On Fatherhood: Radical Acceptance

The Magazine: On Fatherhood: Radical Acceptance
The idea of acceptance — of softening and allowing — is one I’ve heard many times. But there was a moment, not too long ago, when it really landed.

I was in a morning yoga class, and the teacher used the words “radical acceptance.” It disarmed me; it felt almost like an oxymoron. And as I drove home, I thought about what it would be to bring that into a daily practice for myself and my family... what it would be to embrace it in my own home.

I’m someone that tends to live in a world of extremes. When I go in, I go all in; I drive hard in all that I do. But with this commitment to excellence, this internal chatter, this degree of expectation comes a level of disappointment when perfection isn’t possible, for both myself and others. And my fear was that I was passing this on to my children — that my engagements with them were an expression of expectations they couldn’t possibly meet.

It’s not easy work being truly accepting, particularly when life is difficult; no one wants to experience pain or loss. And it’s important to understand that accepting doesn’t mean agreeing with. It means appreciating the point of view, acknowledging the process and the journey... and allowing that to be okay. It’s something that I’ve come to realize is essential, certainly for my relationship with my children, but also for me as a human and all of us on this path. Because the truth is: how we address challenges, conflict and differences will determine the quality of life that we have.

This way of thinking has also allowed me to place more emphasis on the long game. We’re all so focused on immediacy, on what is right now. But when we accept that this is just a moment in time, one of many that will make up our overall experience, it allows us to come to terms with the fact that maybe this isn’t the perfect moment... and that’s okay.

As a father, perhaps like all of us, I’ve struggled with balancing the responsibilities I shoulder, personally and professionally — which has often lead to trying to force those moments of perfection. But as I drove my children to school this week, the last time all of my children would go to the same school — my eldest, incredibly, starting middle school next fall — I felt a shift, an evolution that had taken place over the last year. Where I would have been focused on making certain they did everything right, Make sure you look your teacher in the eye and tell her how thankful you are, or, Do this and do that, I was just present. And as we shared and laughed, I took it all in.

One of the greatest things I’ve done in the past two years — instead of starting the day the minute my feet hit the floor — is dedicate quiet time each morning to journal and reflect. It’s a time of acknowledging what’s going on inside, what I’m feeling, and instead of being rigid, being porous and letting these emotions truly set in... the positive, the negative, all of it.

This softening, this acceptance, this moment of worthiness that I have allowed myself has made all the difference. And this is what it is to live Prima.

From time to time, my daughter Evie, who tends to put the same kind of pressures on herself that I have, will peek over my shoulder as I journal each morning. We had seen these pressures start to set in as she prepared for her upcoming soccer tryouts, an activity so important to her. And the other day, I discovered the most beautiful thing: she was writing herself notes that read, “Be strong,” “Be brave,” “Be happy.” She had accepted what she was feeling, let it sink in, and decided she was worthy. And that, for me, was everything.

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