October 3, 2023

3 Key Parenting Lessons I Learned From William

A short read detailing the lessons Nick & his wife have learned from all 3 of their sons.

3 Key Parenting Lessons I Learned From William

William was our first child. We cut our teeth, so to speak, as we learned on the fly to be his parents. Anyone who is a parent knows that while you can learn a lot from all the parenting literature that exists, the real lessons come from the day-to-day experiences you have parenting your children.  After William died, I reflected a lot on the impact that he had on me and on what he taught me about being a father. Our kids, if we are open to it, can be amazing teachers.  

The first lesson I learned is that our kids look to us as roles models on “how to be” more than we may realize.  They watch our every move, emulating us for better, or worse.  It’s an amazing privilege to be a parent because we are literally shaping another human being.  The implications for us as parents are that we need to be aware that our actions and behaviors, what we do and what we say, can have a real and lasting impact on our kids.  Just think about how many times, as you have gotten older, that you find yourself sounding like or acting like one of your own parents.  There is a reason for that.

As our kids watch us and learn, they often assume that we are these perfect human beings who will show them the way.  As we all know, nothing could be farther from the truth.  We are all works in progress. A second lesson I learned from being William’s father is that it is ok to let our kids know when we mess up.  I can distinctly remember one time where I did mess up, and remember telling William, “You are the first eight-year-old I have ever been a father to. I am doing the best I can.” It’s important to own up to our mistakes for two reasons – it allows our kids to see that it’s ok to make mistakes, and it models vulnerability, a skill we need more of in this world.

A third lesson William taught me is the importance of being able to express our own feelings to our kids.  William was an extremely sensitive kid, and he could always sense how other people were feeling.  He and I would often mountain bike together, and on one ride I got lost and became really frustrated.  William just watched me with accepting eyes, almost as if he were inviting me to share.  I let him know I was angry that we had gotten lost. This allowed me to own and name my emotion, which in turn enabled me to be less beholden to it.  More importantly, it let William know that how I was feeling had nothing to do with him, but rather that I was upset by the situation. It was so important for him to understand the distinction and to witness me working through my feelings so that someday he could do the same.

I am forever grateful for the lessons that I have learned from being a father to all three of my sons. It makes me a better father and a better person.