Reflections on Fatherhood: Year 5
For those that don't know the entire backstory, this was a great big huge year for my family and me.
Big choices were made.
I left the company I co-founded. We reversed our decision about whether to homeschool Ev and, in a few short days, we got her into Pre-K at the Shining Mountain Waldorf School in Boulder.
Big discoveries happened.
At one point, our daughter had lost nearly all of her hearing, but a combination of addressing her allergies plus hearing aids got her to 100%. This was not the only health problem that plagued various members of the family, which started us all on paths to healing.
Big leaps happened.
While retreats can sometimes be more of a band-aid than truly addressing issues at their root cause, both Emily and I took the plunge and found communities were we could take the plunge and reset. I'll forever be grateful for WDS and the friendships and communities I've forged since then.
Big shifts resulted.
Things were heading to a breaking point. Fortunately, due to our love for each other and our willingness to change, beautiful transformations have occurred. Whereas the year prior still felt like a huge struggle, we are filled with so much hope for our future.
So that's the backdrop of the past year, which leads me to a few takeaways that I'd like to share in the hopes that it may help a few others along the parenting journey.
You Are Not Alone
We are incredibly fortunate that we found amazing doctors at the Children's Hospital of Colorado. We cannot sing their praises enough as they helped us navigate the stressful journey of finding solutions for Ev's hearing loss. At times it felt incredibly lonely and unfair, especially for Ev as she wanted to fit in but was clearly at a disadvantage at times. Still, as challenging as it was, we had it far easier than many others that we've met along the way. And in hearing their stories, it not only gave us hope that she would not be restricted in any way.
When a crisis happens, it can be all too easy to retreat and isolate. However, it's all the more important to find others that have already been through what you have.
Slow Down, Let Them Impress You
I'm a productivity nut, so I've trained myself to be wired for efficiency in all aspects of life. Unfortunately, this shut the doors on some fantastic bonding opportunities that I discovered. I was probably 13 or 14 years old before I took over chores like doing the dishes, and I was in college before I ever did the laundry. So when Evelyn asked me at age 4.5 if she could do the dishes, I just laughed. Damned if she didn't just drag a chair over to the sink, and in 15 minutes cleaned and loaded and entire dishwasher. Was it perfect? Hell no. But it was 90% there, and it impressed the hell out of me.
Since then she's done everything from help me take out the recycling to pulling weeds to loading and folding the laundry to getting the mail. It turns out when you extend a little bit of trust and respect and sit back with a little bit of patience, they can impress the hell out of you.
The Fight to Be Right
Every child's personality is different. My wife and I were both much quieter and passive as children. Evelyn is not. She has strong preferences and ideas and wants them to be known. On the one hand, this is incredibly frustrating because to debate 100 choices each day gets exhausting. However, in some aspects, we see the benefit of her advocating for herself so strongly. This was particularly noteworthy when she didn't have her hearing aids and needed to ask people to speak up or repeat themselves. Had she not had that confidence, she might have been too shy to speak up.
While I refuse to be a pushover, I've definitely shifted to the "lose the battle, win the war" mentality. There are times when the fight is not about anything of substance. It was all about the desire to be right regardless of the issue. Noticing this has taken away the charge because I sometimes expect her at age 5 to already be logical and rational. The challenge is that she is so smart that I sometimes give her more credit and have higher expectations of her. But she's just a kid still experiencing tons of big emotions and brain development. The fight to be right is not a fun one, but a game that can best be played by not playing it or shifting to something else.
Part of what got me into trouble was putting work before family and before my own personal health and well being. This left almost no room for me because startup life will suck up 100% of your capacity if you let it, which is unhealthy for everyone involved. Once I was able to keep prioritizing my sanity first, I could be more present and patient with my family. This, in turn, made me more productive at work. It wasn't apparent for so long, but having my priorities inverted was a recipe for burnout.
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About Rick Manelius
Quick Stats: CTO of Contact Mapping. Author of Winning the Lottery Within. Graduated from MIT in '03 (BS) and '09 (PhD). Life hacker and peak performance enthusiast. This blog is my experiment in creative writing, self-expression, and sharing what I've learned along my journey. For more information, read my full bio here or contact me.