.
I am the Instructional Technology Coordinator for a school district in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. My job exists so that I might bring vision, clarity, and purpose to the utilization of technology in a student’s learning experience. We are all aware of just how important this has become in the age in which we live.
My son’s birth has brought with it an unexpected sense of clarity. A focus on what is important. I’ve been caught up in some very insightful, meaningful discussions lately, but I’m beginning to wonder if it isn’t time to disengage a bit from that space. I know there were several very powerful, purposeful conferences that took place this past week, but I’m beginning to wonder if that’s where my attention should be.
So many are engaging in discussions that seem to be resounding loudly only as echoes against the walls of the chamber from which they are being contained. A cry for change is bellowed, but does the cry carry the weight and momentum necessary to exact real change? Are we focusing energy trying to move the immovable boulder rather than finding ways to push the pebbles we know we could push if we really wanted to?
Jen Wagner put it very succinctly recently with her challenge to move away from the circular discussions and put one foot in front of the other on a path of practical progress. I think that’s the direction in which I need to start moving. I have influence in areas of my life where more change could be manifested if I stopped thinking in global terms and started moving locally.
If I think of my own son, and consider that my passion and dedication to his life are truly multiplied 10,000 times over in my own district, I can readily find the motivation I need to keep fighting for what I believe is the best and in the best interest of the parents and students which I serve.
It’s time for me to readjust the focus and start seeing things through the lens of fatherhood. I believe this could be the view that changes many things for me in a very profoundly positive way.
Diane MainJanuary 25, 2009
Hey, Ben. I really enjoyed reading this. You’re going through a lot of the same feelings and thoughts I have gone through these past five years. My son turned five last weekend. He came three and a half weeks early, and he spent his first eight days in the NICU. I was released three days before he was, and I cried every night we were apart. It’s amazing how your life suddenly changes lanes, or even directions, and your entire focus is on this tiny, helpless life you helped create.
(For more about Cameron’s birth and stuff, see here: http://dowbiggin.livejournal.com/23416.html )
What also struck a chord with me, from your post, is how this life-changing event also changes your focus as an educator. I was already a teacher for over ten years when I became a parent, and I have to say that being with other people’s children for so long certainly taught me a lot about parenting, both DOs and DON’Ts. But becoming a parent made me a much better teacher as well. Now, every time I interact with a student, I think of him or her as some other parent’s son or daughter. I imagine my own son having similar interactions with his teachers, and it really does play a part in tempering what I say.
This hit me the strongest a few months ago when I had a teaching “first.” One of my eighth grade students had a major seizure as she was walking into my classroom. She had never had seizures before, has not had them since, and they don’t really know why she had this one. I was across the room at my desk, and when I heard a boy in class, who was standing over her, say, “Are you all right?” I realized something was not good. At first I thought someone had fallen down, but that instinctual parent part of me sensed that it was more. I was over there before I knew what had happened, and even though there was little I could do other than make sure she did not aspirate, I remembered everything I had ever read, seen, or heard about seizures, and I seemed to be calmer and more in control than I ever knew I could be in a crisis. Even though I was scared out of my mind, I was also calm and knew what to do. And as I looked down at this young lady, all I could think was “this is someone’s child.” I knew that, as a parent, I would want a responsible adult to be there and to know what to do and what not to do. It was an extremely sobering experience, and when it was all over and my body un-tensed, my entire frame ached from the release.
And all I wanted to do, of course, was to go hold my son.
I don’t mean to freak you out or make you paranoid about the things you’ll face as a parent. Statistics show, of course, that your baby won’t even need stitches between now and his 18th birthday, much less suffer something more serious. But I wanted to welcome you to the club. You’ve had your initiation: that drive to the store when you had your epiphany about the immense gravity of being a parent, and your added revelation of what this means to you as an educator, is the start of a whole new life for you.
Congratulations and God bless.
Kelly HinesJanuary 25, 2009
Beautiful. Just beautiful. Thank you for sharing. Parenthood has definitely altered the way I teach.
Andrew KohlJanuary 25, 2009
Well said, my friend. I’m happy to see you reflect on this experience.
Just when I was enjoying writing my blog, the birth of my son in September put my writing on hiatus. A lot of it has to do with what you are feeling right now. Becoming a father for the first time deserves reflection and time, and I believe that this process makes us better educators, professionals and (most importantly) parents.
