July 15, 2013

The 5 Keys to Being a Good New Dad

From the minute I walked out of that delivery room and my own father patted me on the back and said, "Congratulations, Dad" I realized that in the blink of an eye my life had changed forever (and I was in WAY over my head). 

I'd experienced other life changing moments before, like when I moved to Chicago and was banned from putting ketchup on my hotdogs, and when my wife, who obviously lost her mind, agreed to marry me (even if my proposal did involve a miniature bobblehead of myself). But these moments pale in comparison to becoming a dad, the most challenging life-changing moment any dude will experience. With three daughters and approximately 10,000 diaper changes under my belt, here's what I've learned about what it takes to be a good dad.

1. HAND OFF THE CAMCORDER TO SOMEONE ELSE. 
You can record a lot of things, like the birth of your child and the moment they walk for the first time. You can record the Super Bowl too, but nothing beats the live experience. I remember when my eldest daughter crawled for the first time. I raced around the house trying to find anything to record that moment. In the meantime, I was missing it. So I stopped, and instead of recording a video, I recorded a wonderful memory. I took in the surroundings and sounds, like how she let out these little puffs of air with each "step" and how she completely ignored the colorful toys around her as she determinedly set her sights on the TV remote that sat on the carpet across the room. Memories matter. Make sure you don't miss them.

2. WAKE UP AT 4 A.M.
Part of being a great dad is being there for the mother of your child, which means willingly getting up in the middle of the night to change a dirty diaper. Yes you will be tired. Yes you will get peed on. Yes you will put the diaper on backwards the first several times. But by taking an active role early on in the process, you not only will let your wife know that she's not alone in this but you'll also grow closer to your child. Plus, you'll have diaper explosion stories to tell your child's friends when she's older. This will teach her never to break curfew again.

3. MAKE TIME FOR FUNNY FACES.
The first 12 months of having a kid are the most difficult. Everyone's exhausted. The house is always a mess. The baby is figuring out her role in the family just as much as you're figuring out yours. Instead of getting caught up in panic and frustration, go out of your way to make funny faces at the baby. In the beginning it will elicit little response (other than the supermarket cashier who doesn't see the baby in your cart and thinks you're having a stroke), but one day, when you least expect it, the corners will bend and a smile will form between your sweet little baby's cheeks. Your heart will melt away—and so will any frustration you've had in adjusting to being a dad.

4. YOU'RE GOING TO SCREW UP. FORGIVE YOURSELF. 
I've never heard of anyone ever bowling a perfect game his first time out. It takes practice. The same goes for being a dad. You're going to forget the diaper bag from time to time. You're also going to go to work with spit up running down the front of your shirt. Don't beat yourself up over it. You'll get better at being a dad with each passing day as long as you care enough to practice and learn from your mistakes (and there will be plenty of mistakes to learn from, trust me).

5. CELEBRATE YOUR VICTORIES.
I used to always dress my daughters in clothes that didn't match, mostly because I didn't know any better. This would drive my wife crazy. Now I'm proud to say that I still
dress my daughters in clothes that don't match (seriously, I have no idea what color matches what color), but I do dress them in weather appropriate clothes, which I never used to do. It was a big victory for me. You'll find your own big victories along the way. Good dads celebrate their accomplishments. They also hug their kids a lot. Do both.

The fact that you want to be a good dad is the first step. I never imagined I'd be able to survive having a kid, let alone three daughters. Now I am a total pro at painting nails and MC-ing fashion shows. All kids are different, but the keys of being a good dad are universal. Enjoy this life-changing experience and everything that comes along with it because, in the blink of an eye, your child will be out of diapers and having some guy pop the question with a bobblehead of his own. If you follow these rules above, your baby will always remember you as a good dad—even if you still choose to put ketchup on your hot dogs.

ORDER NOW (GREAT GIFT FOR PARENTS):
Oh Boy, You're Having a Girl
(A Dad's Survival Guide to Raising Daughters)

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6 comments:

Juliann said...

Your first point really hits home with me. Sometimes we're so busy "trying to capture the moment" that we miss it. I wish I'd learned that sooner.

Be in the moment!

Creed said...

The waking up has been rough. I'm a deep sleeper and knowing that I have nothing exciting to get up for besides human fecal matter makes it even harder.

Ross Gallor said...

Indeed, for developing a strong bond in first 1000 days with your child you have to maintain a special relationship. If you want to be a good father, then you have to manage your office time and balance your personal and professional life simultaneously.

Sneha said...

I think you have covered all points of being good new Dads! It shows what kind of a great dad you are. I am pleased to say that my husband too scores great points in all these.

wadinga said...

good advice, thanks The cam thing...

:Donna said...

I will always love your posts, Brian :) Choked up AGAIN *sigh* Yay for all you good dads :D