“The greatest burden a child must bear is the unlived life of the parents.”Carl Jung
“Happiness comes from suffering. There is no happiness in comfort.”Fyodor Dostoevsky
In the last year, I had the fantastic privilege to undergo the transformation of a lifetime.
I became a parent.
When I found out I was going to be a father, I had a massive rush of emotions. At the time, I was absorbing as much information as I could so I could find something that resonnated with me.
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve felt like if I can’t find my feelings in something external to me, there is a chance I could be losing touch.
I also had this buzzing voice of anxiety in the back of my head saying “if I can’t capture this emotion, then I will ruin my child.” (The first of many transformations)
I desperately wanted to find something that explains what I was feeling, but I couldn’t.
Everything I found on parenting, from books to videos to people, didn’t quite explain what I was going through.
The clichès like “everything changes” or “it will never be the same” wasn’t enough for me. I needed something that fully captured my experiences, or at least pointed to them.
Becoming a parent is a transformation that so many people experience and probably the most important transformation of our lives. I was frustrated that I couldn’t find something that explains this widespread and significant experience.
So I do what I always do when I’m frustrated.
In high school if I was feeling a certain way and couldn’t find a song that expressed my feelings, then I could write one.
Today I couldn’t find an essay, book, lecture, or anything that captures my experience of becoming a parent.
So I am going to write it myself.
I’m hoping this post does a few things:
1) ensure my sanity
2) helps other people in the process of becoming a parent. I hope others can find themselves in my experience and discover that they aren’t alone.
3) gives my kid(s) some guidance if (God forbid) I cannot give it myself.
(Another of many transformations) I realized that all my actions help create a world that my children will inherit. It is critical that I share my lessons and experiences in a way that is relatively easy to understand so that they may spend their finite time and energy blazing new trails while standing on my shoulders rather than relearning and unlearning pathologies through trial and error.
This first section I wrote during Kyra’s pregnancy. They included my thoughts and lessons in an effort to track my transformation.
Before the Birth
All my life I put pressure on myself to be a better person especially for my unborn children.
That was a common axiom that underscored the majority of my motivations for as long as I can remember.
Every time I went through a terrible experience, I would think “my kids will never have to go through this.”
An experience I’m sure many people can sympathize with.
Coming to Terms with Limitations
I have just discovered I am becoming a parent, and for the first time, I realized that I am who I am.
The person who will raise my children is the person I am now, in all my glory and tragedy.
This was wildly uncomfortable, to say the least.
I realize that this is the same with my parents, all parents. They were equally as flawed and broken when they had me. Children tend to have high expectations of their parents, and view them as godlike, especially in their younger years.
But I see now that they are just people, who have become parents.
They, like all other parents, are human beings with dreams unrealized and unresolved trauma yet to be discovered.
I had to confront all of my ridiculous standards and insecurities, and admit they were ridiculous.
I had to accept that I was not where I wanted to be in life and there was a good chance that my parents weren’t either.
This has given me a new compassion and understanding for all parents.
Becoming a parent has been a massive coming to terms with my own flaws and limitations.
It’s painful to know that my child will have to endure my sins and share in a life that I, reluctantly admit, am not completely proud of.
This truth often brings me to tears.
This life, for better or worse, is both of ours now. So I will do my best to move forward with the proper attitude and congruent actions. I will strive to create a life that I am proud of and happy to share with my child.
For many years, I lived my life as if it is of little consequence and now I must confess, atone, and realize my potential. If I don’t, then it is my child I must answer to.
This is a game where I can’t pretend that I don’t care.
I do. Immensely.
Although this coming to terms with self is deep and intense, I have received wisdom, clarity, and compassion of equal or greater magnitude. I suspect, if a person is attentive and self-aware, then they’ll undergo a similar transformation upon becoming a parent.
Accepting Extreme Vulnerability
Part of this transformation is accepting vulnerability. This is vulnerability beyond any level that I have ever known. I knew it existed intellectually, but it is humbling to experience it for myself.
