This post is part of an ongoing series running off-and-on through the year sharing some of my thoughts on becoming a dad. You can read the previous post here.
When we first learned that we were expecting our child, my imagination ran in several directions regarding how that child would be raised. When we found that our first child was a boy, it brought one particular path to mind.
From the first, I immediately wanted our child to follow in a similar path to me. I feel like I’ve had a relatively happy life and turned out fine going the way I did, so if our baby follows the same road he/she will turn out the same, right? Now that we know it’s a boy, he and I already have something in common. I can show him all the ’90s shows I enjoyed as a kid; put him in karate at a young age; foster a love for baseball; give him experiences similar to mine; let him cultivate and grow as I did, turn him into my little clone.
This seems to be a general temptation when it comes to parenting. I remember seeing it in cheesy after-school ’90s movies. Fathers would force their sons into sports that the child had no interest in because the parent wanted to relive his youth vicariously through his offspring. It was portrayed as a negative route to take. Although I would have never considered it a temptation to myself, with a son on the way I feel the desire to let him live as similar of a life as I.
Perhaps part of this is fear. There is no guarantee of what kind of person our son will become. How else can I raise him except by how I was raised? What paths could I set him on other than the ones I took? But fear asks, What if he doesn’t follow in daddy’s footsteps? What if he takes an entirely different road?
Reality also sets in eventually. He won’t have the same parents I had; he wasn’t born at the same time; I’m the baby of my family, he’s the firstborn; the culture is different; the challenges are different; he’s being born in an entirely different state from my land of birth; he’ll learn different lingo; he’ll have different friends. It is impossible for me to raise him to be my little clone, my second chance.
At this point, the way that seems best to me is to let him grow into the man God intends him to be. I’ll nourish and cherish him, I’ll try to protect him and train him as best I can. I planted the seed, but God gives the increase. I won’t let him run wild or control the home, but I can try to be sensitive to his tastes and natural tendencies. My childhood, though good, wasn’t perfect. What could I change in that? He is a unique human being, even now, who will grow in experiences and life exclusive to himself. I would be robbing him if I tried to force him into the same mold as I, and that’s not the kind of father I want to be. After all, I don’t want to wind up on a future after-school special as the example of a bad dad.