The following post is my reflection after one year of being a dad. It is written as a letter to my past self the night before becoming a dad. I read lots of books, posts, and articles offering advice to new dads, but none of them seemed to capture it for me. Hopefully at least one new dad can find something helpful about the advice below.
You are patiently awaiting the birth of your first child. Emotions are high, but excitement is most present. Well, that and anxiety. You still don’t know if you will be dad to a daughter or son. Looking back over the last year, here are some things you need to know about being Mackenzie’s dad.
You’ve never wanted anything more. You picture yourself as a dad often, but you have no idea what it will really feel like. It’s almost indescribable. The love you have for that little girl is more than you ever thought you had to give. The feeling of walking in the house after a long, stressful day and seeing her smile will instantly make it all go away. You’ve never experienced anything quite like this before. When you are holding your daughter, it’s as though nothing else in the world matters but her. You will be protective, very protective. It’s an instinct you did not know you had. It will be all the things they say; tiring, exciting, hard, fun, and joyful. More so, it will be OK. Daycare drop off will hit you harder than you can imagine. You will sit in the car and cry. Doctor’s visits that bring little scares will shake you at your core. You will feel as though someone is reaching inside your stomach and twisting and squeezing. You’ll also learn that Google is the enemy. Call the doctor. Trust your instincts, but for the love of God, do not ask Google for medical advice. The results will confuse and scare the hell out of you. Similarly, don’t listen to all those preachy parents; you and your wife will know in your heads and in your hearts what is best for your daughter. In the end, it will all be ok.
Don’t let the hard moments frustrate you. Sure, waking up at 2am on a work night is not ideal. You’ll be frustrated and that is OK, but know this; there is no feeling quite like being able to console your child. You will miss those 2am cuddles on the rocker as you rock your baby girl to sleep. One day, you will yearn for them. Cherish these moments and embrace them. You will stand over her crib nightly, gazing at this beautiful little gift with tears in your eyes. Speaking of tears, you will cry a lot. It won’t take much. In the hardest moments, she will be there to make you smile or laugh…and that might make you sob. Though she can’t communicate, it will become abundantly clear that this little one loves her dad. And there is no better feeling than that.
You will love watching your parents and your in-laws bask in the joy that only grandparents know. You will be more connected with them than ever before, because all of a sudden you get it. You know what it must have been like for them and you appreciate it so deeply. Their love of your daughter and willingness to help will be very important.
Speaking of love, your love of your wife will strengthen. You will be amazed by her strength and forever grateful for what she endured to bring you this precious gift. You will watch her as a mom and fall more deeply in love with her than you ever have been over the last 12 years. Who knew this crush you had in high school would become your person and your partner in life? Tell her she is beautiful. Take her on dates. Make sure you pay just as much attention to her and let her know how much in love with her you are and how much she means to you. You will be thankful, more so than ever, that God brought the two of you together.
There are some small and random, though important, pieces of advice too:
- Always have the clean diaper in position and ready when changing diapers. You’ll be amazed how far fluids can travel.
- Speaking of diapers, always put one on after a bath and before putting that adorable and expensive towel around the baby.
- Don’t buy all the things they tell you that you need. Wait and see if you need them first.
- You’ll be “that parent” on social media. Embrace it proudly – people who want to stay engaged will.
- Always bring an extra set of clothes with you everywhere. You will be shocked by how much poop can travel out of both a diaper and pants and onto you, making for an embarrassing visit to the doctor’s office.
You always roll your eyes when people tell you it will “go by so fast.” Believe them. It does. One day, you will sit with her, playing in the kitchen and just cry. You will wonder where the time went and why the hell it won’t slow down. At the same time, you will be proud. You will be excited to see her next steps (literally and figuratively). You can see the amazing person she is growing up to become and it excites you.
No one is perfect, but you will be perfect for her. Being a dad is a learning process. Be patient with yourself. Trust your gut. Know that you will do the best that you can do, and that’s enough. You will love being a dad. It will change you.