To be a father is to be heartbroken.
To exceed at it is to question your every choice; to understand that your every move, from the way you handle conflict to the way you butter your toast is somehow shaping the future behaviors of the people who mean more to you than anything else.
There are victories but there is no winning for to claim such a thing would be to admit defeat.
To be a father is to be heartbroken because there is only so much that we can do and ultimately we must relinquish what semblance of control that we think we have and entrust our darlings to the big bad world. This is what it is to be human.
I intended tonight to write about our adventurous treck to the Popo Agie Falls that we took earlier. The point that I wanted to make was essentially that while it is burdensome, a dad should take his children on adventures.
My position on this is not one of authority but rather the opposite. I am much more inclined to spend my days off relaxing around the house rather than loading up my kids and the dogs to hike through the wilderness. I love it but it is hard. Also the kids complain. And the dogs are a pain in the ass. And we we always forget the stupid sunscreen.
I’m rambling… this is your warning.
On our hike today, the kids were absolute troopers. We took a lot of breaks as I have learned that this is the best way to boost morale. There were a lot of people on the hike, per usual as it is a popular destination. I feel as though most of the journey was spent standing in the brush, trying to control my horse sized German shepherd and our enthusiastically protective puppy while we waited for other people to pass by us on the trail. On each of these standstills, my four year old opted to sit directly in the middle of the trail. The locals were cool and made conversation. The tourists were dicks as they silently sidestepped. It was a pretty punk rock move and I was super proud.
By the time we reached the falls though, it occurred to me that I had overextended myself.
I was alone with three kids and three dogs, intending to scale the mountain and then simply frollick in the river as if there was no danger. My dad brain kicked in and I realized that there were lots of things that could go wrong with three kids who can’t swim, a dog who’s too deaf to listen, a dog who’s too excited to listen and a dog who just doesn’t listen.
So after weaving a whimsical tale of the cool, refreshing, mountain spring that awaited my boys at the top of our climb, I told them that we couldn’t swim…
We spent 20 minutes searching for our swim trunks at the house. My middle son would not shut up with the questions about what the “pool” was like at the top. When I informed them that we would in fact not be doing the thing that was the only thing in the whole, entire world that made them want to hike three miles up the mountain side; their tiny faces melted like the butter on my toast which I am seldom aware they are so keenly watching me spread.
Yet they took even this devastating news in stride.
“OK Dad.” They said. And my heart was broken again. Not because of their loss but because of the faith with which they put in me. I knew how much they wanted to dive into that water but I was afraid that I couldn’t keep all of the lives that I was responsible for safe. As disappointed as they were, they were unyielding in the respect they paid to my decision.
And this is where I realized that my decision was a bad one.
We dove into the icy, glacial waters and played. We slipped and we shivered and splashed. The dogs played too.
When we were done we sat back on the rocks, soaking up the sun to which we had no protection and we paid it no mind
I intended tonight to simply write about our hike to the falls but I realized as I started writing this that there is a more important point that I needed to make.
To be a father is to be heartbroken because the stakes are such that you only want to say right things and make right decisions but the reality is that you may only come to this wisdom by saying and making enough wrong ones.
I am thankful to God for the opportunity to gain this wisdom daily. I am thankful for the faith by which I may suspend my fears so that the faith that is placed in me may be rewarded.
It’s not really that fatherhood is to be heartbroken so much as it is an opportunity for the constraints of your love to be shattered.
This shattering is painful but it is growth. I am thankful for this opportunity and I pray that God will guide me as I continue to guide my children.
Fatherhood is the most glorious vulnerability to be heartbroken. To this, I am most thankful.