Dear Young Father to Be,
On the eve of the biggest adventure of your life there are some things I need to tell you that I wish a wise man would have told me. Either I am too stubborn or the wise are too few – I had to learn these things for myself and am passing them on to you.
Your life is about to change
Everyone says it but they don’t tell you what it means. Well here it is. Never in your life has a responsibility been so consuming. Fatherhood is the job without a weekend. It is the journey with no end. When you become a father, you enter into a world of kinghood in which there is no crown to pass on. You will be a father until you die, and there is no escaping or turning back. It is your challenge to step up to or fail at every single day.
I know, I know, you’re excited and what I am saying makes no sense. Honestly, at least half of the time you will be having the time of your life. However, remember and reread these words, young man, after days of sleep deprivation, a long shift of work coming home to a loud home and exhausted wife, and months of putting everyone else above yourself while you feel isolated and alone. You are the king of your household and your family depends on you to step up when it’s hard, find the strength when you have none, laugh instead of cry, and lead the home in love, forgiveness, honor, and joy.
Love the Momma
In the first several months of your child’s life, you’re really chopped liver. It’s not your fault, infants are just starting to take in the world around them and they’re so helpless during this stage that mom is all they want or need. Sure you can change diapers, take a cuddle shift, bathe them, and do crazy things that will soothe their fussiness (my son like “flying” at 2 months old. Put him over my head and he’d stop crying and switch to amazement). Do those things. While you are feeling expendable, though, know that this time is amazingly important for your child’s development.
They are forming the foundations of learning and emotional stability. And they are taking all of their cues from how well-cared-for Momma is. If mom is stressed, guess how baby feels? If mom feels hurt, guess how baby feels? If mom is unhappy with the undone dishes, the prospect of cooking dinner, and feeling lonely all day…well, you get the picture. You want to take good care of your baby? Love Momma well. And know that for the time being it’s going to a largely one-way street. You pour love into her, she pours love into the baby, and the baby takes it all. No hard feelings, you’re just going to be neglected for awhile and you’re going to have to deal with that as productively and positively as possible Daddio. Don’t worry, it doesn’t last forever, but the effects on your child will!
You Won’t Be Perfect
You have never cared about being this good at anything. I know. And you’ll likely do an amazing job most of the time. But you’re going to slip up. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Learn how to say “I am sorry. I was wrong. That’s not the man or father I want to be. Please forgive me.”
There is nothing that will humble you faster or more often than stumbling through fatherhood. Don’t let it get you down. Chances are there has never been a perfect father. What separates the men worth looking up to from the men who cause immeasurable hurt and pain in their families is the willingness to admit your mistakes and learn from them. There is no room for your pride with your children or wife except for when you are proud of them.
Every father worth his salt spends time developing himself. Reading, writing, exercising, meditating, these are all activities worth pursuing that will help you become a better man this year than you were last year. Unfortunately most fathers get stuck in the daily routine of things and settle for using their development time each day watching T.V., playing video games, drinking alcohol, eating, or with company that drags them down rather than lifts them up.
Don’t be that guy. We all only have 24 hours in a day. And now that you’re a father, you can’t afford to waste time like a teenager with nothing better to do. Your children and wife will follow your lead. You want them to be amazing people? You better show them the way.
Pray over Your Family
I’m not here to lecture or convince you of the existence of a higher power or to tell you where to put your faith. That’s your journey and you’ve probably got plenty of walls to climb in your own heart in this regard. I am going to tell you that when you speak your hopes and dreams for your home out loud, it strengthens your resolve and intensifies your actions to bring those things about.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re asking the big man upstairs to make these things happen or if you’re telling him what you plan to do, praying is your superpower that will always put your heart and mind in the right place to succeed where others have failed. Do it on the way home from work or when you wake every morning. Every day is an opportunity to mold your life in a positive direction. Do your part and speak your fears, your joy, your pain, and your resolve. You can do nearly anything if your heart and mind are in it.
Find a Mentor
Every father has been through what you’re about to go through, but not every one of them is worth taking advice from. Look around for families who’s joy, communication, adventure, and peace are what you hope yours to be, and ask.
I know, there’s a shortage of good fathers in the world and therefore it’s rare to find a mentor worth asking. It’s important. Don’t stop looking until you find a man worth asking, and don’t be shy about your questions. If he’s been there, done that, he won’t hold back from telling you everything he knows about becoming a father. Good dads are like that.
Get After it, Dad
Congratulations on the biggest blessing of your life. Becoming a father is an incomparable event that doesn’t stop when your baby is born and will require you to change your life, learn from mistakes, love the momma, develop yourself, pray like hell, and find a mentor.
Have a blast brother. Truly there’s nothing like it.