What Has Fatherhood Taught You? We Ask Some of CALS’ Great Dads

CALS Dean Richard Linton stands with a sports mascot with his son at a baseball game for Father's Day

You probably know them best by their professional titles.

Extension agent. Ph.D. candidate. Dean.

On June 16, however, we celebrate them for a different reason: the hard work they put in to being dads.

CALS Dean Richard Linton

NC State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Dean Rich Linton in his office.What has fatherhood taught you?

To be a better person and to love somebody far more than yourself.

What does being a father mean to you?

Everything. This is the most important and meaningful job I have by far!

What’s it like being a father and the dean?

Tough. Because to do both well, you need to dedicate time and energy. Being a dean takes away a lot of that time, so we work hard as a family to be sure that father son/daughter time is the highest value it can be. I made the decision to drive my daughter to school each morning this year and give up many of the dean’s breakfasts, and it’s the best decision I have ever made…you can learn a ton from a 14-year-old!

Ph.D. Candidate Jonathan Giacomini, Department of Applied Ecology

What has fatherhood taught you?

That my life is far more important than I will ever understand. My son looks to me (and my wife, of course) for safety, guidance and love.

Fatherhood has also taught me about time. Einstein showed us all that time is relative, but I never really appreciated that until now. For me, now that I have a child, time moves much faster. Days feel like hours and weeks feel like days.

What does being a father mean to you?

I grew up without a father. That meant I was often envious of my friends, but at the same time fiercely independent. I don’t want my son to ever feel alone. I’ve always wanted to give my son what I wished I had, and now I get that chance. … He is loved tremendously and his happiness is the only thing that matters to me. … I wouldn’t trade being a father anything in the world.

At the same time, I am raising a boy who will one day be a man. He needs discipline, without violence; he needs education, without prejudice; he needs love, without condition. To me, being a father is huge responsibility, one that is extremely rewarding and frightening at the same time. Words can hardly describe the feelings I have, from the euphoria and happiness I get from seeing my son smile, mixed with the terrifying thoughts of all the things that could harm him.

What’s it like being a father and a student?

It’s really hard, though not as hard as it is for my wife. … Being a father can take up all of your time. The chores are endless, dishes and laundry pile high, diapers always need to be cleaned and the house never seems to stay organized for more than a few minutes. But the fun and love is also endless. Each day is a new experience with my son. I really don’t think I could ever get enough of him. …

Being a student can equally take up all of your time. There are endless opportunities and a constant pressure to gain experience, expand your resume and compete among your peers. I want to be as productive as possible and become a master in my field of research, but also spend time with my family. … I deal with it by consciously making an effort to think about it often and not to ignore it. It’s easy to forget about one or the other and fall into a slump.

Ashe County Extension Director and Agent Travis Birdsell

NC State Extension's Travis Birdsell and Family

How do you balance being a dad with all your other roles?

What I’ve come to realize is that, on a particular day, I have the ability to be great at something, but not everything. The trick is to make sure to give time to all my roles – student, father, worker – … to make sure they all get attention. And as we work through struggles, we realize that we can bend a lot more than we think before we break.

This post was originally published in College of Agriculture and Life Sciences News.

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