It’s difficult to accept this vulnerability, especially as a man. I’ve spent so much time and energy learning how to be “tough” and in the times that I grew up, that meant not being vulnerable.
Now, I must unlearn that nonsense and willingly accept that what I care most about in the world can be easily harmed.
I have to accept that I have an undeniable weak point.
When I was younger, I used to pretend like I didn’t care as a technique to limit vulnerability.
I tricked many people into thinking that I didn’t care about a lot of things, but most importantly, I tricked myself.
Now there’s no denying that I care. No hiding in the dark.
I have a theory that parents who abandon their children, specifically fathers, cannot accept this extreme vulnerability. The massive responsibility plays a role too, but I believe the vulnerability is more difficult to cope with.
It’s hard to welcome this feeling, but I must if I am to properly welcome my daughter.
I cannot both fully love my daughter and reject the vulnerability that comes with it.
The beginning of bonding starts with being vulnerable.
Accepting vulnerability makes you alive.
Unlocking New Levels of Will
I always had a sense that there was more that I had to offer than what I was already putting out. Most days I convinced myself that I was giving my all, but I always had a little voice that said I could do more.
Now I can say that that little voice was right.
I love breaking through self-perceived limitations, but becoming a parent gives me a whole new idea of what it means to push myself.
It has given me a new sense of what is possible.
It’s like in the hero’s journey, the hero must tap into a more profound strength that they didn’t know existed. Becoming a parent feels the same way.
No one will love this child as much as I do, and certainly, no one will sacrifice as much as I will for her.
Regardless, the tasks must be done which means they must be done by me.
I feel like I captured my feelings relatively well in this journal entry that I wrote in February 2021, the month of discovery. I published this in my 2021 Yearly Review.
This month I was thrown for the biggest loop of my life and I lost sight of my themes for a while. Despite the turbulence, Leadership and Persistence have definitely been developed. The new information I got this month unlocked a new level of everything inside of me. While I was trying, half-assed I admit, to develop myself in leadership and persistence, this new jolt has given me everything I need to be an effective leader. Not just of a company, not just of my life, but of my family’s life as well. I’ve also learned how to push myself much further than my perceived capacities. I’ve accomplished things this month I never thought I could. Again I’ve been confronted with the impossible and again I contend with it. This time it is voluntary, and this time the stakes are high. In this case, I have accessed something much deeper than mere persistence. It’s like I have direct access to the fire of humanity inside myself. I am reborn. I was worried that I was going to lose my ability to write and be creative through the new changes, but now I see that staying connected to them in the midst of the chaos is what will enrich life further. I can see I am even more capable of what I was capable of before. It is almost like constraints allow us to access more of our potential, but only after a certain time. I don’t want to be too specific in this entry in case I make it public, but I’m happy with the developments I’ve made over the years and I’m excited to see where this takes me.
The bolded section of this entry really highlights what I was feeling at the moment.
Everyone has heard stories of mothers lifting entire cars to save their children.
Now I can see that those are not fairy tales, but testaments to the strength of the Human Will when fueled by the love for their children.
Excitment & Fear
I’m not sure which I feel the most. Excitement because I cannot wait to see and meet the combination of my love (Kyra) and myself. I desperately want to know which parts of each of us that she will manifest. I want to know her interests and personality. I want to know everything about her.
But at the same time.
I don’t want my life as a childless person to end. Honestly, I love only having to think about myself and I’m scared that I won’t be able to properly consider my daughter’s needs.
I’m worried that I won’t be enough for her. I’m worried that my blind spots are catastrophic and my trauma responses are unregulated. I’m worried that I won’t be able to properly provide and protect. I’m worried that she won’t let me love her.
I’m worried that I won’t be a good enough father.
I’ll flip between these two states multiple times per hour. It’s exhausting and vitalizing.
I don’t know which is more true but I do know that contrary experiences capture the complexity of the human-animal.
Pay Attention to Aims
If this experience has taught me anything, it’s that you get what aim for. To be frank, I didn’t feel like I was ready to have kids. (Looking back, I don’t think anyone feels ready to have kids. If they say they are, but don’t have kids or aren’t trying, then they probably can’t fathom the depths of their ignorance.)
