My husband is a hero. He’s our son’s hero. He’s my hero, too.
I oh-so-sweetly asked him to write a guest post in honor of Father’s Day, along with a few possible suggestions on what to write about.
While he didn’t go for “10 Ways to Please Your Wife This Father’s Day,” he did write an honest letter about what he’s learned since becoming a dad.
If you’re about to have a baby and want a glimpse of what your significant other is about to experience, this post is for you. Feel free to pass it along if he’d like to read it, too. His advice comes from a place of growth, humility and the pain of chronic sleep deprivation 🙂
Ladies and gentleman, I bring you the one, the only, Ken Devine…
I’ll be celebrating my second Father’s Day this Sunday. It’s still a little strange to think I’m a dad and that my son Evan (aka “The Buddy”) is going to turn 2 in September. But I can confirm that what every parent has told you is true: They grow up fast.
Even though I’m only 21 months into this challenging-but-rewarding phase of my life, there are some valuable things I’ve learned that all new dads should know…
1. The miracle of life is the real deal
This is it. After nine months of slow buildup and increasing anticipation, the big moment is finally here. It’s primal, it’s amazing, and it’s moving to witness this tiny human being you created take their first breaths in this world. You’ll be changed and instantly realize the power of procreation. It’s a beautiful, surreal moment that you’ll never forget.
Helpful Tip: Take a childbirth class beforehand. I didn’t think I really needed it at first, but by the end I was less of a dumb dad for it and felt much better about what to expect. Trust me, setting aside a few nights for Childbirth 101 is worth being prepared for this life-changing experience.
2. You’ll Long for the Sound of Silence
It was rough trying to sleep that first night in the hospital because my son would constantly wake up crying. When the nurses agreed to watch him for a few hours in the middle of the night, the immediate sound of silence in that postpartum room was more tangible and golden than I’d ever remembered it. You’ll experience many similar moments in first several weeks with your newborn. Expect your day-to-day to be regularly interrupted for the foreseeable future.
Helpful Tip: Sync up your zzz’s – do your best to sleep when they sleep.
3. It’s all work at first; the play comes later
For the first few months, the output won’t equal all the work that you and your wife are putting into it, including all the diaper-changing, breast- and bottle-feeding, sleep-disrupted nights, and general elbow grease.
But eventually your son or daughter will crack their first smile here, giggle a little there, and start to recognize your loving face. This is an important time because it’s when the bonding starts. As you see them slowly come to life as a tiny version of you or your wife, you’ll realize that this is what it’s all about.
Helpful Tip: When your kid wakes you up from a cold, dead slumber at 3 a.m., instead of saying “Oh no, I have to get up,” practice saying, “I get to get up.”
4. Kiss most of your free time goodbye
It’s one thing to know in your head that your lifestyle will drastically change, but it’s another to experience it. My situation was a little different than most because my wife went back to working weekends, which meant that my nice open, do-whatever-I-wanted weekends for most of my life were gone. It can be a hard adjustment for a while because you won’t feel very productive and you’ll have limited time windows to get things done (i.e., when they’re sleeping). You’ll also have to cut back on your hobbies and social activities.
You’ll soon understand why being a parent is a full-time job, but one that’s well worth it.
Helpful Tip: Sleep-train (affiliate link) your child as soon as possible. There’ll be no better reward for you, your kid and your wife than getting them sleeping through the night.
5. You’ll get more existential than ever
Quite simply, creating life makes you think about your own. You’ll have to come to terms with the sobering fact that you won’t outlive your child, which makes you wonder how much longer you’ll be around. You’ll think about how much longer they’ll be alive after your gone, what their family will be like, and how you’ll be remembered.
Helpful Tip: Accept the metaphysical nature of life. It helps keep things in perspective and makes you appreciate the time you have left, wanting to make the most of it for you and your family.
6. You’ll press the fast-forward button in your mind.
“What will my son be like in 5, 10, 20 years? What will he do for work?” “What will my daughter be passionate about? Who will she marry?”
It may sound strange, but these are questions you’ll start to ask. Of course, you’re getting way, way ahead of yourself, but bringing a person into this world makes it hard not to wonder about what kind of lifelong events you’ve set in motion. What kind of person your child will become and all they’ll do in life is a staggering, profound thing to think about.
You’ll also be aware of your child’s sponge-like blank slate and wonder how far your influence will go. (“If I get him watching hockey now, will he make the NHL?”) And you’ll think about all the things you want to teach them as they grow up.
Helpful Tip: Be where your feet are; enjoy and focus on one phase at a time.
7. You’ll experience newfound pride and joy.
When you get home from work, that excited cry and hurried, happy jog to you will be the best part of your day. Around the time they’re 1 year old, they’ll be walking and talking and giving you a delightful earful of baby babble about their favorite toys. Then one day, you’ll be caught off-guard when you hear “Hi, Dada” out of the blue.
You’ll realize how precious they are and will enjoy doing everyday things with them. Everything from playing with toys, walking outside and going to the beach will be new again.
Helpful Tip: Keep your smartphone and camcorder (a worthwhile investment) handy, and make sure it has plenty of storage. Pretty soon your camera roll will be dominated by pictures of your kid as you try to capture every priceless moment.
8. You’ll appreciate your parents more
Being a parent will gradually make you think of all the things your parents did for you, from wiping your butt to picking you up after practice to helping you get into college. You’ll become retroactively grateful when you realize the sheer amount of time, effort, energy, money, and thought your parents put into raising and supporting you for two (or three) decades.
You’ll think back to how you were as a kid, including all the trouble you got in and stress you put your parents through – but also all the pride and joy you gave them. And you’ll finally start to see your life through their eyes.
Helpful Tip: Tell your parents you get it now and thank them for all that they’ve done for you. Throw in a hug or a kiss for good measure.
9. You’ll wish you could stop your kid from growing up
As you continue to see how amazing your child is, there’ll be selfish moments when you wish you could halt their growth so that they remain their adorable, joyful, hilarious little self – kind of like a human pet. Of course, this is an impossible wish, but it’ll make more sense when you notice them getting bigger and realizing that there’s nothing you can do to stop them from growing up.
Helpful Tip: Enjoy every moment and try to take something positive from the bad ones, for every moment is fleeting and sacred in the grand scheme of life.
10. You’ll be adjusting for the rest of your life
A few months before my son was born, I texted an old boss of mine that I knew becoming a parent would be a big adjustment. As a father of three boys, he responded, “You’ll be adjusting for the rest of your life.”.
At the time that sounded pretty permanent and daunting, but now that I’ve lived it for several months, the adjusting hasn’t been too bad. Some things get easier other things get harder. There’s always a new challenge, but that’s what makes it fun, especially as your kid becomes more expressive and interactive…
Just be sure to help out your wife as much as possible, because there’ll be much more adjustment for her. (Editor’s note: I second this notion!).
Helpful Tip: Realize that life = change and change = life. Embrace each step of the way.
Happy Father’s Day to all the wonderful dads out there!