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Six Observations Of My Two Year Old Son That Have Taught Me How To Live More Authentically

A lot of people have well-meaning beliefs and theories on how they want or intend to 'raise', 'teach' and 'show' their child how to 'be' in the world, or to navigate life for the best results. As much as I've had my own beliefs over the years, there were two facts I couldn't ignore at the time of the birth of our son that erased my theories and made me start at zero.

Fact number one was that I'd never actually been a father before and so to adhere to any theory which I had never personally tested could be a mistake as I didn't actually know. In order to have the freedom to change my mind on my thoughts and beliefs as new information arrived, I needed to admit I didn't know anything and therefore didn't have to prove myself right or 'righter' (what I call the inability to accept being wrong so you double down on your justifications in the face of facts pointing otherwise).

Secondly, I'd never been a father to a son, and specifically my son Peter as he'd never existed before in the history of mankind. This was going to be a unique experience of learning who he was in order to support him in getting the best from himself.

Acknowledging and remembering these two facts has given me the freedom to see him and his character unfold daily and weekly. This has put me in the student role. He's been the boss and teacher when it comes to meal time, sleep time, bathroom time and attention time. He's been showing me and I've been soaking it up.

Here are my six observations of my son that have helped me to forgive myself, be patient and kind with myself, attend to my needs, and overall enjoy fatherhood.

1 - Life Is Messy. Just Like Personal Growth.

Life is not neat, tidy and in order. There are storms, fires, sunny hot days, rainy cold days and snow. In between these extremes there is relief, but there is dirt, dust, randomness and chaos everywhere in nature. This is exactly how a child eats, plays and learns. Messy. Take eating for instance. He wears half of his food all over his face and clothes and hands and throws the rest on the floor. That’s how he eats for the first 2 years of life.

Does it get the job done? Yes. Is it clean and orderly? No. Is it efficient? In terms of getting food into his body, not really - but in terms of learning - yes. He's learning to eat, play and explore who he is, where his boundaries are, and what his role is as a person in the family dynamic all at once.

Patience and focusing on what matters are my key lessons here. As the Tony Award winning Actor André De Shields said in his acceptance speech in 2019, "Slowly is the fastest way to get to where you want to be".

I'm just as messy with my emotions as an adult. I get angry, frustrated, vindictive, jealous, depressed, and pout and cry when I don’t get my way. After awhile these painful points in my life have even become parts of my identity (whoa is me, I never get what I want). Life is giving me endless and plentiful opportunities for growth, but most of them miss the target (my heart) and end up just all over my face, my hands, on my lap and on the floor, and yet I always get enough to live and grow. Life is either full of messy failures and lived, or tidy, perfect and so small, I eventually die.

2 - Don't Shoot Myself In The Foot. Let It Go.

My son doesn’t have the motor skill coordination yet to be able to drink from a full glass reliably without spilling all the contents on the ground. I often still allow him to try though because he's always improving and most of the time he gets the job done. If there is a drink I'm uncertain he can handle, I'll take that responsibility away from him briefly and let him drink from a straw from the cup that is supported by my hands instead of his.

On one occasion he had just spilled a full cup of banana milkshake that I shouldn't have trusted him with, so I took the drink away from him so he wouldn’t spill it again. Because I had started with giving him responsibility (which I don't always do) and then taking it away, he got got angry and screamed and was really upset. I explained, "sorry Peter, I don’t want you spilling this time so I have to take it away and give it to you with a straw". When I offered it again with a straw he refused of course because the responsibility was taken away from him and he was still angry about it.

My learning? Let go of wanting to feel in control. It's perfectly natural to be upset and disappointed when I fail and responsibility is taken away from me, or I don't get what I want and don't understand it, but sabotaging myself to feel in control isn't going to help me get what I want.

3 - Trust And Respond To My Feelings

Watching my son go from being an alien who just ate, slept, pooed and had no voluntary body movements, to a fairly independent boy has been nothing short of miraculous. In the first few weeks after birth he couldn't see that well, and if we laid him down for a couple minutes and left the room he cried. All he had were his feelings and he responded without hesitation. It was survival. Aside from hunger pains and diaper changes, he cried as soon as he didn't feel safe or comfortable, or if he needed soothing. No words or explanations needed, no justification for feeling, just feeling. That was his only way of communication. Did he know why we left or understand his feelings of non-safety? No. He just responded as he needed.

How often have I doubted my feelings or hesitated to respond to them and regretted only that I didn't listen to my feelings? My feelings are not to be doubted, ignored or pushed down if I want my needs met. And they must be met in order to be my authentic giving self.

4 - Stay In Integrity At All Costs

Being around my son when he meets strangers is a refresher in authenticity. He is not culturally polluted yet. He hasn't become a societal behavior robot yet. If he's shy, he stays away and refuses gifts or attention. If he feels safe he approaches anyone at any age. He says 'no' with no hesitation for someone else's feelings with no insult meant. And kids his age aren't insulted. They just keep on playing and doing what they were doing before. It's a beautiful thing to see. At that age, it's a no-brainer, at my age it takes a whole lot of courage.

