There are many stages of life where people more experienced than you predict in a very profound way that the experience you face “will change your life”. Most new life stages do that. But, not one is more life changing than being a parent. As I look at the changes parenthood has made to my life, five stand out. I know these may not be similar to other parents, but they were the most important to me.
5. I became a better boss. Somewhere early in the life of my children, my wife and I took a class on parenthood. The instructor talked about how different methods of communication work better with some children than others. Some children are more sensitive to words, some need more of their parent’s time, others need to be hugged, and so forth. This is very true. Some children respond better to words of encouragement, others need time-consuming dinner conversations, others respond more completely when you touch them gently as you speak.
The light bulb went off as I thought about that, and I realized that these different forms of communication worked not just because they were children, but because they were humans and no two humans are wired exactly alike. If it worked for my children, would it not work for my employees, I thought. It did. I began to understand them better and, for the most part, communicate with them better. Rules of communication apply to all people.
4. Being a parent made me a better child. It became much easier to understand my parents positions when I became one, too. Good parents should make good children. Mark Twain said when he left home he knew his father was a fool (or something like that) and when he returned home after time on the road, he was amazed at smart his father had become. Time and circumstances create great wisdom.
3. As a parent, my time became my children’s but giving it to them increased its value for me. Time is like love; I believe that the more I give away to others the more I find I have. Granted, all people need some time on their own to wind down or relax, but time spent figuring out a puzzle or playing catch with your child is worth much more than any time spent alone. I do not believe the irreplaceable moments of life are ever discovered while alone in front of the television.
2. The best parents were good spouses first. This one may get me in trouble in this age, and it has often not been my strength, but your spouse must come first. Show your children a good relationship and the love from it and they are more likely to have those quality relationships themselves.
1. My position of importance to me shifted all the way from first to third. When I was single, I was first in my priority list. What a mistake. Marriage, parenthood, the struggles of life have taught me that I am third, and that is how it should be. My family is second. My wife is 2A, my children 2B, and God is first. I do not believe there is any other way to live life without that order. It is a struggle, but when you understand it, the other four changes I discussed are obvious.