6 Things I’ve Learned After I Became a Father

The rollercoaster of thoughts and introspection I had when we had almost lost our daughter.

Last week, we almost lost our daughter.

We had gone to Maui, Hawaii for a week long vacation. One afternoon, we were looking for a particular restaurant in a multi-storied business complex. When we enquired to a shop-keeper on the ground floor, she navigated us to the top floor. When we reached the top floor, a shop-keeper there directed us to the ground floor. As you can imagine, we were going back and forth with a 7-months old in one hand and her stroller in another hand, a 5-years old and my parents running behind us — in general, it was a little chaos.

And in that chaos, we didn’t realize our 5-years old didn’t take a turn from the staircase that we took and she went further down to the other end of the business complex.

A few minutes later when we found the restaurant we were looking for, we realized that we didn’t have our daughter with us.

I was pissed. I was panicked. I wanted to blame everyone — including me. But that was not the time. I ran back to the top floor, came back again to the ground floor, shouted her name, asked few shop-keepers sitting outside if they saw a little Indian girl, but nothing helped. We couldn’t find her.

It felt like my heart was beating very fast and at the same time, it was going to stop beating in a moment.

I was furious with myself. How could I let this happen? How could I be so careless? How could I not hold her hand all the time? Would I be able to ever forgive myself for this mistake? What must be she doing right now? Is she crying? Did some stranger find her? How can I reach out to the police? Can they find her on this remote island? How long will it take for the police to find her?

All these questions splashed in mind in the matter of a few minutes.

And right at that time, my wife signaled from the other end that she found our daughter.

And it felt like I got my life back.

When asked my daughter what had happened to her in those few minutes, she said she started crying as she was not able to find us and told one of the shop-keepers there that she cannot find her parents. Fortunately, that shop-keeper calmed her down and started looking for us as well. And when he saw my wife worried and looking everywhere for something, he figured she must be looking for that missing girl and approached her and handed over our daughter to her.

I was shaken by this incident for the rest of my stay at Hawaii. Especially, while flying back to home, I kept thinking about it and kept feeling how fortunate we were to find her very soon.

This got me thinking that irrespective of how much ever trouble our kids give us at certain times, or how much ever demanding or unmanageable they become in certain situations, we love them limitlessly and unconditionally.

And then I started thinking about how my life has changed — mostly for the better after our kids. I realized how I have become better at many things after I became a father. I’m jotting down those thoughts below so that I’ll have better clarity in my thoughts, but more importantly — I can go back to this essay and be grateful to my daughters for coming in our life.

1. I’m a lot more patient person now.

This is the biggest change I’ve seen happened to me after I became a father. In general, I’m a very patient and well-composed person. You’ll not see me losing my cool in public or in friends circle at all. But I’ll lose it at home — when I’m with family. Well, because you tend to take people at home for granted (and you also love them the most :)).

But as a father, you get stress tested at a totally different level than you’ve ever experienced before.

My daughter’s constant saying “no” to every meal and required daily routine, her unending questions, her constant ask to have candies, her non-stop talking about the princesses and ponies, her constant demand to watch TV, etc. is constantly testing my annoyance limit.

But because I love her so much, I just can’t raise my voice and scold her. I can’t see her crying. But that doesn’t mean, I’m not teaching her good discipline and manners. It’s just that — I prefer to be more patient, take time in explaining things, and wait for her to behave well. It definitely takes more time than usual scolding or forcing way, but by being more patient, I achieve what I want, and she also doesn’t feel forced to do something.

2. I’ve become a better teacher.

As mentioned above, I’ve become a better teacher in general. I started talking a lot more than I used to. I’ve learned to explain “why” more than just telling “how” and “what”. I’ve learned to craft stories on the fly with a hero, a villain and the lessons learned out of any situation. I’ve learned to communicate what I want to convey in the language and at a level that my daughter can understand.

I’ve also learned to teach the same lesson, again and again, knowing that what I teach will not be understood, or grasped or practiced in just one session.

3. I’ve become a better listener.

But just teaching to behave well is not enough. I’ve also learned to be a lot better listener now. It doesn’t happen instantly, but after my daughter repeats the same thing a couple of times, I know I need to stop what I’m doing and listen to her carefully.

Sometimes it’s her some non-sense talk, sometimes it’s her creative thoughts, and sometimes it’s something important that she had heard or observed. I’ve learned to listen and understand what she really means when she says something.

4. I’ve learned to put myself into others’ shoes.

But sometimes just listening and understanding is also not enough. I’ve learned to put myself into her shoes. I’ve learned to focus on “why” she’s saying something than just “what” she’s saying. If she doesn’t want to eat some specific meal, or if she doesn’t want to change her clothes, or doesn’t want to wear specific clothes, then I’ve learned to respect her view points rather than forcing what we had planned.

As a grown-up, even I’m moody sometimes. Somedays I don’t like to follow a daily routine. Sometimes I like to take things slow. Sometimes I like to eat junk food. Then why can’t my daughter have similar thoughts?

Thus, I’ve learned to put myself into her shoes and see things from her angle rather than forcing my plan or decision just because I had planned it that way.

5. I’ve started being in the moment.

I wouldn’t say I’ve become really good at this, but I would definitely say I’ve improved a lot, and I’m constantly trying to improve even more.

As smartphones and wearables are taking control of our lives, and the messaging apps and app notifications are taking control of our attention, we’re not able to give the due attention required to our kids. I know and feel embarrassed when my daughter tells me to put my Macbook or phone down. So I try to spend more time playing with her, listening to her silly stories, doing projects or paintings with her, watching cartoons with her (which I don’t get credit to spend time with her ;)), etc.

But I’ll admit, I’m still not satisfied with my behavior. I’ve definitely become better over the period (I’m less active on messaging apps, have turned off the notifications on most of the apps, got rid of most of the wearables, etc.). But I know there is still room to improve to be more mindful and be present in the moment with my daughters and the family than being with the devices.

6. I’ve started appreciating and caring my parents more.

Raising a child and being a parent is definitely not easy. And I learned it only when I became one. And that made me realize that how much trouble, tantrums, and demands I must have made to my parents, how many times I must have hurt them and tested their patience and annoyance limit as well.

As my parents are getting older and as I’m also getting “smarter” about how to live my life, naturally there are different view points due to a generation gap, exposure, expectations, etc. Before I became a father, I would expect my parents to adopt as per the new generation. I would not bend but would expect them to do so. I would not understand their view point, but would try to force my view point on them.

But as I became a father, and I started bending myself for my daughter, started changing my view points, started becoming more patient, and then one sudden day, it hit me, why I cannot treat my parents the same way I treat my daughter? The level of understanding and compassion I show to my daughter, why I can’t show similar for my parents? And that changed everything. It improved my relationship and behavior with my parents drastically.

I’m more thankful to my parents for what they have done for me.

I’m sure by no means this is an exhaustive list. There are many more benefits of being a parent that I’ve not listed explicitly here. So feel free to share your experience or lessons you’ve learned in the comments section below.

In the end, as a parent, life definitely becomes much more challenging than it used to be, but it’s a choice you make. You definitely need to shift the mindset and accept the new reality. Like many things in life, it’s a baggage of mixed moments — but definitely a lot more beautiful moments than the messy ones :).

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