Defined By

Sometimes in life, we need to soul search. We take trips to faraway places, go off to school, sign up for gym memberships, and attend self-help seminars attempting to discover the answer to what defines us as people.  I have, in the past, initiated my own searches for that existential clarity about myself.  I have spent time and money, at times exhaustively, to find out what it is that I should be defined by.

Almost 10 years ago, at 5:30 in the afternoon on July 19th, 2002, I became a father and my soul searching (and gym membership) ended. In an instant, my self-definition, whatever it might have been, had been rewritten.  No longer would my meaning and place in this world begin with ‘I’.

Being a father, by definition, means I am the ‘man who exercises paternal care over other persons’, but with all due respect to Mr. Webster’s denotation, being a father goes way beyond that.

Being a father means I’m the one who goes in to dark rooms first, hunts monsters in bedroom closets, and is an architect of blanket forts in the living room. I accept bribery as an acceptable form of parenting, especially in restaurants.  I am there for protection during a nighttime thunderstorm and to kiss away the pain of a boo-boo.  I am the keeper of many a ‘Pinky Swear’.  I’m not above making pancakes for dinner, being a coach for sports I know less about than theoretical quantum physics, and feeling the thrill of occasionally being a ‘bad cop’.  I can make it all better, arbitrate arguments over toys, I’m a short order cook, and a field surgeon for ripped stuffed animals. I know what it’s like to be the ‘World’s Greatest’, learned (very early on) how to say ‘no’, recognize peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as the go to lunch, and repetition is key. Repetition is key. Repetition is key.

I can sit for hours on end in awe watching the two most important people in my life.  I learned the best cure for a bad day is a hug when I walk in the door. I found out what it meant to truly love two people and in turn, be loved.

What defined me wasn’t found with a passport, 4 years of college, a job, or an expired gym membership. When I thought I needed to discover who I was and why I was on this planet, I found out I didn’t need to search at all. The answer was right in front of me, staring me in the face. Actually, it was staring me in the face at 6am on my day off asking me to make it breakfast.

I realized it’s my job to be whatever it is my kids need me to be so long as I don’t ever stop being Daddy. Its who I am. Its how I am defined.

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21 responses to “Defined By

  1. Kids are the best and worst mirrors we have. They show us the compassion we show and the anger too. Never really thought about it before, but when we had kids I stopped trying to find “me” because “me” was now daddy. And that’s a hat I wear with honor.

    Keep up the good work!

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    • I love that. The best and worst mirrors we have. I should have run this by you before I posted it. I would have loved to add that in. And thanks. You too my friend.

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  2. very nice. very nice. very nice….keeper of the pinky swears!

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  3. truth on “repetition is the key”. not just with kids, either. but in life in general.

    really good post.

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  4. I seriously love this post . You’ve defined being a great dad in a way that totally speaks to me. I often struggled to figure out who I am and who I should I should be and when our first was born, like you, I knew being a great dad was the answer.

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    • It is nice to have that sort of clarity. We know why we are here and what we are to do. I think it makes us better parents because of it. And thanks Jim. I appreciate it.

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  5. I want to be a Dad! A big aha for me was realizing, I’m big. They’re little. So simple, but it sums it up and reminds me to step up and suck it up even when I want to whine that I’m tired and need a nap. And I love the photos. Nice to see the Daddy behind the writer.

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  6. You are so brilliant beyond words, but then again you would probably be able to come up with something to describe yourself. Awesome!

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  7. Amazing post, my friend. Sometimes we (I) need to put our way our (my)narcissism and neuroses and realize who we are is simply… who we are. Daddy. And that’s enough. It’s the best job in the world. Thanks for the reminder, and for putting it beautifully.

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  8. At the risk of reinforcing gender stereotypes, I’d like to say that’s a) awesome and b) unusual for a guy. I say that because I see guys who are great dads, like my husband and my own father, struggle with defining themselves by their career first. That seems to be hardwired in a lot of guys, and unfortunately it takes them a while to realize what’s most important. You seem to be ahead of the game.

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  9. Wonderfully written. Too many parents, dads particularly, do not understand how fleeting the time with our young children truly is. Sadly, so many see their children as a burden to their careers, social lives and other things that they want to be defined by. You wrote it perfectly that it should be very simple – that we are defined as the children want and need us to be.

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  10. Awww man, you have struck again. I love this, I love every last word in this post (in all your posts actually). I am an emotional sap and you get me every single time! My dad means the world to me, the father-daughter relationship is just so special..I really hope someday your girls will be lucky enough to see what you write about them, even if they don’t appreciate it at the time, when they get older it will be oh so amazing to see!

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  11. Great post!!! Your kids are lucky to have you!!! Hope you had a great Father’s Day!!

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