A whole new sense of purpose in life
By Peter Pellicaan
MY oldest son was born four years ago in the emergency room at the end of 23 hours of labour. We were shocked, exhausted, traumatised, relieved, joyful and emotional – parenting had begun. Though you have nine months’ notice, fatherhood begins suddenly.
One day you’re a happy couple, the next day you’re looking at a little baby wondering if you’re even responsible enough to raise a little human. Lord have mercy.
I don’t think anything quite prepares you for parenting.
People talk about it, lots of people have done it, but you really don’t know what you’re in for until you find yourself living the crazy adventure that is parenting.
Now I’m a father of four.
My day usually begins somewhere during the wee hours of the morning when one of the older three calls out for a toilet stop, or because they’ve lost their “chicky”.
I’m then awoken between 6am and 7am with one or more of the kids wanting to come out of bed and inevitably waking the others up with their bleating.
While my wife feeds our youngest, I pour some milk for the others and hopefully get weetbix to my one year old before he starts the most irritating cry you’ve ever heard.
My soul is purged every morning.
When I come home from work it’s dinner, baths, milk, prayers and bed.
That all sounds straight forward, but as any parent knows, trying to have four children under five all fed, bathed and in bed is no small feat.
I heard someone say that having your fourth child feels like you’re already drowning and then someone hands you a baby.
Each day Fatherhood presents two options to me.
I could feel completely overwhelmed with the sense that all my freedom is gone.
Almost every spare second of life is lost chasing children.
I rarely have an opportunity to just sit down for a few minutes without harassment, going anywhere is a massive logistical effort, and we now have to drive around in a big van.
There could be a sense of despair and the wish to fast-forward 25 years to the return to my freedom.
On the flip side, I could feel completely overwhelmed at the wonder of life and the sense that my life has a distinct sense of purpose in being given up to raise these four beautiful gifts that God has given me.
What a blessing that I get to chase our kids around, that I can’t sit down because my kids depend on me to stand up.
What little a sacrifice it is to trade my motorcycle in for a van so that I can share life’s adventures with my children.
There is a whole new sense of purpose in my life.
It’s the discovery of my true vocation – to be a husband to my wife and a father to my children. What a blessing that fatherhood challenges me every day to be conformed to the likeness of Christ – to lay down my life for others; my children.
My great challenge is to choose the second conclusion and not the first. I find myself choosing the first when I try to claim something that’s not mine anyway – “my” life and therefore “my” time.
I only mourn my freedom when I think I’m entitled to it.
I only mourn having to change nappies and clean high chairs because I think it’s interrupting “my’ life.
When I recognise that “my” life is not my own, everything changes.
I can choose the second conclusion because I see my children as gifts; as blessings rather than burdens.
I see how my selfishness is being purged out of me as I am forced to be self-less – like Christ.
I only see fatherhood as a burden when my selfishness outweighs my selflessness; when my love for myself is stronger than my love for my children; when I care more about ‘my’ time than I do about theirs.
This is not because children are a burden, it’s because my selfishness is a burden and my children are exposing it.
My wife is far more selfless than me.
She calls parenting “crazy wonderful”.
I’m learning from her how to be consistently selfless.
Someone once said; “Adults don’t make children; children make adults”.
While I try to make adults out of my children, they’re making an adult out of me.
Peter is a former Protestant pastor who was received into the Catholic Church