What's the Difference Between a "Dad" and a "Parent"?
Being a dad is awesome. Being a parent is hardcore.
I have already begun to notice a clear distinction between being a dad and being a parent. As a dad, I get to play with my kids, show them love in fun, caring way like smothering them with hugs or performing impromptu singing concerts which fortunately they have no developed the vocal ability to critique. As a dad, I can be the shoulder they cry on, the face that makes them so easily light up, the dude who swings them around, tosses their little body of my shoulder as we embark upon another adventure. Being a dad is unbelievably rewarding and connects me to my twins in a way I know will bond us forever.
So then there is the parent thing. And, I guess, yeah - being a dad is being a parent. Sure, there's that. But I'm a big kid at heart and I don't know if my overly eager, imaginative spirit will ever grow up. And, quite frankly, I don't want it to. So being a parent, for me, is the inevitable grown up side to fatherhood.
Somewhere along the crazy road of surrogacy and welcoming our then newborn twins, an agreement had to be made. It's a decision I never was formally aware of, one I still don't know when or how it happened. But at some point I agreed to being a parent. A serious commitment to do for these two little humans better than I ever did for myself. I agreed to face my demons, my fears, my phobias, my irresponsible and totally self-serving side - face it all head on so I could be the best parent possible for them.
A balance is necessary in fatherhood, the balance of dad and parent - of the mentor and guide. My inner child had to join forces with my inner adult so I could lay a foundation of love and security.
I could play all day, could easily live within my weird little mind and show our kids the world. Open their eyes to art, music, food, nature - the endless opportunity of boundless excitement all within our fingertips. But I also have to provide a feeling of safety, of trust and balance. I can show them that the dark is nothing to fear, even though I may be petrified myself (I'm sure my husband is laughing right now. I have been known to turn all the lights on when he is away on business). I can show them it's OK to cry and feel emotions, that a bump on the head isn't the end of the world (even though I may have had a minor anxiety attack when my son fell face first out his stroller onto a cement floor).
Listen, the sight of full on diarrhea would normally make me want to hurl - but somehow as a parent, a switch is flipped. It's business as usual and I have to handle things I would normally run from - face responsibilities I would otherwise scoff at. Constant cleaning, feeding, scheduling, maintaining, wiping, soothing - all the while still showing them I'm their dad, not just their parent. And vice versa.
While as a person who naturally can dissolve in front of a television or get lost in my own world for hours on end, as a parent I made an agreement to make sure my babes are taken care of in mind, body and spirit. Still making time for my own sanity and balance. But as a dad I want to show them all the magic of getting lost in fantasy and exploring personal freedom without consequence.
It's a tightrope of choice that seems to come so naturally when just realizing one day how grateful I am to be their father. How lucky my husband and I are to show these two baby birds the whole world, while still protecting them from it until they choose to fly on their own.
It has been an eye-opening, soul-searching experience that has only just begun. One that just kind of works itself out if you're willing to be the best you can be. And, honestly, sometimes that means asking for help so you can walk away for a few hours to recharge. Other times that may mean doing three loads of laundry while cleaning 12 bottles, making baby food, walking the dogs, then getting the kids ready for a bath.
But breathe easy, have fun and always remember how freakin' cool your kids are.