Insights For New Dads From a (Well) Seasoned Father of Teens
For the Dad to be: you’re going to get a lot of advice. Mine is neither “the best” or “right” or even “authoritative”, unless being a father of teens makes me that way.
Welcome to the Rollercoaster
I have thrived in fatherhood, and struggled. I have been inspired, and also wondered if I was going to make it. There are days when I thought I was King of The World(!), and other days where I wished I was anyone else. I have been proud of who I’ve been for my family, and occasionally ashamed (which resulted with apologies and heartfelt conversations and tears). And sometimes a bit of groveling.
Fatherhood is a journey. It’s a long one, so find a pace that works for you and one you can keep up over the long haul.
You Are Not Alone in the Foxhole
Your spouse, girlfriend or partner is your “Foxhole Buddy” with you. They are the one you are side by side with on this journey. No one will understand what you’re going through day-to-day as intimately as they do. Leaning on each other, supporting each other and working things out will serve you well at every curve in the road. Take the time. Apologize when necessary (and if in doubt, do it anyways). Stand up for what you believe in. Use more words to describe where you’re at, where you want to go and why you think what you do.
Join a Fraternity Without The Greek Alphabet
Find other Dads to connect with. These can be men in your family or friends. Your partner is a great resource, but it’s too much to expect them to be your “everything.” You’ll need an outlet outside of your relationship to process and offload all the new experiences and emotions you’ll be facing. Other Dads understand the struggles that you’ll face, the doubt, the fear, the frustration. They also can be there to hear the stories about how cute your kids are, and smile knowingly that AMAZING thing they just started doing and revel over baby pictures.
Some days it will seem like all you can do to get through the day. Other days will be full of joy, fulfillment and light. Revel in the great days, they will buoy you in the hard times. Take pictures, print them out and post them around your house. Don’t be shy about telling everyone the joy you’re having being a Dad.
This is the place to be “ALL IN”
All of this is to say LEAN IN. Lean in to being a Dad with all of your being. This is one role where your impact will outlive you. A true legacy. How you do this will live beyond your lifetime and is a way to make the world a better place.
Share Your Story
Share with your kids your stories. Tell them of your adventures. When they’re ready (or when the time seems right) share with them your struggles. They need to know that life can be hard sometimes. It makes you more human, and they get to see that you survived challenges to be the great guy that you are.
Find laughter wherever you can. Is it playing dress-up for tea time? Is it cardboard armor? Is it you and your kids belting out the mind-numbing pop that kids become obsessed with? Is it wrestling in the living room?
Be Generous With Your Hugs
Take and give hugs regularly. In a world more and more separated by the digital divide between us, touch is becoming a lost art. For boys especially. They need our hugs, our sense of being held, accepted for who they are. It’s a great way to remind them that whether they’re having a good day or a bad day, they are home and accepted and loved just the way they are.
Make Your Home Your Family’s Sanctuary
Make home your family clubhouse. The world can be a harsh place. People will say and do things way outside our control. We are inundated by new information, news, and opinions. Kids are told what to do all day by teachers, tutors, coaches and other adults. Home is a place where they can just be. They can read a book, play a game, hang out with their dolls or their toy cars, or lie on the carpet with the family pet. Home is a refuge from all the rest, and we all need that, where we can be heard, where we can decompress, where we can unload, and where we can just be.
Look Out For Magic, It Can Show Up Anywhere
You will never look back and regret the time you spent with your kids. It will be a badge of honor and joy when you get older. Even when it seems hard today, it will seem like a gem as time passes. You’ll remember visiting the zoo in the pouring rain on a cold day and didn’t see any animals. It’ll be the joy of discovering the warm little bakery with the best hot cocoa, where you all stripped off your rain gear and laughed around a small bistro table over a game of Old Maid.
You will never regret the time invested in Fatherhood. It will be the satisfaction of a job well done. No work of importance is ever easy, which makes the reward that much more fulfilling.