When I found out five years ago that we were having a little boy, people told me that “boys are easy”, “all they need is a little discipline”, “give him a ball and a stick and he’ll practically raise himself”. When we found out that we were having a little girl two years ago, everyone assured me that “little girls just need loves”.
But here’s the deal: my kids require so much more of me than I ever expected. They’re emotional. They’re messy. They want my time and my energy. I have to talk to them and listen. I need to discipline them and show them grace. They expect me to be gentle when they’re hurting, and they need me to be tough when they’re afraid. Of course they do. They’re children! More importantly, they’re human beings. Messy, demanding, emotional, grace-needing human beings.
But here’s the kicker: even if I do a bad job, they love me. And that may be the most painful part. Because I make mistakes. There are days as a dad when I fail, and they come to me and hug me and kiss me and tell me they love me. Even when I don’t deserve it. And it’s in those moments when love hurts. When I know how undeserving I am, but they love me anyway.
There are few experiences in this life more humbling than the love of a child after you’ve messed up. Forgiveness from your two year old when you raised your voice over something stupid. Kindness from your son when you were stingy with your time.
For me, being dad has been a learning experience in being gracious. I’m going to get a lot of things wrong between now and the day my children no longer need me (which I hope is many decades from now), but I hope the thing I get right is reciprocating the grace they’ve given to me.