3 Things I Learned From Becoming A Father At 16
I've experienced something that only a small percentage of the population has, something that every person handles in a different way. Some people walk away from it. Some people stay, but are so damaged and emotionally withdrawn, it's like they're not even there. Others find a way to walk through, with their head held high, and emerge on the other side a better person.
I was a sophomore in high school when I saw a pregnancy test with two little pink lines that meant I was about to become a dad. My son is now 6 years old, and it's been a whirlwind ever since his birth.
But I've realized that becoming a dad at an early age has taught me a lot about life. And these aren't just parenting lessons, they're life lessons that I just happened to learn by becoming a parent.
1. Age is irrelevant.
When I found out I was becoming a dad, I almost immediately became insecure. I just kept asking myself, "How can a kid raise another kid?" I felt that my age was a hindrance in my ability to be a great father to my son — that there was so much I didn't know about life.
I eventually realized that my age didn't matter that much. I realized that there were dads twice my age who were only half the father I was. There were grown men who found themselves in similar situations and walked away, leaving their children to grow up without a father.
Age is only as important as you make it. Being "too old" or "too young" is a self imposed limitation, and nothing more. What's more important is how hard you're willing to work. What's more important is how often you're willing to fail and get back up. What's more important is your desire to learn.
If you pick the top 100 people you admire most for things that they've achieved, and rank their most important qualities and characteristics, I bet their age doesn't even make the list. And that's because it doesn't matter.
2. Comparing yourself to others is a fatal mistake.
I couldn't help but compare myself to other parents — the ones my son and I bumped into at the park, or at the community center, or at school. The parents who drive nice cars that get parked in front of houses they owned. Meanwhile, I was driving a 92 Jeep Cherokee and parking it in front of my parents house.
Talk about humbling. I started to beat myself because I knew there were certain things I couldn't provide my son that other parents were providing for their kids. It affected the way I saw myself as a father, and as an individual
Comparing yourself to others is pointless. Unless you're comparing who you are today to who you were yesterday, and checking for improvement, you should avoid comparisons all together. All it does is mess with your psyche and lower your self esteem.
No matter what level you reach, chances are, someone is always going to be bigger, better, stronger, faster, smarter, richer and more attractive. So instead of chasing this ever elusive goal of having no peers, focus on growing yourself. Focus on making the you of today better than the you of yesterday. That's the only type of comparison that's going to help you in life.
3. Adversity gives us a chance to grow.
I had to navigate adolescence and parenthood at the same time. I had to balance the inherent drama of being a teenager with the inherent drama of having a child with someone you're not in a relationship with. I had to juggle my son, working, school and sanity.
I had to overcome so much mentally too. Trying to mature fast enough, but in a way that wasn't superficial. Trying to forge my own path as a father without being overly influenced by the barrage of advice I was receiving from my well-intentioned elders.
Adversity, although difficult, is a necessary building block to personal growth. All of those things that I went through, all of the battles I fought, made me a stronger person. And that strength I now have is invaluable.
That strength I forged by becoming a parent so young is the same strength I use on a daily basis to fight for other important goals in my life. My view of the world, and what it means to succeed, has changed so much because of this one thing I've experienced. I've grown so much because of it.The point is, accept the adversity you're facing and understand that it's nothing more than an opportunity for you to prove to the world, and more importantly yourself, just how tough you really are.