I’ve experienced some truly wonderful things in my short life. I’ve married my beautiful wife, visited Rome, and seen Ken Griffey, Jr. hit a home run,. But nothing compares to the joy of seeing the birth of my son.
There is nothing in this world that I could possibly do that would eclipse the awesomeness of this experience. I knew at the moment of my son’s birth that my life had been altered in a way I that could have never imagined, and that realization has been affirmed every day since.
In the short month that I’ve been a father, I’ve learned a number of things, but three stand out:
1) I’m selfish
Prior to the birth of my son, I considered myself to be fairly selfless. My charitable activity was nothing in comparison to St. Francis or Mother Teresa, but I wasn’t a slouch either. I regularly cooked dinner for my wife and cleaned the kitchen afterwards. In addition to my household duties, I spent time coaching basketball and praying at Planned Parenthood. On paper I looked like a pretty good person, but when my son arrived, I realized that was far from the truth.
The works I was performing may have been good, but my disposition was lacking in love. As St. Thomas Aquinas says, “to love is to will the good of the other as other.” In most cases I was thinking about myself and how any particular good work was going to benefit me. My concern was not the good of the other, but with myself and my own personal desires.
This all changed rather dramatically with the birth of my son. He made it clear from the moment of his arrival that he was going to need my care and attention at all times. I could no longer do whatever I wanted, whether it is good or not, because I could be called into action at a moment’s notice. If my baby needed to be held, consoled, or have his diaper changed, I needed to be there no matter what I happened to be feeling at the time.
The demands of fatherhood have helped me to realize how selfish I was prior to the birth of my son. But they’ve also made me grateful for the opportunity to grow in maturity as a man and dedicate my life more fully to God and my family by giving of myself. Having a baby has forced me to put another person before me in every aspect of my life.
2) Mothers are real-life superheroes
In contrast to my selfishness, I soon realized how selfless my wife is. She battled through 24 hours of labor with more courage and patience than anyone I know, and when she gave birth she quickly assumed her role as mother by tending to our son’s every need.
When we brought our baby home from the hospital my wife continued to impress me with her ability to care for our son. She religiously fed him every two to three hours even in the dark hours of night without complaint. Since we decided to breastfeed, there wasn’t much for me to do besides make sure that my wife had everything she needed before she settled into her next feeding session, which meant the bulk of this task was left to her.
This experience has certainly altered my vision of mothers. Although I’ve always had respect for them, I never realized how much they sacrifice for their children. After witnessing what my wife had to do to bring our child into the world and what she does to sustain him, I can honestly say that she and every other mother are real-life superheroes, who perform heroic acts of charity without reward or recognition. Like Christ, they selflessly give of themselves – providing life and nourishment for their beloved through their tender love and care, just as Christ gives of Himself on the Cross and through the sacraments.
3) Prayer is Essential
My final revelation should have been a given, but as dense I am, I needed to be reminded that prayer is the lifeblood of my family.
When our son was born, my wife and I were so disoriented due to sleep deprivation that our normal routine fell into shambles. We took every opportunity to sleep, which the doctor recommended, but sometimes at the expense of prayer. At first it seemed justifiable, since we were so tired and busy with the baby, but then skipping prayer became a part of our routine and then things started to unravel.
We both became easily upset or annoyed at the most trivial things, which began to cast a somber mood over our home. At first we blamed our lack of sleep, which of course played a role, but upon reflection we realized that we had ceased to pray regularly. By identifying the source of our problem, we were able to remedy our situation. We quickly altered our lifestyle and began to incorporate prayer into our daily life once again.
This adjustment was vital to the well-being of our family. Parenting is a great joy, but it’s also incredibly demanding. Without the grace of God, I know that we would fail in our duties as parents. The proof is in the brief week or two that my wife and I dropped the ball in our spiritual lives. Since we’ve begun to pray regularly again, our quality of life has improved a hundred fold. We are more joyful, loving, and attentive to the needs of each other and our son, making us more equipped to cultivate a faithful Catholic family.
Since the birth of my son, I have learned a number of things about myself and the world, but three things have stuck out to me: my tendency to be selfish, the heroic nature of mothers, and the essential need for prayer. All of these realizations have helped me to not only mature as a man but as a Catholic.
I see how God has begun to purify me through the vocation of marriage by giving me a greater knowledge of self, family, and my own dependency on Him.
What have you learned from parenting? Let me know in the comments!
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