July 22nd 2016. My wife and I go to another checkup appointment with the OB/GYN. She is 6 days away from her due date and everything is running smoothly. She feels good, the baby is healthy, and we excited to be parents in 6 days. After the standard protein tests the doctor nonchalantly says “you’ve got some protein in your urine. So we are going to induce you. See you up at the hospital”. All of the sudden the pressures of becoming a parent come crashing down and I am sitting there wondering if I have what it takes after all.
Being a dad is the greatest adventure one could ask for. Yet, there is nothing that can surface the insecurities of a generally secure a man like parenthood. Will my daughter like me? Will she always just want mom (still a struggle)? Will I know how to engage and play with a toddler girl that doesn’t seem interested in action movies or sports?
My father loved me with his whole heart, but was not the most active with my brothers and I as kids. He simply didn’t know how to play with kids. He was raised on a family ranch by his grandparents working long hours at an early age. As an adult, I can acknowledge my desires as a kid for my dad to play with me. Yet, he rarely did. He was by no means a bad dad. He loved me with his whole heart. He encouraged me. He supported me. He loves our time together as adults. But there is a longing in a kid to play with dad. So I resolved to be a fun dad. To wrestle with my kids. To teach them how to throw a ball or ride a bike. And, if I had a daughter, to get fully engaged in the tea parties and nail paintings. Talk about a pride eliminator for a ranch kid from Wyoming. Painting nails…that has become one of my many skills.
There was a learning curve for me when Hadley was born. For instance, I didn’t know there was a very specific direction that baby girls had to be wiped in order to prevent infections. YIKES. I was not the most help with the newborn phase. I tried. I changed diapers. I rocked Hadley when she was upset. But, I can’t breastfeed which not only helps when she needed to eat but also was the trick to getting her to sleep. Also, I had to go back to work full-time while my wife stayed home. Thus, Hadley grew what felt like a deeper attachment to Cassandra than to myself. To top it off, as Hadley began saying more words she started saying “Mom” right away. However, instead of saying “Dad” she picked up “Regan”. She calls me “Dad” about twice per week, but since everyone else calls me “Regan” why not her. Between her not referring to me as “Dad” and always wanting Cassandra when she is sad/hurt/hungry/anything else I began to build some insecurities on my ability to father well.
I’ve had to intentionally spend time praying over these insecurities; that they would not take root and God would continually speak truth over my fathering. I’ve had to allow God to father me well so I can father my own child well. I’ve had to face the truth that I am not a perfect dad, but that gives me opportunity to do better. Hadley loves me very much. She is excited to show me her achievements; how many stairs she can safely jump down, her drawings, her ability to run full speed into the street and make me chase her in a panic. Hadley knows she is the apple of my eye.
I believe most dads struggle with insecurities regarding their parenting. Especially when they have daughters. Dads don’t talk about it often. But we are always wondering if we are as good as mom. The lesson God his teaching me is to stop comparing myself with Cassandra. Women bear the image of God differently than men. They parent differently. And the connection they form with their children is different. That is the way God designed it. My identity is not based on my daughter’s love for Cassandra. My identity isn’t even based on her love for me. My identity is found in being a child, fathered by God. Out of that I am able to love my daughter, father her, play with her, protect her, provide for her, and be “Regan” to her.