I wouldn’t call my current lifestyle the ideal situation for having kids either.
But part of me wanted to have a family of my own more than anything in the entire world. I would say that the most honest and vulnerable part of me wanted this, and that’s what exactly I got.
If we’re honest enough, we can see that we make choices that lead us to where we want to go.
While I thought I believed I wanted a life of adventure, immense wealth, and travel, but my actions rarely depicted this.
I spent a ton of time developing my relationship with Kyra so that we can create a strong foundation to build a healthy and happy family. I spent even more time learning how to share ideas and becoming reliabile.
I’m sure if I was able to break down the hours of my life, I can see that I spent way more time watering this garden than anywhere else in my life. This is probably because the most authentic part of me was aiming for having a family of my own.
I learned to be extremely mindful of what I want and what my actions are working towards. If I’m not, then I get hit with “surprises.”
Funny enough, I would have many conversations with Kyra where I would complain that I was frustrated because the problems I had in my life weren’t “age-appropriate.” I certainly got what I was aiming for. Now I have all the “age-appropriate” problems I could ever ask for.
Looking back, I was so foolish for being upset about that.
The Death of The Boy
In order to become a good father, I must not be a boy. Like every young man, learning how to become a man has always been a high priority.
Now that I am a father, I have no excuse to act like a child…a boy.
The boy is not fit to be a father because he can only think of himself.
He cannot participate in asymmetrical relationships. Parenting, if anything at all, is an asymmetrical relationship.
I must voluntarily take on responsibilities.
I must be strong and formidable.
I must be reliable and trustworthy.
I must be honest, productive, and generous.
I must be selfless and patient.
A boy cannot properly take on this role without also causing destruction.
The first three days, in particular, were difficult. I felt the boy die within me and a rebirth of a new man take shape in my soul. This is as violent and majestic as a phoenix combusting and rising from the flames. I felt parts of my burn off and the tighter that I held on, the more it hurt.
I had to let go.
I had to accept that I was transforming, and it was permanent.
The death of Chris the Boy made room for Chris the Father.
Since I found out about the pregnancy, all the deadwood, so to speak, had to burn off. All the perceived ideas of who I am and who I want to be had to die. It’s not easy to let go of yourself, but in order to become a parent, it’s necessary. I’m sure this is partly why so many people, men, and women, cannot rise to the occasion.
Confronting Latent Insecurities and Fears
I feel like in order to transform I must overcome the challenge of becoming the worst parts of both of my parents, a fear that I’ve had for a long time.
I’ve seen many people mindlessly repeat the patterns they saw in their parents which produces the same results they had.
While my parents were far from the worst, they are plenty of things they did that I do not plan on repeating with my daughter. I’m not going to outline them here, but the generational trauma stops with me.
The Crushing Responsibility
I heard someone say that being a parent is a crushing responsibility, and in some ways it is.
But this is not a bad thing.
But one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned over the last few years is that responsibility gives life meaning. When we are responsible for something, we operate on a higher level. We become more resilient and can withstand conditions that would have otherwise ended us.
I have been given the privilege to take on the greatest responsibility, which comes with great access to my own inner strength, tenacity, compassion, and a richer experience of life.
This means I don’t have the luxury of wasting time anymore. I thought I didn’t waste time before the transformation, but now I really don’t. Wasting time makes everything infinitely more difficult with a child. It’s better to maximize what I have. Now I can viscerally feel every second go by. If that second is not properly used, then I am flooded by negative emotions.
While my hypersensitivity to time can be quite uncomfortable, this transformation taught me that we, as human beings, want and need to lift a heavy load. Perhaps I can even say a life that is easy to navigate is not one worth living.
Accepting the responsibility means that I am burdened with a certain set of problems, but set free from so many others. For the first time in my life, I am clear on what is important and what is not. Before the transformation, there was a lot up for debate. Nowadays, not so much.
After the Birth
These are some of the thoughts I recorded after my daughter was born.
