Being a dad isn’t a right, it’s a privilege. It’s not something you deserve, it’s something you approach with humility. That’s Resilient Parenting.
In 2012, I sat in a theater full of future Army Officers and listened to Sam Brown talk about his experience. As I reflect on his talk I realize I’ve learned more about being a Dad from him than I could have ever imagined. His talk happened before I had kids; before I adopted my son and before I graduated college.
In the last few years, I’ve learned a lot, but the most important thing I’ve learned is that I don’t have all the answers. None of us do. In fact, life is not about having the answers. It’s simply about understanding how to stick around long enough to find the person or the experience that does.
A lot has happened to my family in the three and a half years since I sat in that theater. I got married, we had a daughter, we grieved over the loss of our daughter. I deployed to Afghanistan. I adopted my wife’s son as my own, and we had another baby boy this past August. It seems as if time has just spun us in circles violently throwing out beautiful things followed by horrific things followed by more beautiful things in a whirlwind tornado. And then I remember Sam Brown.
Being a dad is not a right. It’s an honor. It’s a privilege. Having the responsibility of raising another human being is not something to take lightly. Yet I find myself, as I’m sure many of us do, with my face in my hands playing the “woe is me” game. Resilient Parenting is something I’m not sure is a technical term, but I think it should be. We as parents face the demon of giving up every single day. Most of us don’t acknowledge it, we just pick up our boot straps and fumble around in the dark some more until we figure it out. That’s resilience. Read about Sam Brown and you may not learn more about being a resilient parent, you just might actually recognize it’s what you’ve already been doing, which is a relief.
His voice was muffled and soft without the use of a microphone. But this detail grabbed us even tighter as he told us his story. Sam Brown is the epitome of resilience. As a graduate of the United States Military Academy, he was commissioned into the Army as an Infantry Officer.
A not-so-long time later Sam found himself in the Kandahar Desert in Afghanistan. There is no way I can write out Sam’s story better than Jay Kirk of GQ, so I decided that today I would simply share a link to this story.
It ran a couple of years ago, right before I met him, in the magazine.
As I sat and listened to his story and what he’d gone through I was both paralyzed and shaking at the same time. In a few short months from that time, I could have been in the same situation.
Sam spent little time talking about his horrific incident and a lot of time talking about how he became the man standing in front of us. How he had undergone Virtual Reality therapy during his rehab.
He also forced us to think beyond what we had learned in class and dared us to ask questions such as this:
You shouldn’t be asking the questions like, “What are we going to do for the next six weeks?” Those questions will always be answered. You should be preparing to answer the question you will get from your Soldiers such as, “Who are we fighting, and why?”
This is not a question I’ve had to answer directly, but when you’re getting ready to deploy half-way around the world to fight a war that a large population of the country doesn’t even know we are still fighting, it’s written on everyone’s face…
Sam Brown is the epitome of resilience. Not just because he made it through his rehab, but because of what he’s doing now. He could easily accept his due benefits and find something that makes him happy, never to be heard from again. But the time he spent in that auditorium, talking about the most painful experience of his life, he wasn’t talking about him.
He was telling us things WE needed to hear and how to prepare us for the most difficult part of my job, leading men and women who are prepared to die for their country.
What I have realized in the years since is that this application is not only to those serving in the military. Parenting is a service. You are serving your children every single day. Especially as a dad in the 21st century. GMP is all about having the conversation no one else is having. In the Dad’s and Families section, it starts with breaking the mold of what we used to think being a dad meant. It doesn’t have to have a mold. You are who you are, recognize it, embrace it, and thrive in it. You only get to raise your kid once. Be resilient and be bold.
So, enough from me, take the time to read this article. It’s worth every minute you spend reading it.
Photo credit: Flickr/Vinoth Chandar
This post originally appeared on The Old Soul Blog.