“What do I want to be when I grow up?” I have pondered this question for myself in varying degrees of intensity as time passes. You likely have asked this question recently, and like me have been asking it since you were old enough to contemplate. As we age, the verbiage of that question may change but the root curiosity remains. The audience changes too! First our parents ask us the question, then we ask ourselves, then we ask our friends (or guidance counselor), then we ask God, then we ask our parents, then we ask ourselves again. After too long we have to ask the question “When will I grow up?”

Sometimes as we “grow up” we become what we want to be. But other times, growth naturally merges who we were created to be, INTO our wants. (refer to Psalm 37:4)

Hello, my name is Joel Randy Land. And I was destined to be a Dad.

My firstborn son is 5 months, 4 days and 3 hours old, but I have known for much longer than that that I was destined to be a Dad. The earliest traces I can remember date back to “single-digit years old Joel” as an animal lover. I will never forget the one-eyed kitten that I had at Grandma Phyllis’ farm as a child. OJ (orange juice) was a rust-colored tabby that was born in a barn and could only see out of one eye because of some birth deformity. There were several kittens in that litter, which worked out well because I had several cousins. We would each carry our kittens proudly around the farmyard and make them do things kittens didn’t really like to do (aka pull-ups on a tree branch). But I remember LOVING that tiny ball of fur, looking into its blue eyes and feeling like I had to take care of it because someone else may not. I started to learn what it feels like to be responsible for something that depended on me for its well-being. To learn to love when it may not love back. Is that too strong? Good thing OJ’s claws weren’t fully grown.

My next most profound stage of “Dad-hood” came in college (senior year) when I was rooming with two of my good friends who were also part of the music dept. If you have never had roommates… then you have missed a large window of opportunity for personal growth. With these particular bunk buddies, they found their place in the pecking order quickly. But no matter how much I wished they would have called me “Alpha Male,” they always resorted to calling me “Dad.”

SPOILER ALERT – I did not like being called “Dad” as a 21 yr old by my 21 yr old friends.

The most iconic memory of this pivotal period crystallized one evening when my roomies had failed to empty the smaller-than-average garbage can under our kitchen sink (which was, needless to say, full of their dirty dishes). Not only had they NOT emptied trash, but there was more trash outside of the can than in it (and it wasn’t the first time). Their theory of garbage must have come from Luke 6:38, with emphasis on “running over.” I just wish they had done more “pressing down” and “shaking together.” In this break between studying and sleep, I lost my patience and stormed into the living room where I found them playing Super Smash Bros. on Nintendo 64. I shouted something like “Will someone BESIDES ME, please take out the garbage for once!” (and probably) “ARE YOU KIDDING ME? How high were you planning on stacking the trash!?!?!”

Pause…

How many of you have heard statements like these, but not because I have told you this story before…

All of you have heard it… FROM YOUR DAD!

Their best response to my outrage came as a mumbled “Ok…… DAD.” (*add eye rolling and sighing). Yes, it hurt. I felt like I had to have responsibility enough for three people and at times I felt like it was at the expense of our friendship. Never appreciated, my feelings got the better of me and I started to view “Dad-hood” with disdain and contempt.

However, my life was truly changed when I really did become a Dad.  It didn’t all happen at once like I thought it would. When Olson came out of the womb, I cried. I love my son and immediately did, but for the first 3 months it was a learning process.Alyssa and I remember people telling us that we would be great parents one day, but we didn’t know that just because we were wired for it didn’t mean we would automatically be awesome. We learned more about trust and perseverance in the beginning weeks of parenthood than in the previous 2 years of marriage.

My answer now to the question above is: “I want to grow when I grow up.” And the greatest lessons/revelations I have learned so far as a Dad have been:

  • keep a soft heart

  • you must learn as much as you want to lead

  • being responsible can be sexy

Thank you for reading, I’m off to be a Dad!

-J Daddy

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