On Fatherliness

What do you want to do with your life?

Career-wise, I’ve always had trouble coming up with a satisfactory answer. The first vocation that I aspired to was Architect, on account of how much fun I had sketching out floor plans and elevations when I should have been paying attention in middle school math class. I gave that up when I found out how much work you had to do in order to become an architect, and how small your chances were of landing a job when you got there. Also, because math.

Throughout high school, my interests turned towards playing with words and I found that I liked writing well enough to go to university and study English with a view towards journalism. The journalism part didn’t stick, but I added a History/Political Science major to my degree, mostly because it shared a significant number of core courses with the English major but also because why not? Upon graduating I promptly ignored my freshly minted English/History/Poli-Sci credentials and embarked on a zig-zag career of web design, insurance sales and IT jobs. While my top-level plans for accumulating vast wealth making enough money to get by have never been in sharp focus, I have two corrective lenses for the way I look at the day-to-day business of living.

Their names are Gabriel and Rhys.

It’s such a cliché to say that parenthood changes your life, because of course it does. Even if you think you’re ready for the changes in lifestyle, sleep quality and disposable income, it’s still a shock when a brand new little human arrives. But I’ve been a father for almost seven years, so life before kids is in the realm of hazy memory. What is more profound is how fatherhood has changed me.

In my short tenure as an insurance salesman, I learned that the prospect of five-figure quarterly commission checks was not enough to get me through the soul-crushing tedium of cold-calling pages of old leads. I suppose it was useful to find out that I’m not well-motivated by money, so I don’t consider that year completely wasted. However, that was before my kids came along. If my circumstances should change, and calling people who may or may not have once expressed a passing interest in buying health insurance is the only way I can feed my children, then get ready to leave a message, because I’ll either be on the phone or working on my closing technique.

I used to only look at finances when considering a large purchase or new hobby (and sometimes not even then—hello credit card!) These days, I look at the time cost as well. On one hand, it’s definitely good for my boys if I’m around to love them and take an interest in their lives instead of going off and doing my own thing. On the other, my own life would diminish if I made less time for them. Just this morning, Rhys told me to turn up the radio because “that’s my jam!” Who wants to go waste time on vain pursuits and miss gems like that moment?

Most of all, my boys make me want to be an example. I want to see them grow up and become righteous young men, and the only way I know to make that happen is to be so myself. I want them to treat others with respect and love, so I try to keep my words gentle and kind. I want them to value people over things, so I try to avoid frivolous spending. I want them to know Christ and see how a lively faith can change the world, so I examine myself and wrestle with the unbelief and apathy that I find there.

I fail in these endeavors every day, but therein lies the best lesson I can give them. It’s okay to stumble, to fall, to throw your hands up in the air and admit you don’t have a clue what you’re doing. But then by God’s grace you get back up and keep on going.