A friend of mine is going to become a father very soon and he was asking me what fatherhood is like and what he can do to prepare himself for the life changes he will soon be facing.
So I told him the truth – being a parent is much like being in the military.
First off, once you are a parent you will forever be answering to someone who ranks higher than you even though you are much more experienced and knowledgeable about basically everything that will be encountered. Get used to it.
Another similarity is that life with children is essentially continuous training exercises. Everything you do is training for the day that the shit really hits the fan. And just like in the military, no matter how much training you have done, you will not be ready for that day. What you will do is fly by the seat of your pants and hope that nobody sees that you have shit your pants.
Speaking of shit – life as a father, just like life in the military is all about you trying to clean up shitty messes that someone else has created and left for you to deal with.
Third, in the military you never wear white unless you are on parade. Enough said.
I told him that even though you have a plan that seems fool proof and you have practiced and read up on all the variables and you are sure that you know how to deal with anything and everything that you are approaching, you really don’t.
I also added that in the rare instances when things do go well, everyone wants to shake your hand or slap you on the back to be seen as your long-time supporter. However, when things go sideways, you are persona non grata.
Finally, the best piece of advice I gave him was the advice that a more senior member of the military establishment gave me one day while we were out on one of those ridiculous training exercises –
Don’t stand if you can sit. Don’t sit if you can lie down. Don’t be awake if you can sleep.
The rational for this? He told me that you never know when you are going into battle and may be without rest and sleep for an extended period of time. It is better to be rested before you end up facing the enemy for an all night battle. And there will be plenty of overnight battles.
That is it. That is all the advice I could muster up for my friend who is about to join the fraternity of fatherhood.
Disclosure – I have never been in the military and in fact have no real knowledge about what life in the military is like other than from watching Tom Cruise in Top Gun and that other movie where Jack Nicholson yells at Tom Cruise that he can’t handle the truth.