Abusive Relationships and Parenting
I heard somewhere that being a parent of a newborn is like being in an abusive relationship. This is because people who are abusive are mentally infants.
I see many new parents who have a tough time dealing with non-reciprocal relationships, but I have been practicing non-reciprocal behavior for most of my life. I constantly felt as if I was giving more than I was getting and I learned to not let that breed resentment in me.
I learned to take on the perspective – if I’m not willing to do it without reciprocal behavior then I won’t do it.
This thought process has made becoming a parent manageable.
Attending to the needs of my newborn daughter is tough, but not unlike abusive relationships that I have had in the past. I must consistently minimize myself and repress my needs in order to meet the demands of the child.
In the past, this dynamic drove me crazy. This is appropriate because I wasn’t a parent. But now, I am not bothered at all by this dynamic because I know that it is appropriate for my daughter to act this way. She litereally is a child! However, it will be my responsibility to socialize her and makes sure she doesn’t act like this forever.
The Dark Side of Becoming a Parent
In the spirit of honesty, it’s not all nice. I was resentful of my need for security and sometimes I believed that having a kid was throwing my potential away. This was a belief that had to burn off quickly.
I realized it was a choice to believe things like that.
My mind can make up so many thoughts that aren’t necessarily true and I don’t have to believe them.
Honestly, it’s revitalizing to believe the contrary – becoming a parent is a goal that everyone should take seriously.
The darker side of becoming a parent is discovering how much a parent loves their child. Unfortunately, there are behaviors my parents committed that I cannot imagine repeating with my daughter.
Reflecting upon on much of my childhood, the question arises “How could a parent treat their child that way?” If they loved me as much as I love my daughter, how can they act that way?
Perhaps they experience the parent-child relationship differently.
Maybe I love my daughter more than they love me.
Maybe they are so unconscious, that they are living a life that they would not approve of.
Whatever the answer, I know I am afraid to find out.
These were questions I wondered often as a child but easily ignored. Now I think about them more often, even though I know it doesn’t do me much good.
One thing that is known, is that my parents primarily operated out of resentment.
I must be mindful of my resentments, especially so I do not accidentally project onto her. I need to be honest about when I feel like I do not want to fulfil my parental duties and deal with those feelings in a healthy way.
If I don’t, then I will create a world in which I will love her less.
The worst part is that no one else in the world will care for her like I do. This means I have to be extremely careful to notice when she does things that makes me dislike her.
If I can recognize those behaviors and stop them before they perpetuate, I can potentially limit the number of things she’ll do to make other people not like her.
This is not because I need the world to like my child.
It is because I want to world to open itself to my child and provide her with opportunities and allies.
If I cannot recognize when my child makes me dislike her, then I cannot help her regulate her behavior.
Children who cannot regulate themselves are quickly rejected from the communities and have a much more difficult experience of life.
Becoming a parent has accelerated the process of getting everything I want, but also magnifies the problems within myself. I feel as if the limits on life have been taken out. The happiness I can feel is more intense than what I felt before. The same can be said for suffering.
I’ve also noticed an increased tendency of being self-critical. I think it’s because I don’t want my unconscious pathologies to decide what my daugher’s life is. So I am incentivised to dig deep within myself to be better, be more.
I feel like I have a new access to emotions and a new understanding of asking for help. I used to never ask for help, but now I will let nothing get in the way of fulfilling my duties as a parent. Especially pride, which is a sin I frequently grapple with.
This magnification has also appeared in my relationship with Kyra, my daughters’ mother.
It feels like we are a family now.
We’re constantly improving and learning how to better cooperate and negotiate. Although that does not sound romantic, those are two critical pillars of our relationship and it is what keeps us growing stronger every day.
Mostly Positive Responses
Most people said congratulations, which could mean they either see me as fit to be a parent, or they feel compelled to congratulate me.
Either way this helps me feel like I could handle this, although approval from the masses isn’t a solid foundation.
I’ve become more aware of people’s judgement, or envy.
