There are no dad-experts. Or, at least, I’ve yet to meet one.
One thing I’ve learned, however, is that there’s something to be said for experience. You may not have initials after your name that point to advanced degrees in childrearing, but if you have kids, you’ve likely got the Ph.D. equivalent of dealing with 3am diaper changes. Of car seat confined acute gastroenteritis. Of tantrums induced after strolling past a conveniently eye-level display of Little Debbie’s delicacies. Of all-out melees in the toddler equivalent to the Octagon: the very square sandbox. And so on.
Some advanced education comes through well-reasoned responses to the above events. And, likely just as often, it comes through our failures in these moments.
I’ve been thinking about this because I’ve been in conversation recently with a few new (or soon to be new) fathers wondering about what it takes to be a good dad. About rolling up your sleeves and embracing a dadcraft life. Here are a few thoughts that rise to the top for me…from successes and failures:
1. You Don’t Know What’s Coming…and You Got It.
A bit ago, Andrew wrote about an unfortunate bathtub experience, which sums up so much of fatherhood. You’ve never trained for so much of what you’ll experience, but if you don’t get it done, no one else will. And so, for to new dad, you can do it. There will be times you won’t want to. There will be times you’ll be stumped, but you can do it. (And often you’ll get a killer story that you’ll be ready to tell in a few years down the road.)
2. The Cure for Messing Up
Nothing works better on the mistakes that you and others will make in parenting like a healthy measure of grace. You will mess up. And, you’ll mess up a lot. And so will the people around you in raising that youngster. So, recognize this reality and meet it with grace.
3. Find Moments of Joy
There’s an impossible to capture, unique joy that comes through fatherhood. Could be in big moments – like a first step – or in the mundane – ending the evening reading a board book for the fifteenth time in a row. Create margin and give yourself room to be present in these moments. Soak them up to the fullest and draw on these moments of joy when you’re trying to fathom how you’ll stay coherent through the workday on the three hours of sleep you got last night.
Plenty more could be said to the newly christened dadcraftsman, but these three things should get you off and running. And, nine years into my own dadcraft, they’re reminders I need as well.
Also: Be present and engaged through pregnancy. Prep for the delivery room. Mastering diaper-changing is also a good thing to plan for. Don’t forget the art of nicknaming. And don’t be Homer.
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Photo by Liane Metzler on Unsplash