The Discipline of ParenthoodJohn Cave Osborne
It was just over five years ago that I proposed to a single mom. That, of course, means that just over five years ago, I was shaking in my boots at the prospect of becoming a stepdad. And I’d be lying if I told you that the transition was smooth. It was incredibly difficult to go from carefree bachelor to (virtually) full-time dad overnight.
It was as if a thief in the night came and took all my free time away. While I had plenty of time for doing whatever I wanted, suddenly, thanks to my stepdaughter, most of my waking moments were spoken for. Not that that was a bad thing. For it wasn’t. But it did take some getting used to. Then, five months into our marriage we learned that we were expecting triplets and I fretted beyond belief. After all, if one was hard to get used to, what in the world would I have to do to get used to three more? At once?
That was a question that I asked over and over again until the fateful day that our trio arrived. Instantaneously, our family doubled in size. And during the first four months in particular, I made many changes in my life to accommodate our little ones. Only they weren’t premeditated ones. They were reactionary ones made out of necessity.
As anyone with kids will attest, there are continuous pockets of difficult times followed by weeks and months that don’t seem as hard. But these “easier” times are mirages, for just around the corner there is always a new normal which awaits — one which is usually more difficult or taxing than the previous pocket of difficulty. It was at these points that I would, once again, make reactionary changes to accommodate all the demands four kids required.
It wasn’t until the triplets were two that I realized something: for all the time that my four children took in my life, and for all the sacrifices they required, I still enjoyed many of the things that I enjoyed before having kids. I still saw my close guy friends once a week. I still watched a ton of sports. I still went hiking and camping (though not as much, obviously). I still worked hard. And I still spent hours and hours a week pursuing my passion of writing.
So on the one hand, I was uncertain what, exactly, I had exchanged to make room for it all. But now that the triplets are well over three and now that Caroline and I are expecting child number five, I finally understand that I’ve not given up anything that was important to me for my kids.
Instead, I’ve eliminated virtually everything that’s wasn’t important to me. Wasted hours watching TV? Gone. Nights spent laughing a bit too loudly a bit too late? Gone. (Well. I mean, almost gone. You still gotta live a little, right?) Weekly poker games? Gone. Burning needless hours at the end of the day? It just doesn’t happen anymore. Sleeping in? Same deal.
Parenting, it turns out, has made me far more disciplined. I never goof off. Unless of course, it’s with my kids. The few occasions I catch myself wasting time these days actually disgust me whereas at one point, I wouldn’t have thought anything of it. But now, I realize that I have no time to waste. At least no where near as much. And while I’m not lobbying for an award, I am trying to say this:
When you have something as important to you as your kiddos, you figure out real quick what you can and cannot live without. And one thing I cannot live without is expending as much energy as possible trying to be as good of a father as I can possibly be. But being the best dad I can be means that I have to be as well rounded as possible, too. So I can’t just give up everything that’s made me who I am. I can’t just ditch all the hobbies that I love. It’s the unimportant stuff I’ve had to ditch. And on top of that, I’ve had to learn how to do the important stuff more efficiently.
And now that I’m a few years into it, I can really appreciate the difference it’s made in me as a person. You see, the discipline of parenthood has made me far more disciplined.
Read 6 other parents’ thoughts on what parenting made them better at