When it comes to parenting, you don’t know what you don’t know and then when you think you know it, the kids change the game and you start again. Douglas Stasinowsky shares how fatherhood keeps him humble in amongst all of the frustrations and challenges of life with kids.
Being a father has been one of the most humbling times in my life. It is not humbling in a speech at the Oscars; we’ve won the World Cup kind of way. It is more of a constant reminder that there is so much more for you to know and work on. It is one of the most rewarding jobs in the world but it is also a reminder there are very few jobs that are beneath you. The late Christopher Hitchens described fatherhood as a “a solid lesson in the limitations of the self to realise that your heart is running around in someone else’s body.” It’s an apt description as being a father (or mother) exposes us to the limits of our control and extent of our vulnerability, a realisation that can be hard to swallow.
I have found that as a father I am constantly humbled by what is required of me. I am constantly dragged out of my comfort zone for the ones I love. I have found myself on my hands and knees searching under sofas for Beyblades through discarded apple cores and Tiny Teddy packets. I have found myself playing a supporting role in my daughter’s never ending concert (The World’s Greatest Showman is currently on high rotation at our place). I have found myself cleaning more suspect stains and nappy explosions than I would care to think about.
There is something about being responsible for another human life that knocks you down a peg or two. Especially if you love that person, you have to keep them alive and you feel as though everyone will judge you on how they behave. It’s a thought that has you constantly questioning your worthiness as a father. It is sometimes hard to believe you are trusted enough to raise another human being.
That is why it is easier to be cool when you’re young but hard to stay that way when you’re a parent. When you are young being cool is all smoke and mirrors. It is easier to hide what you don’t like about yourself and pretend nothing fazes you when you have very little skin in the game and very little is asked of you. Very rarely are you emotionally invested in anything the way a parent is.
Children have a way of pushing us to our outer limits and exposing the parts of us that we don’t want to deal with. They are adept at dredging up the baggage of our own childhood or reflecting our least flattering traits. Do you find that fire in your belly being stirred when your children ignore you? Do you find it draining for your attention to constantly be on standby? Do you find it hard to fairly deal with sibling conflict and not take sides? I can answer yes to all three.
I used to struggle with the word maturity. A younger slightly more arrogant version of myself saw it as description of someone whose soul had been crushed into submission. It is only as a father that the word makes more sense to me (although I may not always act that way). Maturity is closely linked to wisdom. It is being humble enough to know your failings (both in ability and understanding) and realising you shouldn’t act too rashly. It is the understanding that everyone else is in the same boat as you (or worse) and you shouldn’t judge too harshly. Being a father has given me a deeper understanding of how the world fits together. I have a better understanding of what my own parents went through. I can thank my children for helping me to see this, for keeping my feet (or knees) on the ground and showing me where I can get better (even if I don’t want to see it). It is hard but it is valuable.
Happy Fathers’ Day and remember to stay humble.
Douglas Stasinowsky is a happily married father of two living in the Western Sydney suburb of Penrith. He is a third year Communication Student at Western Sydney University with a keen interest in the current media landscape, backyard psychology and his two little “Stazlings”. He can be found with his wife and kids searching the local area for good coffee, playgrounds and a place to think.