We work in a profession which talks about flat worlds, shrinking borders and fast communication. But your world and your perspective just got a whole lot smaller and more specific.
Give my love to Logan and your wife. Take the time to keep first things first and to process what you are experiencing. Most of all, celebrate every second.
Melissa Lynn PomerantzJanuary 25, 2009
It’s amazing, isn’t it? I had the same experience. And then another one when I sent them off to school and wanted so desperately for their teachers to appreciate the wholeness of them, to appreciate them as individuals, to want them to be everything they could be. And again, that realization that every parent wants that for their child.
I try to think of that every time a teenager gets snippy, or cranky or just downright rude–they are someone’s baby, they stood at the doorway holding someone’s hand before they went to kindergarten. Someone is hoping that I see the wholeness of this person.
JenWagnerJanuary 25, 2009
You have put a new thought in my mind and I will look at the students with new eyes tomorrow —
Thank you for sharing this part of your life. Thank you for sharing what you did not expect……it was an amazing blog post. One that will resonate with me for quite a while.
You and your wife have been bestowed with the great privilege of taking care of Logan and you will be in my thoughts and prayers. He is a lucky lucky little boy.
And that picture is wonderful!! Thank you for sharing that with us as well.
Blessings as your start down a new road……relax and enjoy it. Take lots of pictures, write down lots of thoughts, and just look at your wife and say “This is SOOO wonderful!!”
Stephanie FederspielJanuary 26, 2009
What an amazing piece, Ben. I found myself looking ahead to the days when I will become a parent and experiencing those same emotions. I’m also amazed how in such a short time your perspective can change.
Congratulations! I look forward to seeing him soon!
Doug BelshawJanuary 26, 2009
Congratulations to you and your wife, Ben! I can remember the moment when my wife was taken away to get cleaned up and it was just my son, all tiny and delicate and vulnerable, and myself. I cried, overwhelmed with wonder and joy, seeing this in front of me.
If you look at the rest of that Flickr set, you’ll see that he – also called Ben – has grown to be a happy, healthy, strong two-year old. In fact, he’s exactly two years old than your son as they share a birthday.
So enjoy the next couple of years. If they’re anything like we’ve experienced you’ll be tired, elated, proud, and full of joy. 🙂
AndyJanuary 26, 2009
Ben, Thanks so much for sharing and placing your thoughts on the screen for others to discuss and share.
I, too, recently “joined” fatherhood. (Check out my blog and you can understand why I quoted joined)
Two points you discussed that I would like to address.
The first one is how fatherhood affects your teaching. I cannot disagree. I can only add that fatherhood definitely enhances your thinking and in some regards unleashes a deeper level of care and concern to embark your best to the future. And in the teaching world, the future of the children you instruct.
As a soccer coach, I strive to pour my best to another child because I only want the best for my child from others.
The second point is the almost blissful state that fatherhood takes you when you are alone with your son. The blissful and breathless moments I experience only enable me to deal with the goofy stuff in my 9 to 5 that much more so the small body in my hands in the evening does not have to deal with what I (and I’m sure you) deal with during working hours.
Thanks for sharing Ben and helping men be men.
Eva NowakowskiJanuary 27, 2009
Congratulations to the both of you on the birth of Logan.
I truly believe that birth is one of life’s beautiful miracles. The sentiments you echo will continue through all the stages of Logan’s development.
My sons are now 21 & 25 and what you write still applies.
Enjoy each and every precious moment – in a blink of an eye he will be grown.
AlenaJanuary 28, 2009
You’ve found the words to speak about the unutterably beautiful, miraculous, incredible event in any person’s life. I know it’s possible to be a great teacher when you don’t have children – you’re living proof – but, like others have stated before me, what you gain in understanding when you become a parent, will invariably make you an even better teacher.
Sadly, some children come to us from parents/guardians who don’t treasure them as you do Logan. Then being a parent helps you become the bright spot in their lifetime.
You may think that it not possible to love Logan even more than you do now, but you will. My children are 21, 20 and 11 and the adage of loving them “More than yesterday, less than tomorrow” totally applies. It only gets better, Ben. Imagine!
Congratulations! Enjoy the wonder of it all…..
JoanFebruary 16, 2009
Being a parent, watching your child grow and amaze you every day, will change your perspective in so many ways as the years go on.
And because you are capable of applying this life altering event to those students and parents around you…well, let’s just say they are very lucky to have you!
Enjoy the adventures! Trust me. They are just beginning!