So you’re gonna be a dad?!
First off, HIGH FIVE!
Secondly, do you feel qualified for this? When I became a dad, I still felt like a kid myself.
I know you’re probably receiving a bunch of advice about parenting right now. I’m sure it all contradicts itself, too (which is so helpful). Well, this is not some kind of manual for “How to Be the Best Dad in the World.” Heck, I’m no expert myself—I’m still a rookie. In my five years of being a dad, I have gotten some things right and plenty of things wrong.
But thanks to the wise men in my life, as well as some helpful books and podcasts, there are a few things I’ve learned in my precious first five years of being a dad.
1. It’s Okay Not to Feel Ready
Most of us will never feel ready to have kids. But here’s what I’ve learned: You will adapt quickly. You will have a capacity that you never knew existed. Never changed a diaper before? You’ll master the art within days. Never buckled a kid in a car seat? Soon, you’ll be able to do it with your eyes closed. It’s going to be a new way of life, a new rhythm. You will soon be responsible for someone else’s life. Nothing can prepare you for that (not even a dog). It’s okay if you don’t feel ready.
2. Anticipate Stress
Some babies don’t stop crying. Like, ever. Toddlers throw their food on the floor and scribble on the kitchen cupboards with permanent markers. Preschoolers test your patience in new ways. Face it—kids are crazy. But in the crazy moments, do your best not to rise to their level of crazy. When you feel stress coming, take a deep breath. Give yourself a timeout in another room. Raise your voice as little as possible. This is just a season—but it can be stressful. So, expect it, and plan ahead, choosing how you'll respond with patience.
3. Be Present
As it says in the book of James, our lives are like a morning mist, here today and gone tomorrow. So be involved, be present, be 100% in as a dad. It’s an everyday commitment, but you will never regret spending too much time with your kids. You may have to reprioritize your schedule—like exercising before they wake up so that you can eat breakfast with them. You might have to learn to leave your phone in a different room for a few hours before bedtime. On your days off, you might have to trade being productive around the house for playing with dolls, trains, balls, and Elmo. But I’ll tell you what—your willingness to go with the flow and “just be dad” with your kids will lead to some of the best memories of your life.
4. Be Worth Imitating
That little baby is going to turn into a little sponge, seemingly overnight. They’ll start to imitate you, act like you, talk like you, laugh like you, shout like you. As a new dad, work on modeling the kind of behavior you want your child to imitate. Hopefully they’ll start to treat others with respect (like you), pray (like you), show kindness, gentleness, and self-control (like you). As we know, more is caught than taught. Model it, and don’t wait until your little one turns three to start.
5. Be Teammates, Not Opponents
I’m talking about you and your wife. You’re going to have arguments. You’re going to tick each other off. You know why? Because you’re tired and you’re human—you’re tired humans. And while you’re exhausted, your expectations for each other might get all out of whack. Just remember, you’re on the same team. This is new territory for each of you. Cut her some slack. Then a little more. Just make it a habit. I’m five years into this and I still get it wrong. Keep working at it.
6. Pray Daily
Pray for wisdom as a dad. Pray for God’s protection over your child. Pray for his or her future. Soon enough, your kid will be around other people more often than they’ll be around you. And when you finally release your kid into the world of daycare, preschool, and kindergarten, these prayers start getting real. Be a dad who believes in the power of prayer.
I’ll end with this—you’re about to learn a whole lot more about your Father’s love for you. When you stand next to the crib watching your baby sleep at night, I hope you’ll linger a little longer. Remember, the way you gaze adoringly at your child is exactly how your Father gazes adoringly at you.
It’s an amazing time in your life, so go all-in and never look back. You’ve got this, dad.