5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Catholic Fatherhood Hit Me

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One of the hardest and most rewarding experiences of life has to be raising children. It’s a monumental task that too many men take lightly. The effects of our parenting will literally outlive us for generations to come.

No pressure, right?

I was somewhat prepared to have my new baby boy. My mother ran a daycare as I was growing up, so I know a thing or two about kids. But in other ways, I was not ready. It would have been nice to at least get a heads-up about a few things that crippled me as a father.

With that in mind, I hope to spare some of my fellow soon-to-be dads some excess heartache and pain. Read on for the five things I wish I had known before getting my wife pregnant.

You Got This

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That is not some nice platitude – an empty word of encouragement. God chose you, yes you, to be your child’s father. Out of all the arms in the universe he could have handed this eternal soul to, he picked yours.

Because of this, you can be confident that God has your back on this one. Your job might not be right for you. You might be uncertain about the place you moved to or the home you chose to live in. There might be a list of mistakes you’ve made in life.

Your child is not one of those mistakes. You being that child’s father is not a mistake either. (Same goes for mom) I don’t care if you’re Catholic or not.

If you are Catholic, though, then bonus! God has endowed you with sacramental grace to be everything that child needs you to be. The wisdom, courage, and strength to be a good father to your child are all there for the taking. Just ask Jesus.

Accepting Help ≠ Failure

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Ok, so you have sacramental grace. That does not mean you are superman. Especially if it’s your first rodeo, show a little humility. Take advice.

Sure, you can’t take every bit of advice. Parenting comes in different shapes and sizes. But when your baby is screaming like a dying cat, and a mother of seven says to you, “Try holding him this way instead,” don’t take it as an insult. Get all the help you can.

While your at it, if she goes further and offers to bring a meal, watch your child for an evening, or help clean your house, none of this is code for, “I think you suck as a parent.” Take the meal. Go out with your wife. Be thankful you have friends you can rely on.

If You Can’t, You Can’t

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One of the saddest moments in parenting for me was when I had to finally admit to myself, after accruing thousands of dollars of debt, that I could not afford Catholic school for my children.

We loved the school they were at. There were sisters there. The teaching was solid, but we had to say goodbye.

You will have opportunities you want to give your children that you won’t be able to. There will be trips you want to take, projects you want to do, experiences you will want to have with them, and it won’t happen.

Don’t beat yourself up. God knows that your best is all you can do. Let him multiply the few fishes and loaves of bread you have to offer.

Love Your Child as They Are

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In religious culture, especially the conservative kind that I gravitate towards, the expectations of children can be incredibly high.

Think of Mass, for example. We have the job of training our little five-year-old to sit, kneel, stand, speak with the congregation, not speak when the priest is speaking, sing when they are supposed to, and otherwise be a robot for a full hour.

All of this is important, but come on, give the little guy a break.

Some children are more angry than others, more distracted or slower to learn. Why is it so difficult for some of us to accept this? Because we assume their personality traits are some kind of reflection on our parenting.

There are two boys I know pretty well. One of them will patiently sit and fold origami creations for a whole hour – the steps of which he has memorized. The other one needs to break things on a regular basis. One of them is a diplomat and talks things out. The other thinks punching you is a good way to end a difficult conversation.

Fun fact: they both have the same parents! My wife and me. It’s nature, not nurture.

Does this mean we practice laissez faire parenting? Let the wild flowers blossom as they will? Of course not. But punch-and-break-things kid has needed a couple years to work healthy methods of anger management into his life. I am so proud of him now, but someone looking from the outside could have easily judged us and never guessed how hard he has had to work.

Accept that your child is the way he or she is. If it’s nature and not nurture, don’t blame yourself. Parents blame themselves enough as it is.

Put the Phone Down and Enjoy Fatherhood

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These years will fly by you. That’s a trite saying, I know, but I’m so grateful that my kids still enjoy sitting on my lap and letting me hug them and kiss them. My oldest is quickly leaving childhood behind, and I will never get those younger moments back.

Being self-employed, my mind could easily be on work work work 24/7. I could check my phone constantly or wonder what other angle I could take or hustle I could pull.

There need to be set times when I set it all aside and give undivided attention to my children – for them, yes, but also for me. Life is brief and parenting is briefer. I have them now. Tomorrow is not guaranteed.

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Carry on, brave warrior. You are more than able to do this. They need you, and there will be no one else in their life that holds the place you hold in their hearts.

Now, if you will excuse me, I must school my children in the art of Smash Bros.

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