Dadding: An Incredible Journey
Life flashes by and in a single moment, everything can change. I’ll never forget the day my first was born. My wife and I knew it was going to be our last day of just the two of us. A week past our due date, and the doctor’s weren’t going to let baby Craig percolate any longer. Induction was to take place on the 22nd of September, 2013 and baby C had no say in the matter (or did he?). We decided to spend the day getting last minute chores done. A quick run to the Apple Store to get something fixed, weeding the garden and a quick jaunt around the block just to see if we couldn’t get our little bundle of joy to come out on his or her own. Being our first one, we had no idea what to expect. 9 pm hit, the day before the induction, and things started to happen, a quick call to the doctor and Baby C decided he didn't need the medical push to get things rolling. All was well with the world and by 9-ish the next morning, I was a father. No training, no preparation, only basic instincts to go off of, but either way I was a father. I remember holding our son, Tucker, for the first time. Nothing can describe the sheer joy, and love that I felt in that single moment. A love that was not explained to me, but came naturally. Despite no manual, I felt like I knew exactly what to do. With time though, I came to realize, that a manual would be really, really useful. With each passing moment, I am learning to navigate this world of fatherhood, just like he is learning to navigate being new to this planet.
It doesn’t take much to be a great father, however, consistency and trust in one-self is incredibly important. I am not a perfect father, and I’ll be the first to admit, I make a lot of mistakes. With a third child on the way though, I’ve learned a few things. I’ve got a lot of growing and learning left to do, but this is what I have picked up on so far.
Presence, not Presents is Key
We’ve all seen it happen, you prepare for what seems like an eternity for a birthday. Every present is meticulously picked out just for them and when the time comes, they open the present, and with great joy and elation… they play with the box! It happens time and time again, toys get forgotten almost immediately after opening. Presence, however, is never forgotten. While to you, money may seem like everything, to their blossoming minds, they know nothing of its importance. Simply spending quality time with your little bundle of joy is all they need for a lifetime of memories. Quality time means you must put down the phone and engage with them. It is easy though, once you get into the habit. Finding things to do isn’t hard either, kids are simple human beings that merely want to have fun, and fun can be incredibly easy to find. Go on a walk around the block, take a day hike at a local park, hit up the playground. It doesn’t really matter as long as you are there with them, enjoying the moment, soaking it all in.
Patience Young Grasshopper
This is by far my biggest struggle, and if anyone has some magical potion for finding patience, please send it my way. Remember their young minds are growing rapidly and you might get inundated with questions, or they may make a bazillion mistakes. Either way, we must be patient with them and allow them to learn in their own way. Like I said, this is my major downfall, but with practice and a little self-patience, you can overcome this hurdle. If you find yourself getting frustrated, politely excuse yourself from the room and go take a few deep breaths. Before speaking or blowing up on your child, guzzle some water. Give yourself a minute or two to collect yourself and then remember, they are ¼ of your size; yelling and screaming will not do you any good. They’ll quickly forget your tirade and move on to their next mistake. However, having said that, they’ll forget the message of the tirade, but not the action of the account. If you find yourself in this situation, be humble and apologize for what you have done wrong. Remember, they do as you do, and not as you say.
Admit When YOU Are Wrong
No one is perfect, not even the Queen of England. When, not if, you make a mistake, admit you were wrong and apologize for that mistake. Like I said in the previous paragraph, children are more likely to do as we do, than do as we say. Taking ownership is a vital life skill that must be taught from a young age. Admitting your mistakes, and then rectifying them, is the first step you can take to teach them about personal responsibility and personal ownership. It’s not enough to simply say you are sorry, you must take action to correct your mistake with a gesture that shows you are truly sorry. Your kids may not pick up on this right away, but if you are patient and consistent, you will reap the rewards later in life.
Enjoy This Time, It Doesn’t Last
It is incredibly easy to get caught in the weeds and to wish this phase of your life away. Learn from my own experiences, enjoy this time, because it does end and you will want it back. I cannot believe my oldest is 4 and heading into Kindergarten this year. When he was an infant we would be up with him nearly every hour, on the hour. At the time I was so exhausted and just going through the motions. I would give anything to be back in those days, enjoying every moment holding him and rocking him to sleep while singing him every song I had in my memory bank. While I love to reflect back on everything that was, I am focused more on enjoying the here and now, because I know that, this to shall pass. Gone soon will be the days where he wants to spend every waking hour with us, playing baseball, watching baseball, eating baseball. For now, I will enjoy it. While I won’t have this moment forever, I’m pretty damn sure the next moment will be just as memorable.
What are your tips for new dads? What is/was your favorite thing to do with your child/ren?