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90% Of Being A Successful Father Is Showing Up
Woody Allen says 90% of success in life is showing up. This is true of being a good parent. Your wife delivers the baby, but the ball is in your court half the time after that.
It scared me when I brought my baby son home from the hospital. I looked at the six pound, six ounce little boy and almost panicked when I realized he would be living with me. I didn’t know how to feed him, change him, or get him to stop crying. I was afraid to take it. I was the best new dad. I wasn’t sure I could fill a father’s shoes.
I was a twenty-year-old full-time college student, struggling financially, married, and when my son was born. He had no money, and only one way to get it. I worked five part-time jobs during the day and 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.
While I didn’t have a choice to show up, in person, showing up emotionally was a choice. My anxiety level was through the roof just thinking about being responsible for such a small and helpless human being.
I guess it’s obvious, my son was not planned. While a baby is born, whether planned or not, intention plays a useful role in charting a baby’s life. My financial instability worried me every minute of every day, and I feared being poor even more than being a parent.
My marriage to a young French woman I had 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 returned to France, but I refused to allow her to take my son with her. I was an American by birth and was therefore given sole custody of a one year old.
I was a wobbly parent 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 small amount of 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 fed my son the mixture. it has worked I had discovered that at least part of being a parent was being innovative.
When I think about raising that baby forty-four years later, the beginning seems like a hazy dream. I went to work, settled 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 parent was good. I spent almost all my free time with my son. For a decade I didn’t have much of a social life, but I felt something in my heart that directed all my energies towards him.
Somewhere along this journey, I fell in love with my son and have adored him ever since. I raised him as a single parent 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 sure do. I have a seven-year-old grandson, and for the first time in my family’s history, there are three generations of Solin men living at the same time. We all share a feeling of unconditional love for each other. When my grandson wraps his arms around my neck, kisses my cheek and says, “I love you Grandpa Kenny,” I feel the same joy I felt with my son.
Being the only parent to my son, introducing myself wasn’t really an option for me. But it’s not really an option for any parent. Of course, there are circumstances when it is much more difficult to get emotionally involved, but in the end, a child needs his father to feed him emotionally as much as he needs food. And, a woman cannot be expected to raise a child without the much needed male influence of her father.
If you’re a new parent, congratulations. I hope you find it in your heart to show up. I promise you will never regret it. I’d love to hear from new parents and I’m open to sharing what I’ve learned, so feel free to write in and tell me your story.
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