This year, I spent Father’s Day at my in-laws house with my wife and three girls. I don’t have a relationship with my dad, so it was kind of cool being able to see my wife and her brother getting to spend time with my father-in-law and celebrating the day together. Before going over there, I got a really sweet card from my wife, one from the kids and a painting that they made together, which made me feel honored and loved as a father. For a lot of people, Father’s Day is a day to appreciate and spend time with our fathers. For me, it’s also a day to reflect on everything I get out of being a father. I’ve been called a lot of things in my life (mostly, but not all, good), and I’ve had a lot of roles/titles from Marine to Social Worker. But nothing compares to being a dad.
Being a father is a tremendous responsibility not to be taken lightly. There is a lot of child development research out there and it is clear that a child’s relationship with her parents shapes and informs all of the other relationships throughout her life, including the way that she will eventually relate to her own kids, meaning there can be generations of consequences. That’s a lot of pressure! Fortunately, kids are very resilient and if you are a little bit self aware and have genuine love for your child, you can’t really go wrong. Take something as seemingly simple as sleep training. There are very different schools of thought on this. When they are little do you let them cry it out? Take them out of the crib to hold or rock them? Bring them in bed with you? Our youngest daughter is three years old. She is our third child, and I’m pretty sure we’ve done the sleep thing at least three different ways. But our kids seem pretty well adjusted – at least so far. You can relieve some of that pressure by realizing that there are no perfect parents, so every parent will inevitably do something that your child will talk about later in therapy.
Taking on the responsibilities of being a father can add a layer of meaning and purpose to your life. I definitely would not recommend someone becoming a parent solely because they are looking for a purpose, but once someone has decided to become a parent, purpose and meaning is a benefit that comes with the territory. Like many veterans, I struggled with my transition out of the military, but knowing I had a child to continue to care for kept me grounded and gave me a reason to keep moving while I figured out where I was going and what I was going to do. I can easily imagine my transition going a lot differently – and not in a good way – if I didn’t have that concrete responsibility to feed, shelter, care for and love my daughter.
My favorite thing about being a dad is the unadulterated joy. Last week our three daughters had their annual dance revue. This is always a crazy night of running back and forth from our seats to backstage to help with costume changes, etc. for my wife, but it is always a night filled with joy. Around 11pm, we were sitting on the floor of our living room – our floors having just been redone and our kitchen table still acting as storage space – with my wife and three daughters eating fast food, laughing and talking about how all the dances went and how I got something in my eye – causing it to water (ok, I cried) - during my second daughter, Addison’s performance as Abu in the ballet production of Aladdin. If someone would have told me 10 years ago that I would become a “dance dad” who enjoys going to dance competitions and looks forward to the yearly recital – and cries during my kids’ performances, there is no way I would have believed it. Part of being a good dad is supporting the things that your kids are interested in. Part of living a good life, is learning to enjoy whatever life has in store for you. Like a lot of men, especially young men who don’t know anything, I wanted a son and could imagine taking him to wrestling practice and watching him in tournaments. Life and biology saw fit to give me three beautiful girls who all love to dance (and somehow have the energy to do it 24/7), so here I am enjoying watching them work hard and perform to the best of their abilities on stage.
I have accomplished a few things so far in my life that I am proud of from becoming and serving my country as a Marine to finishing college and graduate school to become a licensed social worker. And hopefully, I have many years and many accomplishments left in front of me. There is nothing I’m more proud of and grateful for than being a dad.
Jeremy Brewer is Bastion's Programs Director and holds a Masters of Social Work with a certificate in Disaster Mental Health and Trauma Studies from Tulane University. He is a Marine Corps infantry veteran with two tours to Iraq. His recent roles include Veterans Program Coordinater at SBP, Program Manager at VetLaunch, and, most recently, as Wounded Warrior Project’s first Outreach Coordinator in New Orleans where he covered Louisiana and Mississippi. Jeremy is also an alumni of The Mission Continues Fellowship Program and a past commander of New Orleans last active VFW. He lives with his wife, Melissa, and their three beautiful daughters.