A special thanks to Lisa Feldman, a true staple of our team here at Heartline, for coming up with this week’s topic! May you never stop coming up with my best ideas.
I don’t think that a list like this needs any introduction, so let’s jump right into it.
10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a Dad:
1. There are pros and cons to having kids close in age.
My wife and I liked the idea of having our children less than two years apart in age. Our rationale was that the kids would have a better chance of being friends growing up together. So far, this has worked out. It has been nice to be able to entertain our kids with the same kinds of things as well. On the flip side, my wife and I just moved Josie out of our room and into a toddler bed about two weeks ago. It was then that we realized that, because we keep having another kid every two years, we haven’t been out of the infant stage in six years. We are exhausted!
2. The “terrible 2’s” don’t start at 2.
This likely isn’t true for everyone but in our home the terrible 2’s start at about age 1. It’s about this time that kids start having preferences. They don’t just have needs: food, sleep, changing, and stimulus. Now, they want the purple cup. Now they aren’t okay with 8:00 bedtime. Now, they want whatever toy their sister refuses to part with.
3. You can love more than one child.
When Aurora was born, it was easy to see that she had stolen daddy’s heart. I was ready and willing to give her everything I had. When we found out that we were to have a second, I genuinely wondered how I was going to be able to give our second child the same love and attention that I did the first. You may have heard this before, but I want to attest to the truth of this- “Your heart will grow with your family.”
4. Support systems are not a recommendation, they are a necessity.
You need people around you to help you in raising your child. YOU CANNOT DO IT ALONE. Call people up. Share the burden. Get comfortable with asking for help. You also need to take your partner on dates when your kid comes along. Whether you have to take the kids over to the grandparents or hire a babysitter, you have to be able to get away from your kid every once in a while.
5. 38 Special shared the key to your sanity.
I’m referring to the band’s song, “Hold On Loosely.” Your stuff is going to get ruined. Your plans are going to fall apart. Your dreams may end up on the back burner for a while. If you can’t free your mind and your heart to be open with these things, you are going to drive yourself crazy. Learn to go with the flow or prepare to drown. It’s your choice.
6. Cloth diapers are for a special breed of human being.
I’m sure we have all thought this was a good idea at some point. We’re going to save money, right? But, then reality sets in, and the piles of soiled clothes begin to build up. You may think that 8-12 diapers per day would add up, but it does. There’s a reason why many people give up and switch to disposable diapers.
7. You will not be the same person again… and that’s okay.
“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it is not the same river and he is not the same man.” – Heraclitus
Everything is in a constant state of change. Taking on the role of a father will bring about many changes in your life. If there haven’t, then you’re doing it wrong. Sometimes, we come into parenting fearing that we will lose our passions and our freedoms. Before my first child, my wife and I played tennis almost every day we could. I used to read loads of graphic novels and stay up extremely late. I don’t do those things now, or at least not nearly as much as before. But, whatever was there before has been replaced by something of greater value. These days, I pour into the next generation. I inspire curiosity. I demonstrate love, compassion, courage, and discipline. I also make sure to spend some time taking care of myself as well. All-in-all, parenthood is the catalyst of a wondrous metamorphosis to which there is no equal.
8. Little girls turn their dads into goo.
I am by no means a callous man of rough exterior or interior. Yet, I was nowhere near the pile of mush that I am now. Whether its Nadia asking me to twirl her around and dance, Aurora reaching out for her fourth bedtime hug, or Josie playing her favorite game of “try-to-rip-daddy’s-nose off” I can’t seem to hold my ground. Those girls have got me hooked for life.
9. Every kid is different.
There’s always going to be some parent or professional that will tell you that if you follow a certain set of principles or rituals that you will have all you need to raise your child up well. That’s bologna! Raising kids is more like playing a game of Clue than it is following a formula. It takes a lot of trial and error to figure out what will work with your child. Even then, when you do find something that works, your child will get older and you will find yourself at the drawing board again. The same is true for each child that you have. If you think the same things will work with your second child that you tried with the first then prepare for some disappointment.
10. You’re not going to be at your best every day, all the time.
We all feel great when we pull off an amazing dad moment. Just a few days ago I got a “way to go dad” as I dropped my family off at the door on a cold, rainy day before parking the car on the other side of the planet. Do I do things like this all the time? Nope. It’s important to have grace for your children, but it’s also important to have grace with yourself as well. I give my family my best each day, but my best doesn’t always look the same. Sometimes all I can offer is steady patience and wisely selected words while I try to keep my head up and my arms moving. There’s no shame in that.