As sad as it is to say, some people aren’t genuinely happy for me when I share what probably is the best news in the world. I try to live my life by being around people who are on my team. I test that I like to use is sharing good news. If they’re happy for me, then they’re on my team. If they aren’t, then they’re jealous or a possible enemy.
This is a great time to know exactly who will be on my team.
I’m keeping my family close to allies, not enemies.
Constraints are Crucial
Many people see having children as synonymous with “sayin goodbye to freedom.”
Life already has constraints and we typically define our lives by our constraints, so I say that it is better to have constraints and a well defined life rather than not.
Yes, there are freedoms I’ve lost, but there are privledges that I have gained. I believe it is a great trade.
I Want Her to Grow Up
When my daughter looks at me, I can see so clearly what I want for her.
I want her to be excited to grow up and fulfill her potential.
I’ve seen too many adults that make me feel like growing up is dreadful.
Why is it dreadful to become more wise, knowledgeable, and capable?
Maybe because most adults don’t try to inspire. Perhaps she can.
Godwilling, I can be an example for her.
My Relationship with Time has Changed
Becoming a parent has taught me more about valuing my time, scheduling, storytelling, patience, and time management more than anything else ever could have.
Free time is an unbelievably powerful force. Having kids makes this clear.
I’ve written many parts of this essay in the middle of the night on my phone while I’m holding my daughter (because she won’t let us put her down)
-Currently she’s 8 weeks old and sleep from 6pm-12am if I’m lucky-
If I am awake I must USE the time, not spend it.
I wish I understood this to the level that I do now, but I know that I could have only reached this level of understanding through actually becoming a parent.
Becoming a parent is deeply discovering consequences. Everything has a cost, and parenting puts that right up in your face.
I have also channelled a greater capacity for patience.
There are times when I want things to speed up, but she is a reminder that nature takes it’s time and happens fast enough.
I remember wanting the pregnancy to speed up. Then I wanted the labor to speed up, and the infant stage, and the toddler stage.
I desperately want to see what my daughter will be like as an adult similarly to how I felt wanting my video game characters to be at full power.
I’ve learned that dropping that tendency and enjoying what I have in the moment is how I get what I will miss when we are older.
I’ve learned that I will get to those points in time, but right now is a moment to soak in as well. I think of this when she is screaming and crying, but also when we are playing.
So many parents tell me that they miss the days when their children were young. Hearing that gives me the patience to take a breath and enjoy the stage she is now.
The Great Hope
Once more, life is full of the genuine wonder and excitement that I once had as a kid.
Except now, the feelings aren’t as overwhelming. I notice that same curiosity of wondering what will actualize from new potential.
I’ve heard that becoming a parent is the opportunity to have the best relationship I could ever have in my life.
I didn’t believe this to be true, but after spending time with my daughter I see that it is.
But I also know that it can be destroyed.
The love a child has for their parent is instinctual and as the adult, we can either foster it or destroy it.
I am aiming for the best relationship anyone can have with anyone.
So far so good.
There’s a growing urdge to control the environment. I feel like if I can’t, then I feel like a bad person.
I had a higher tolerance to urdge before becoming a parent, but I’m not able to tolerate it as much as I used to.
Finding a balance of understanding how much I need to control the environment versus how much I need to control myself is difficult.
For me, becoming a parent puts me in a psychological position where I must play the “parent” role as referred to in Berne’s Games People Play. I felt like if I could not control the environment for my child, then I am a juvenile. As rediculous as that is to say, I could not shake the cognitive dissonance.
Over time I’ve learned, and am still learning, how to find that balance between controlling myself and controlling my environment.
New Relationship to Ambition
I’ve been thinking about the morality of ambition. I’ve always seen it as a good thing, but I feel like I am at a point in my life where being too ambitious is counterproductive.
For a while I wanted to so desperately cling to the systems and habits I previously built. As if those systems were me. I grew more upset every day that I missed my goals. I had to discover that I am working on the greatest project I have ever taken on and will ever take on – it’s imperfect but great.
All of the endeavours that I could ever undertake are not as important as this.
