Children aren’t coloring books. You don’t get to fill them with your favourite colors. — Rahim Khan, from Chapter three of The Kite Runner
In few short few weeks I am going to a father for the first time and I am nervous.
I am not nervous about having the baby, my wife and I had decided to extend our family little under a year ago and I know I am ready to handle the idea of being a Dad and being there for my child. (We have asked the doctors not to tell us the gender as we want it to be a surprise.)
I enjoy assisting my wife with anything she needs (a craving for watermelon at 11pm?). I love talking to her belly and asking the baby how he/she is doing, feeling the baby kick and listening to the heartbeat during examinations. Honestly, I cannot wait for the day I am holding my newborn child in my arms. I have told my wife that it is perfect timing as the National Football League will be starting after the baby is born and I have it in my arms as I watch the games every Sunday afternoon. (I think my wife and sisters are already taking bets to see how long that would last!)
I am not worried about the lack of sleep I will be receiving for the first few months (or years). To me it is all a part of the process of starting a new family and I look forward to the months and years ahead of watching my child grow.
What I am worried about is putting expectations on my children. Let me explain: often, I watch the youth ice hockey games which are played before our games. Well, at least I used to since I could handle listening to some of the parents yelling from the stands, shouting instructions to their children:
“Cover the point!”
“I don’t care if he doesn’t have the puck, hit ‘em!”
“C’mon, ref! You call that a penalty?! He barely touched him?
If you lose, you are out of the family!” (Okay, this is a quote by Homer Simpson, but you get the picture.)
I am often disgusted by this sort of behaviour and I walk away from it. But at times I can see myself hoping for the best for my children — I often find myself thinking about the universities I want them to attend (in the USA, Notre Dame; in Canada, McGill). I want them to be as well rounded as possible, enjoying both sports and scholastics and I am already looking at books I want them to read and games I want them to play.
But what if they don’t want any of that? What if they want to attend a different college? Or no college at all? What will be my reaction? Will they see my disappointment? Or even worse, will I get angry at them?
I think of my own father, encouraging me from the stands at the Kin Centre ice rink in Prince George — even though I was the worst player on the ice. (I couldn’t even skate backwards!) Hockey was my idea; Dad wanted me to play basketball like he did as a kid and I even signed up for a couple of seasons.
But I never felt right; it wasn’t for me even though I was taller than the rest of the kids and scored a lot. I wanted to take on the challenge of playing hockey, improving my skating and being a better player. Even though I know he didn’t like it I am glad he let me go my own road despite the fact he mentions every once in a while I could have at least made it to university playing the sport!
It will be an experience of a lifetime when my baby is born. I know the tears of joy will flow down my cheeks when I first hold the baby in my arms. Writing this piece was very therapeutic for as I realized my role as a father is to guide my children and teach them the best I can. But in the end, they must choose their own favourite colours and write their own history, much like my parents let me.
But I will always be there when they need me.
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