Three things I learned from my son on Father's Day - A new father's tale
Written by Michael LeFevre
Tuesday, 21 June 2011 16:34

Sunday was my first Father’s Day.  When I think back on Father’s Days from my past, I remember waking my dad up by jumping on him in bed, going out to breakfast, and maybe having a barbeque in the back yard.  So going into my first time being celebrated being a dad, I realize that I had some expectations about what it was going to be like.

My son had other plans.  He started getting sick on Saturday morning, and was in full blown sickness by the time my first Father’s Day rolled around. This meant of course that we weren’t going out for dinner that evening, and in fact, we didn’t leave the house all day.

The first thing my son taught me about fatherhood: Let go of your expectations.

Expectations tighten us up with ideas about what we want or need.  They are like a distorted pair of glasses – when you put them on, you aren’t seeing the world clearly.   At the beginning of the day, I had an idea about what Father’s Day was all about, and it didn’t involve snotty Kleenexes and rocking my son to sleep for almost 90 minutes.  At first, this stressed me out: why did he have to get sick on Father’s Day?  Couldn’t he have waited for a regular day?

But soon I was able to relax my body and let go of my belief about how the day “should” go.  I took off my distorted expectation glasses and started looking at the world the way it was: I was getting to comfort my son during one of the hardest aspects of being human, sickness.  He was relying on me to make him as comfortable as possible and to still love him throughout the hard times.  What better example of being a father is there?

The second thing that my son taught me this Father's Day is patience.  It is not always easy being a father, but it helps if you can learn to breathe and go with the flow.  I had been rocking my son to sleep for almost an hour and fifteen minutes, and every time he would drift off, a coughing fit would begin and we would have to start all over again.  I felt very frustrated and helpless – I was doing my best to help him get to sleep, but everything I was doing was failing over and over again.  Just as I was about to give up and call my wife (who was picking up dinner and groceries while I put the baby down) to have her come home to nurse him, he finally drifted off to sleep, and this time, it was for good.  Both of us breathed a sigh of relief in that moment, and I could almost hear him saying to me, “Hang in there Dad.  I know it is tough, and it is not fun, but I really appreciate you sticking it out with me.”

The last thing I learned from my son this Father’s Day came in the middle of putting him down for the night.  At some point, he was wide awake, and I needed a complete change of strategy.  Rocking and shushing him wasn’t working, so I opened the door, went downstairs, and started putting on the Moby wrap.  In the midst of being fully woken up after almost 30 minutes of crying and coughing, my son looks up at me and gives me the biggest smile I had seen all day.  He was sick and in pain, and yet, in that moment, we were both fully present with each other, and we could share a special Father’s Day connection.  The final thing my son taught me?

Even in the midst of intense suffering, remember to smile.

Thank you, my son, for the best first Father’s Day ever.

Fatherhood, Father's Day, Michael LeFevre, Therapist, Lafayette, CO

Michael LeFevre is a psychotherapist and father in Lafayette, CO.  He loves working with fathers of all types, and specializes in helping new dad’s adjust to the joy and challenge of fatherhood.