Sunday, June 18, 2006

Influence - A Father's Day meditation

Upon hearing that I would be a father I experienced what most fathers go through - utter fear. The prospect of being responsible for a little life is intimidating to anyone, but when I made the decision to stay home, I couldn't shake the feeling that I wasn't up to the task of shaping who Clara would become. I've come to realize that who she would become was already hardwired in there. I'm just here to make sure she gets on the right path, or rather that she doesn't choose the wrong path. It has to be a path she chooses, or she will reject it. Now I know that I will be the person who influences her the most, at least until she realizes that we're not the same gender - then Mommy will be the most influential. Any father, stay-at-home or otherwise, will have a profound impact on many aspects of his daughters development, not the least of which is how she interacts with men and how she chooses her future husband.

Whether I notice her watching or not, Clara sees everything I do, and wants to do it herself. She wants her own phone, her own steering wheel, and when I'm typing on the computer she sits on my lap and types on an imaginary keyboard in front of her. She tries to walk around the house in my shoes. Much of what you would call misbehavior is really just attempts to gain my attention, and I still haven't figured out how to stop the behavior without reinforcing it. Her easy-going attitude and her tendency to just observe when she's in a new setting clearly come from me, but it's hard to tell if that's inate or from watching me. Sometimes she'll do something that's clearly Megan influenced, like noticing a drawer is open and absolutely having to go close it, or lining up things up in a perfect, symmetrical line.

So I've come to terms with how much I influence my children, and take much pride in it. But I realized something the other day that was a tiny blow to my pride: I won't be the biggest influence on Kate, the baby. Sure, when she sees me she lights up with those big, beautiful eyes and that grin that says, "hey, it's that guy! I love that guy!" But you should see the way she looks at Clara. It's pure fascination. I can tell already that Clara will be the one who guides Kate to the right path. I might not even be in the top two of most influential people in Kate's life. Sure, my day to day interaction with Kate and how I affect Clara will pass down to Kate, but it won't be my shoes Kate will try to fill.

Of course this made me think of how much my brother influenced me and how little recognition older siblings get for their influence. I have many aspects of my mother and my father in my character, but it was my older brother Chris that I spent the most time with and learned the most from. Maybe there should be a Siblings Day to celebrate just how much we influence each other.


Tracy Bittle said...

What a great post, Joel. Although I didn't grow up with siblings, I learn from those I "married".

I couldn't ask for better siblings than you and Meg.

Besides, I sure do love that man you call your big brother.

Anonymous said...

I am continually amazed by the emotions you type so perfectly into this perfect little blog package. You are an amazing person and a wonderful father. Happy Father's day!

Traci Piazza said...

What a sweet post. Yes, it is amazing to see the adoration the little one has for the older. What is even more amazing is when you start to see it the other direction too.

Hope you had a great Father's Day!