Parenting comes to life in the stories we share.
Whether it’s a moment of joy or a moment of distress, we can learn from each other.
Shaykhan Dipraseuth, Waterloo, ON
I grew up with my mom and older sister. My father was never in my life and I had to learn the “man stuff” from my mom and important male influences around me. My biggest fear for myself was when I have my own children, how will I know how to raise them? I had a great model for parenting in my mom but I did not have any sense of what being a father was like. With my wife now, I am blessed because she has an amazing dad and he has become a valuable resource for me. I learn from him all the time.
When my wife was pregnant with our first girl, we did the “let’s not find out the gender” game. I was really excited about the possibility of having a son. In my head, I pictured a boy who would become the starting quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. I had always thought to myself, if I do have a son, I’m going to make up for all the “lost time” and do activities I never got to do with my dad because he wasn’t around. I would raise my son with a dad who was there for him!
We picked out both boy and girl names. Two weeks before the due date, we were inside a store walking down the Barbie aisle when it hit me. What if I have a girl? I’m not ready for a girl! I remember getting all sweaty and panicking, I don’t know how I’m going to raise a girl, what do I do when she gets older and we have to have the “talk?” I was terrified.
Well the day came and I remember holding my daughter in my hands for the first time in the hospital. I cried. I didn’t cry that I lost a future quarterback, I cried because I found what joy means. I cried when my second daughter was born as well. Tears of pure joy.
Being a father of two girls is amazing. They are now 3 and 1. On Sundays we wear our football jerseys and I watch the game. I hope one day they will enjoy it with me, but I know that football is my thing and if it does not become their thing, that is ok! Right now, my 3 year old really just wants to watch cartoons. I have learned that my boyhood superheroes are cool for both boys and girls and that gender doesn’t matter, kids like all toys. I love watching my girls play with Spider-Man and then a minute later Spider-Man is having tea with Barbie. I am still trying to get used to playing Barbie, but I enjoy it because it makes my girls smile. They love it when I play with them. I realize that when I join them in something that matters to them, I am communicating that they matter to me. I am letting them know that their interests and joys are important to me, that I love them for who they are.
Has life changed for me? It has a lot! I’m lucky we have a male cat at home, so I’m not outnumbered by too much. I love when I come home from work and the girls’ faces light up when they see me, it’s the best feeling I get every single day. My face lights up when I see them, too. It’s also the best feeling—two best feelings in one small moment! I attended a parenting course recently and the facilitator asked, “does your face light up when your child comes into the room?” The facilitator was inspired by a story she had heard on an episode of Oprah (click here to watch the interview) and I was inspired by what the facilitator said—that when we greet our children with expressions of love, when we show our love on our faces, they know, they feel, deep in their hearts, that they are loved. And that they are important to us. I want that for my girls.
Being a father has taught me that I have a big responsibility to these girls. It’s not about teaching them, it’s about guiding and showing them. I know they observe and hear everything I do, so I have to lead by example. When I am upset—tired, frustrated, stressed, anything—I have to think about how I express myself because I know that they are going to learn how to handle their emotions by watching me. When they want to talk about their favourite cartoon show, I need to give them my full attention, be curious about what matters to them and open to their thoughts and opinions. I know this will show them that they can talk to me and I will listen.
I realized that to be a truly great father, you have to step up. I have to get up late at night or early in the morning when my children are awake. I have to take them to appointments or play school. I have to make dinner and be sure they eat their veggies. I have to be there when they need me. It’s part of being a dad—a parent—and I love it! Because, actually, I am amazed that I get to do these things! My hope is that, one day, my girls will grow up and become strong women who make the world a better place. I hope they can look back and say thanks dad for always being there and for not expecting us to be football players. (Maybe one of them will become a football player….it’s up to her!)