Friday, September 23, 2011

Becoming You - Part One

I've seen recently the film "Becoming Jane" and after the movie, I thought about what it means for us as individuals to "become" whether it's to become a writer, an adult, a parent, or just becoming "You".
I shared my thoughts with a fellow writer/arts lover and one subject leading to another, I asked him if he would be interesting in sharing his experience of "becoming".
And to my delight, he agreed to write a piece on "becoming a father".
So here it is. Hosting the thoughts of a diversified mind which is you, John O'Donnell.

Becoming a parent

I never really understood what it meant to be a parent until I became one myself. I had, of course, the example of my own mother and father who, like many parents, put their children before themselves, working hard to ensure that we all got a good education and a good start in life. I appreciated what they had done but I did not really get, on an emotional level, what drove them to act so selflessly.

I like the word “becoming” because it conveys something gradual, incremental, not a sudden change. We sometimes speak as if changes in our life happen overnight – you change from a child to an adult on your 18th birthday, you change from being childless to being a parent on the day that your child is born or is adopted. But all change is a process of adjustment. It takes time to become anything new – a spouse, a parent, an artist, a writer.

And so, at first, being a parent was not like I imagined it. The first shock was the disruption of the comfortable routine that had been our former life. Suddenly our priorities were: changing nappies, feeding, naptimes. Our son was like a friendly invader into our home, disrupting and changing our lives, turning everything upside-down whether we liked it or not. We were also daunted at being wholly responsible for the welfare of a tiny, vulnerable human being. It was a responsibility that was there 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, something I had never experienced before. There wasn’t really time to sit down and think about what feelings we had for our son. We were two busy with our daily routine.

But after a few months we settled into our new life. Slowly but surely this tiny person wormed his way into our hearts and souls until eventually I could look at my son’s smiling face and know that I would do anything to protect him, that I would willingly give my life for his if such a horrifying situation was ever to arise. I learned that there is a deep joy in this feeling of caring for another more than for yourself. I could no longer imagine life without my son, even though I had lived reasonably happily for so many years before his arrival. I realized then that I had changed and now understood what it meant to be parent. I had finally become one.

Have other people’s experiences of parenthood been similar? Different? 

A little Bio about John O'Donnell

John O'Donnell grew up in County Limerick and has been living in Dublin for over 20 years. He is married to a proud native of Armagh and they have a 2 ½ year old son. He works as lecturer in civil/structural engineering and has a particular interest  in science, mathematics, history, the arts and anything to do with the mind. Despite his training as an engineer he's been struggling to release a creative side, mainly through writing sci-fi and crime short stories with an occasional venture into poetry.

John, thank you for sharing this piece with us.

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