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90% Of Being A Successful Father Is Showing Up
Woody Allen says that 90% of success in life is showing up. That certainly goes for being a good father. Your wife brings the child, but the ball is in the head of the court, half the time, afterwards.
I was scared when I brought my baby home from the hospital. I looked at the little boy, six pounds, six ounces, and I almost panicked when I realized that he was going to live with me. I didn’t know how to feed him, change him, or get him to stop crying. I was afraid to hold it. I was finally a modern father. I wasn’t sure I would be able to fill his father’s shoes.
I was a twenty year old full time college student, financially strapped, married when my son was born. I had no money, and only one way to get it. I worked five part-time jobs during the day and into the night to pay the rent and feed my wife and son. Sometimes I ate dinner, and sometimes I didn’t. I was so close to the edge, and I still had seven months to go before I graduated.
Although I didn’t have a choice to show up, personally, it was a choice to show up emotionally. My anxiety level was through the roof just thinking about being responsible for such a small, helpless human being.
I guess it’s obvious, my son was not planned. While a child is born whether it is planned or not, intention plays a helpful role in mapping out a child’s life. My financial instability worried me every minute of every day, and I feared being poor even more than I feared being a father.
Marriage to a young French girl I met while studying in London was a disaster. I had made a complete mess of my life. My wife and I divorced right after I graduated college. She went back to France, but I refused to allow her to take my son with her. He was American by birth and as a result I was given one care at the age of one.
I was a stupid father at first. I had just started my career after college and needed more sleep than I was getting. I remember trying to get my son to sleep through the night. I thought a little oatmeal mixed into his nighttime bottle might stick to his ribs and help him sleep longer. I used a hot needle to make a larger opening in the nipple and gave the mixture to my son. It worked. I had discovered that at least some of being an innovative parent was.
When I think about raising that child forty-four years later, the beginning is like a hazy dream. I went to work, hunted down and made a living. I found a wonderful woman to take care of my son during the day, and when I traveled for business. Life as a single father was good. I spent most of my free time with my son. I didn’t have much of a social life for ten years, but I felt something in my heart that directed all my energy towards it.
Somewhere along this journey, I fell in love with my son, and I have loved him ever since. I raised him as a single father for most of his childhood. I would do it again in a heartbeat. Raising my son was the greatest achievement of my life.
Did I do a good job? When I look at the man he is today, I’m sure I did. I have a grandson who is seven years old, and for the first time in the history of my family, there are three generations of Solomon’s men living at the same time. We all share a sense of unconditional love for each other. When my grandson wraps his arms around my neck, kisses my cheek, and tells me, “I love you Grandpa Kenny”, I feel the same joy that I used to feel with my son
As I was the only parent of my son, it was not really an option for me to show up. But it’s not really an option for any father. Granted, there are situations where it is much more difficult to get emotionally involved, but in the end, a son needs his father to feed him emotionally as much as he needs food. And, a woman cannot be expected to raise a son without the much-needed male influence of a father.
If you are a new father, congratulations. I hope you find it in your heart to show it. I promise you will never be sorry. I’d love to hear from new dads, and I’m open to sharing what I’ve learned, so feel free to write your story and tell me.
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