(A lesson from) Fatherhood
Issue #39 — 4.2 minute read
Happy 2022, y'all—Jake here. Today's post was written by Matt Ritter.
Matt was my manager at a company I worked at for quite some time, but he quickly became a good friend and mentor. We still meet up every few weeks to talk about design, life, philosophy, running, and more. During one of our recent chats, he shared his philosophy on parenthood and the lessons he’s learned alongside his wife, Anna.
I plan to reference these ideas if/when I become a parent, so I’m grateful he agreed to consolidate his thoughts into this guest post for you all as well.
👋 Hey phi-lazy-phers
Fatherhood has been one of the greatest joys of my life. And while it's inspiring to watch your child develop right in front of your eyes, it's even more interesting witnessing how being a parent changes you.
Freedom is secured not by the fulfilling of one's desires but by the removal of desire...No man is free who is not master of himself.
Believe it or not, I stumbled upon this quote on the last page of one of my daughter's books. The book is titled "Oh No, George!" written by Chris Haughton, and the central theme is self-control. And while self-control is essential for children to learn, the quote resonated with me as a father as well. Early in my fatherhood journey, my wife Anna passed along a sentiment: being a great parent is all about managing your own emotions. If one cannot control their emotions during stressful and frustrating moments, you become reactive and could act in ways you'll regret later. Children observe and learn from their environment, and as a caregiver, it is one's responsibility to set the best example possible.
This sentiment is not so different from the Stoics. The Stoics believed that developing self-discipline and fortitude helps us overcome destructive emotion, and they wanted to teach people how to be brave and calm in the face of overwhelming anxiety and pain. One must find tools that will help them take notice of their feelings and establish constructive thought patterns to respond in a way that is not detrimental to their desired outcome. Like anything else, this is a life skill that can take a long time and lots of practice to develop.
Brilliant minds have reflected on emotions and self-discipline for centuries:
He who controls others may be powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier still.
My only responsibility regarding feelings is to accept and acknowledge them.
Difficulties show a person's character.
You have power over your mind—not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.
In that power of self-control lies the seed of eternal freedom.
He who cannot obey himself will be commanded. That is the nature of living creatures.
Self-control is the chief element in self-respect, and self-respect is the chief element in courage.
I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies, for the hardest victory is over self.
Not to have control over the senses is like sailing in a rudderless ship, bound to break to pieces on coming in contact with the very first rock.
Two of the most significant people I have found in my journey to better self-discipline are Janet Lansbury and Sam Harris. Lansbury is an educator, author, and host of Janet Lansbury Unruffled. Her teachings of respectful parenting have changed my understanding of what being a parent means. Harris is a brilliant philosopher, neuroscientist, and author who has written dozens of books and is the creator of the Waking Up app and Making Sense podcast. His lessons in the Waking Up app have helped me learn how to observe emotion and thought in entirely new ways.
What tools have you found to help you manage your emotions and build better self-discipline?
✌️ Until next week, happy philosophizing.
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