My sister’s friend is anticipating the birth of his first child. She asked me to think of bits of advice for first time fathers — humorous or serious — which, along with others’ bits of advice, would be used in some suitably embarrassing way against this rookery rookie. I reluctantly contributed, because although I am an experienced father, I am far from top-gun (eight progeny and 28 years bear witness). That said, I do wish to be a better patriarch.
It’s good to occasionally rehearse things that are true, even if axiomatic and unoriginal, else they are easily forgotten or beat out of us. Being reminded is a good thing because we are forgetful. So, for our mutual benefit regardless of the number of arrows in our quivvers:
1. Children are a blessing (not necessarily an easy one) from The Lord, and are “on loan.” Treat them well.
2. Children will add a powerful facet to your wife’s character and to your relationship with her — you may not recognize it at first, nor are you likely to understand it, but make it your business to, and live in an understanding way.
3. Children are fragile yet resilient, they will refine you even as they absorb and reflect many of your very own characteristics.
4. Children are innocent and naive even as they are accutely perceptive of your own innate patronizing and hypocrisies.
5. At times, the children you love may not be easy to like — that said, strive to relate to them at those times with a decades-distant view to preserving your friendship capital.
6. Mean-spirited sarcasm, and loud eloquent expressions of anger — things at which we adults are very good — should have no place in your parenting. When you do let slip — and you inevitably will — the nine most important and powerful words are, “I’m sorry. I was wrong. Will you forgive me?”
7. Sleep deprivation training should begin soonest possible.
8. When tossing Hepsibah or Burpton playfully into the air, mind the ceiling fans.
9. Disingenuousness will be flushed out — children are a mirror into your soul. They are change-agents, and resistance is futile.
10. Selflessness is a oft’ touted virtue. Few men learn selflessness whose sovereign borders are not invaded by children.
The author gratefully attributes the use of Hepsibah and Burpton as archetypal daughter and son, to the Rev. Bob Needham.