Learning On the Job

I always knew I wanted to have children.

Part of it is that, when I was younger, I just assumed that was the natural course of life. All of the adults I knew had children, largely because all of the adults I knew were either my friends’ parents or my cousins’ parents. Growing up, getting married and having children was just what people did, at least through my young child eyes.

Not much changed as I got older. I always seemed to
get along well with children, whether they were my
young cousins or my friends’ Yavelberg kidsyounger siblings and, aside from some occasional sibling mischief, I’ve always felt protective of my two younger brothers. For instance, one brother and I once got separated from our parents at a museum when we were very young (five and two, six and three, something like that) and I remember sitting and hugging him in the corner of a hallway and telling him everything was going to be fine. (Our parents found us very soon afterwards.) In retrospect, my parental impulses were already developing steadily.

I never really knew why I wanted to have children, though. I knew I liked kids; I knew that I enjoyed telling stories, making funny faces and playing games with them. I knew I liked teaching, which came in handy when I was a camp counselor during my college summers. And I knew I liked listening to children tell their own stories, which has been even more helpful as a social worker. But still, even though I liked being around and working with children, I never knew quite why I wanted to have children of my own.

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Then, five years ago, my son was born. I remember being so astounded that my wife and I had actually created this little pink mush of skin and hair. In the minutes after he was born, I found myself repeating, “Holy crap, it’s a baby!”1 Even though I knew, rationally, that a baby was coming at the end of the pregnancy, I couldn’t quite wrap my mind around the idea that “baby” and “this new helpless life form in my arms” were the same thing. One moment, I was Aaron; the next, I was Daddy. I had become a father.

And yet, not quite.

Sure, I had become a father in the biological sense. I had passed on my genetic code to my offspring, thus fulfilling nature’s directive that the existence of the species will continue in the form of another young child playing with his earlobes and making fart jokes.2 But, as far as becoming a dad was concerned, I had so much more to learn.

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I want to see the genetic code that led to this…

I did learn. I learned the straightforward things, like changing diapers, cutting nails (sort of) and packing bags for day trips. I learned how to install car seats, assemble strollers and how to make it through twenty-four hours of flying with a toddler. And I learned the more complicated things, like trying to rock my children back to sleep without waking their mother, watching my son use a nebulizer and having difficult conversations. I learned about the struggle between balancing time at work, time with my wife and time with my kids.

I learned that there is no stronger feeling of guilt than realizing you have put your child in a dangerous situation. And I learned that there is no better feeling than when your baby lays her head on your shoulder.

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I’m thankful that my children have taught me so much about being a better parent, a better husband and a better person, in general. Dads like the ones in the video below don’t always start out that way; it takes a lot of work to learn to be a good father. I’m thankful that I’ve had fantastic teachers who give me new opportunities to learn every day.

I have partnered with Life of Dad and Pampers for this promotion. Use the hashtag #ThanksBaby across all social media platforms to honor dads all over the world for Father’s Day. Also, check in on Twitter at 8 p.m. Saturday, June 17, for a one-hour #ThanksBaby chat with Pampers and Life of Dad, with a chance to win a $250 Visa gift card.


1. My wife, who was nearby getting cleaned up and starting her recovery from the birth, finally said to me, “Well, what did you think it was going to be?”

2. Mission accomplished. Just wait until Shayna starts doing it.

One Day At A Time

Learning has always been enjoyable for me. I like understanding why things are the way they are, although, to be honest, I’ve always been more drawn to the theoretical arguments as opposed to the practical ones. For instance, I don’t care very much about the ways that the hydraulics and various mechanical parts of an airplane work. I’d much rather have a discussion about the ethical uses of airplanes in warfare or why people need to fly in the first place. I generally approach machinery with my grandfather’s attitude: if it works, great. If not, you find someone to fix it.1

I’ve always wondered about deeper questions, though. What are we doing here? Why is there pain? Is there a God? Is there a right or a wrong way to live? Why is it important to treat people with respect? Does anything really matter, one way or the other?

With questions like these, it’s no wonder I majored in philosophy in college. The truth is, these days I don’t wonder quite as much. I haven’t found the answers to the questions; honestly, I’m not sure anyone really has, although there are a bunch of really good ideas out there. The reason I don’t think about these questions as much is because I focus so much on the day to day activities that distract me from bigger issues. We all do this, to some extent or another. There are errands to run, bills to pay, jobs to be done, children to care for. I can’t ponder my existence right now; we’re out of milk.

There are still those moments, though, when these questions creep in. I’ve actually found that this happens a lot on those rare occasions when I’m watching the news.2 The world is filled with so much negativity that it becomes easy to throw up our hands and ask, “What’s the point?” Why do we bother plugging along through the daily rat race when we don’t even have the reassurance of a delicious wedge of cheese at the end? I may not watch the news much anymore but I still hear and read about violence in small towns like Ferguson, Missouri and in larger areas like the Middle East or the Ukraine. My own opinions about who is wrong or right in any of these conflicts don’t make much of a difference here. What does matter, though, is how we find the strength to get out of bed every morning to do the things that need to be done.

People cope in different ways. Some look to God or some other higher power and ask for the fortitude to continue through each day. Others keep the faith that there will be a reward coming in the next life and that the way we lead our lives now is our ticket into paradise. I tend to look to my family for strength. My wife inspires me to be the best version of myself and helps me focus on the more uplifting parts of our lives. My son is talking more and more every day and has been using his impish smile and infectious laughter to brighten the lives of everyone around him. Last week I made a quick trip to the supermarket before work and, when Eitan saw me leaving, he yelled, “Kiss!” and ran over to give me a kiss before I left. Then, after he gave me a hug as I was leaving for work, he asked, “One more hug?” and I obliged happily.

I don’t have the answers to the questions we all ask at some point or another. Even if I did, there’s a strong likelihood that the answer that would work for me wouldn’t be as satisfying for someone else. I tend to believe that people go through each day doing the best they can, given their specific circumstances, and that some days are going to be more difficult than others. But we still push through, knowing that bad things are still going to happen all over the world. My hope, at least, is that I can use the love and the strength I get from my family to help make my little corner a little better and that things will turn out all right in the end.

Where do you get your strength from? Feel free to leave your input in the comments section.

 


1. My grandfather served in the U.S. Air Force as a radio operator. He got through almost all of basic training before someone finally realized he couldn’t be allowed to fly a plane because he wore glasses. Then they asked him what he knew about radios and that was the answer he gave.

2. If you’re still a person who tunes in every evening, try this exercise out: count the number of negative stories that lead that night’s edition and see how high you get before you hear a positive story. Last night, Trudy and I made it through three and Trudy said she’d had enough and changed the channel when the fourth came on. I certainly try to be a fairly well-informed member of society but you’ll have to forgive me if I would rather not be thinking about murders, assaults and robberies while I’m getting ready to fall asleep.