Why I Love Being a Dad

Every stage of life is special. Enjoy it, because when it passes, you can't go back and relive it. I always encourage people (and myself) to enjoy what's going on now instead of spending inordinate amounts of time wishing for the future. It's okay to dream and hope for the future, but if you focus too much on that, you'll miss out on what's right in front of you.

Obviously, there was a time in my life when I was not married. Looking back on those years I see it was a good time in my life. I could stay out late, do what I wanted, and not be accountable to anyone for my decisions. If I wanted it and could afford it (which wasn't much), it was mine. If I wanted peanut butter and Ramen noodles for dinner, then that's what I had for dinner! As glamorous as that was, I saw marriage as an improvement on my life. If you haven't already read the story, check out "The Story of Us" to read how my wife and I came to be the Devine family.

Then we contemplated children. My wife and I both wanted children, but timing was the discussion. We both saw value in having the early years of our marriage be child-free. There are a lot of adjustments to be made when transferring from single to married life, and that can cause stress. Perhaps that's why the majority of divorce occurs in the first five years of marriage. I can't be certain of that, but I am certain that my wife and I both decided to wait on kids. It was a special time for us to be married and "free".

In September 2010 we learned we were going to have a baby. It was no surprise. We'd been "working" toward that goal. We were both thrilled! But along with the thrill was the realization that another phase of our lives was passing--we were now entering the realm of parenthood. 

I think interpersonal relationships are wonderful because they are one of the few blessings in life that get better with time. I believe marriage begins wonderful, and if properly nurtured, becomes exponentially more amazing with the passing years. Similarly, having a child is a fantastic joy, but the longer you have a child or children, the more deeply you love them. I am writing this post to share the reasons why I love being a Dad. I hope some of you parents can relate.

#1 Witnessing the formation of human life is amazing.

As a scientist, I am completely enamored by the awesomeness of embryonic development. One cell turns to 2, then 4, then 8, and it's not long before you have billions of cells. As those cells divide, they differentiate ("mature") into other functional cells that orchestrate development by sending signals to surrounding cells, causing them to form necessary structures and ultimately build a living creature (check this video out). I will never get over it. But aside from my geekyness, it is exquisite to see a woman carry a child. My wife was beautifully pregnant.

As a Christian, I am humbled to participate in and observe the process of seeing a human soul formed by, according to my beliefs, the express power and wisdom of God. You may disagree with the concept of God creating life, but then I'd ask you to explain a natural, scientifically observable process by which ANY life is formed from non-living materials. That's a trick--you can't. Life comes from life, and I believe original life comes from God. You can believe what you want, and we can still be friends.

#2 Being there when a child takes his/her first breath is surreal.

Call me dramatic, but when that little boy (Micah) gasped his first breath of Earth's atmosphere, I was feeling pretty happy. All those months of waiting and all those nights of feeling him kick my hand, and now we meet--face-to-screaming-face. Suddenly I didn't care that he woke us up at 11 PM and made us stay up all night at the hospital. I act like that was a big deal--I'm not the one that had to push him out of my body! Go Mommy!

Micah Callan Devine born April 25th, 2011
I know the picture is a little gross, but this blog is called 'Dan in Real Life', not in 'Photoshopped Life'.

#3 Being responsible to support and train a child is good motivation.

I've always wanted to be successful and good and all that; but having a child that looks up to me and watches my every move is even more motivation to get my act together and be who I ought to be. I'm not foolish enough to try to be perfect, but I can try to be the best Dad possible.

#4 Unconditional love is learned.

Love is a tricky word, and always has been. I don't blame it on television or technology of any kind. People have always been like this. More often than not, "love" really means exchanging mutually desired goods or services. How many people do you love that give you nothing in return? Not many I imagine. But children are just that--takers. For most of their childhood, they take your time, your sleep, your money, your food, your free time, your sanity, and much more. Yet I love. Why? Because I'm not doing it to get something from my son. He's not here for me--I'm here for him. Someday I will benefit from the chores he does, but for now, it's totally one-sided. I give. He takes.

Why is unconditional love important? Well, if you're a hardcore evolutionary biologist/anthropologist, it isn't. It's just a remnant of some ancient psychopathology. But for me, it's a lesson on how God relates to me. He gives. I take. He sacrifices, and I benefit. He provides, and I take for granted. Yet He loves.

#5 "It's Daddy!"

When I get home from work, I pull my car into the driveway, open the garage door, and drive inside the garage. Micah has three ways of greeting me:

A. Comes into the garage because he heard my car. Walks to my car before I can get out, opens my car door, and says, "Hi Daddy. You're home!"

B. Opens the door between the house and the garage, waits for me to get out of the car, and says, "Hi Daddy. You're home!"

C. Doesn't hear my car so I get inside the house, he hears me come in and runs into the living room and announces, "It's Daddy! Look Mommy, it's Daddy! He's home!"

This greeting is priceless. Of course, immediately following the greeting is a formal petition to play with him in the "ball room" or to play hide-and-seek--also priceless.

#6 Don't take yourself so seriously.

Kids have a way of making us laugh, even if we don't want to. Micah is particularly good at getting us to smirk when we don't want to, like when we're trying to tell him he's in trouble. But the point is that he helps me relax and see life in a simpler way--let's just have some fun and forget about our problems. Kids can help you get your eyes off your stress and focus it on them. Of course, this doesn't happen automatically--you have to make a choice. The alternative is to bring your stress home and take it out on your family, and this is very bad news. 

Maybe you've been out in public and your child does something pretty embarrassing. Maybe they were being "bad", or maybe not. It doesn't matter for my purposes. The point is this can be a healthy process by which you learn that you're really not that big of a deal and your children are more important than making everyone think your life is perfect!

#7 Human mirrors

Do you have kids? If so, you might recall the times when one of your children did something that really made you mad. You were in the midst of crafting your sentence to chastise their insolence when you realized you do the exact same thing, and they were copying you verbatim! Ouch. Pride shrivels. How could he say that? How could she be so selfish? These are great times for self-reflection. We've all seen hypocrisy in our parents, haven't we? It's pretty irritating. Don't be like that then! I know, nobody can be perfect, but it doesn't mean we should give up! Whether you like it or not, you teach you children 90% by example and 10% by instruction. There are so many cliche statements to follow up this principle, but I'll spare you.

With these human mirrors running around your house, take advantage of the opportunity to see yourself in them. Fix your problems before they become your child's problems. I cannot stand when people make excuses for their pathetic behavior by stating that their parents did it and that's why it's okay. No, you are not your parents, and it's not okay. And in case you're wondering, I love my parents; but we don't agree on everything.


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  1. Of all that is offered by parenthood, I think #6 is my favorite part! As my babies grew up into toddlers, we started to do all the fun little activities that I had not taken part in since childhood. We play at the park, build legos, watch cartoons, go to amusement parks and all of a sudden, things that I grew out of at some point like going to the park with family are fun again!!! I have never been called "too grown up" by anyone. Ever. And maybe that is why I most enjoy getting an excuse to be a kid again! Nice thoughts Dan.

    1. Thanks for the comment! I hope we can all enjoy our kids to the fullest while we have them with us. And working at St. Jude reminds me daily that we have no idea how long that is!

  2. Loved reading this Dan! You share some wonderful insights into parenthood.