5 - I Wasn't Born Perfect. I Was Born Immature.

I used to think that I was born as an innocent, sweet angel child of perfection that over the years got corrupted by mistakes by my parents, trauma from school bullying and everything else bad that happened to me.

I'm no longer caught up in this thought process. There's no denying things happened to me that caused deep pain, but these things happening were not the reason I lied, cheated, didn't give full effort, quit too early on projects, or reacted to insults and insecurities in unhelpful and unhealthy ways. That was simply immaturity of my character.

Seeing the character of my 2 Year old has shown me this quite clearly. He can barely speak and already lies. I didn't teach him to lie. I couldn't, even if I tried - he can only say two words, 'no' and 'yes'. When his diaper is dirty and stinky and we know it needs to be changed but he's having fun at that moment, if we ask him if he's pooed in his diaper he will say "no" because he wants to play. It's a no-brainer and I'm not offended at all, I think it's funny!

He lies of his own accord because he wants what he wants in the moment and will do or say anything to get it. This is natural because he's 2 years old and has the appropriate maturity level.

He also hides when he's hurt, and gets physically violent when he doesn't get attention he needs.

It's bearable when someone is two years old, even cute at times. When you're an adult, a lot less so.

So when I find myself giving reasons, defending or explaining 'why' I've done anything less than virtuous now or over the years, I'm reminded when I see Peter that I've been doing those things of my own free will my whole life starting from when I had any intellect to use. Starting before I was two years old, I just didn't know. There's tremendous freedom in knowing my agency has always been there. Forgiveness for anyone around me who couldn't help me because they didn't know either is a real thing knowing they were and are currently still in their own maturing process.

I now see life as a long and unlimited maturing process that produces fruit with the application of values we are not born with. I was born immature without values like have patience, humility, appreciation, understanding, or perseverance. These values take mistakes, pain from the consequences and reflection to accrue in the ripening process. These are lifelong pursuits which require the application of another value called discipline that I was also not born with and don't have naturally.

6 - There's Comfort In Movement

One thing that has really worked to calm my son down is movement. Rocking a child to sleep is thousands of years old. Walking with my son in my arms, rocking him back and forth, driving in the car, or going anywhere always put him to sleep or calms him down.

Being in movement also calms me down. Having my goals in front of me calms me down because it keeps me in action and movement in a direction I want to go. Ultimately it's the feeling of movement forward in life that goes a long way for hope, patience and kindness. A traffic jam doesn't bother you much when you know where you're going in life, but it will drive you nuts if you are in the rat race of uncertainty and don't feel like you are moving anywhere in your life.

To see everyday, that no matter what happens, I've lived another day, I've gotten to know people a little better as well as myself, and to know that where I've come from is a long way from where I am now is a very comforting thought.

I'm Growing

The bottom line from these observations is that I'm growing and have always been growing. I didn't know better, and I still don't know better. I've never lived any days at an older age than I am right now, in the body I am, and the time period of history that I am, with the people I am with. It's an extremely unique experience and 99% of it has not been immediately life-threatening so far, so worries are not needed.

Let Your Love Grow - A Father Daughter Dedication

Back in 2018 before I had children of my own, I was commissioned to write a song for a father to his daughter as a dedication of his inspiration he drew from life from her, and his words to her going forward. It was a wonderful experience to write that song for him - to see how he saw the world through her eyes, and to express his wish for her. I now relate to the song even more now and it rings 100% true for what I would say to my own children.

It's called 'Let Your Love Grow'. Lyrics are below. This was never released but is available for download in my Hug Club along with lots of other songs and goodies!

The planet changed when you were born, you’re a galaxy of light

An angel on this earth, I see a new world in your eyes

Your smile like an ocean, that colors my sky blue

I often think about this, when I’m thinking of you

Watching you fly, is all the wind at my back

And seeing what you see is all my heart ever needs

Go your way little woman

Trust that beat of your heart

One step at a time, keep your dreams closer than far

And right or wrong sing your song

I’ll be there to help you along

And while you’re on your way to a place you don’t know

Keep letting all your love grow, let your love grow

And If you need to cry let it rain

If you need to run, get on a plane

If you need to safe place, I’m always home

You know I’ll always be here, you’re never alone

Go your own way little woman

Trust that beat of your heart

One step at a time, keep your dreams closer than far

And right or wrong sing your song

I’ll be there to help you along

And while you’re on your way to places you’ve never been

There’s only one thing you wanna keep doing again

Is letting love grow, letting love grow

So let your love grow, let your love grow

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I'd love to hear your thoughts and about your best experiences parenting in the comments below!

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