I want to keep aiming up, because that is something that I do believe is absolutely good.
But I don’t need to aim as high and as a result, I can dedicate more to being a better parent.
So In Love
There is no sweeter sound, no more infectious rhythm, than my daughter’s heartbeat.
I’m always thinking of her, especially when I’m not with her.
She get’s cooler every day.
Every day her movements are more and more refined. It’s astonishing.
All of her accomplishments make my heart sing. Ever single one. Even the small ones.
I’m happiest when I’m doing boring things with her like laying down or feeding her.
I love playing with her and helping her develop. There is nothing more gratifying and satisfying.
I was worried that I would get stuck with “some kid,” but she continues to impress me. She constantly reminds me that I am not dealing with “some kid,” but that she is someone who is so much likely that I cannot even begin to understand.
The best part is that she lets me love her. Admittedly, I was worried that I would love her so much and she would not care at all. That fear could not have been further from the truth. She lets me love her in a way that no one else can and that’s enough to bring a tear to my eye. Even at a young age, I can tell that our bond is strong.
Joining the Human Race
I wrote about this in my 2021 Yearly Review: Joining the Human Race. Becoming a parent has given me a compassion and love for the ineffectiveness and ineffcientness of humanity.
My engineering training has taught me to seek and destroy inefficiencies, but becoming a parent has taught me to love them.
Our inefficiencies hold the most joyful and gripping moments of life.
Humans are messy, slow, and riddled with mistakes. That’s what makes us human.
This is not a bad thing.
Do we need to strive to be better? Yes.
Do we need to see human error as wrong? Absolutely not.
Discovering this has given me a new perspective on dealing with people. This is a perspective that was difficult to genuinely believe before becoming a parent.
Children Bring Out the Best in Others
I had a student who brought a gun to school. Before I knew, he saw me in the hallway and asked me about my daughter. He genuinely wanted to know how she was. It felt as if he truly cared for her, perhaps he did.
I found out later that he was armed and he was expelled. He didn’t want to hurt anyone, he just want to look cool in front of his friends. Seek love and acceptance by providing value, not fear. The bottom line is…becoming a parent softens everyone.
Becoming a parent has helped me see the softer sides of all people. I get people smiling in my direction and walking near me as opposed to looking at me with suspicion or hostility. A stark contrast from my experience as a single 6 foot tall Black man, where I usually get the more defensive or hostile side of people.
We had a saying in healthcare: kids are the great equilaizor.
This meant that no matter who you are, seeing a sick or hurt kid will hit you emotionally.
That is true with just every day interactions. People love seeing children and they always bring out their loving side. Kids always level. the playing field.
Rediscovering the World & Discovering the Future
Loving my child is like rediscovering the world.
Seeing her learn the simple things from using her hands to looking at shapes is amazing. I watched her look at nature for the first time and it was miraculous. I hope more experiences like this are to come. The world is interesting and full of life again.
Loving my child discovering the future.
The world I am leave behind needs to be better for her. She also needs to learn that she needs to do everything she can to make the world better as well.
For a long time, I lived for myself. For the first time, I see how I am just one part of something much bigger. I am part of the force that builds for the future. This means the choices I make are extremely important.
No More Room for Cowardice
There were many fears and insecurities that I had to confront while becoming a parent.
I could not let any of them stop me.
Fear and insecurities are excuses that people use to act like cowards.
When I am fulfilling my duties as a father, there is no insecurity. I am the security. I must become the security.
What is peculiar, is that I had so much insecurity when I would do things for myself. I was just letting myself be a coward. Because I could afford to.
Becoming a parent is both terrible and wonderful, much like the rest of the human experience.
However, I can say that the experience of becoming a parent is something that everyone should take seriously.
I have a theory that if someone were to strive to be the best parent they can be, then they will unlock the most rewarding game humans can play.
Becoming parents makes us human. It is what we are made to do.
Many modern people think otherwise because they have been tricked into thinking that there are other games to play that are more satisfying.
Becoming a parent is the best game we can play. It gives us access to the best experiences.
But only if we do it well.