How to Be a Dad

How to Be a Dad

What To Do When Your Child Turns 8

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Freak out. Because that’s what I’m doing right now with my newly-minted 8-year-old.

Just kidding. Well, not really. Eight years-old is one of those ages that can make parents go full-on existential crisis mode. The obviousness of your kid no longer looking or acting like a baby is startling. Personality is more defined. It’s a like a swift kick to your parenting feels. The other night, I struggled through a bout of insomnia:

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🍕Story time…🍕 I had a fun bout of snowball thinking that kept me up last night. My ultimate conclusion: every parent is an employee working for their kids.

It sounds absurd, at first, because parents are supposed to be in charge. But the distinction is: we aren’t working for our ‘right now kids’. We’re actually employed by our “fully-grown kids”, who exist some time from now. And these silent partners need solid management.

It can be hard to reconcile. Our ‘right now kids’ have very different needs than our future kids. The requests can be totally contradictory. What complicates things, even more, is how myopic parenting can feel. When my first son was born it was so hard to see past those first few weeks. Then months. Even now, I can only see a couple of years forward. At most. Any more than that and I get emotional vertigo.

It’s a fun job. Lots of perks. The hours are long. Paid time off is hard to come by. Our bosses are largely absent since they have to grow up. Management is usually in chaos.

But I keep thinking about my bosses. Two grown men who, one day, may not even recognize the younger man who worked for them for decades. Meanwhile, I get to hear all the whining about baths, bedtimes, dinners, & other required “times.” Parenting is the strangest startup.

I just really want to keep my job. My performance review isn’t for another 15 years, at least. And then hopefully I get a promotion.

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Yesterday was my son’s 8th birthday. He’s had a fever so we played it low-key but the lurching, quickening momentum of time stuck with me throughout the day. Finn’s feverish face was pressed into me, looking for relief. He was burning up. I can’t recall the last time he had a fever. But my little phoenix was on fire and changing before my eyes. The baby and toddler in him seemed to burn away. Ninety-six months later, our baby is a boy.

These past eight years feel like 8 seconds and 8 lifetimes at once. Not unlike the four hours it took for him to arrive into our world. An eternity and an instant. I’m proud of him. I love him. His love is one of the pillars I stand on.

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