I remember your birth like it was yesterday. A sweeter more beautiful child has never entered this world. Until now … because YOU are about to become a father. I’ve been watching you evolve over the years, and (news flash) you are going to be an amazing dad. You’re kind, gentle, loving, and emotionally mature — all the tools in the toolbox accounted for. Rest assured your daughter is going to absolutely adore you. And vice versa. So as we eagerly await her arrival, please forgive me for the unsolicited advice that follows (it’s what big sisters do!):
First things first: don’t feel weird if you’re not, like, instantly connected with this strange human. Baby will just be sleeping a lot for the first few months. It takes about nine months to bond. Don’t worry, personality starts kicking in and it’s like crack. You will be obsessed. Until then, just enjoy observing what y’all have created and keep her safe and close. Let her feel the comfort of your arms and learn your smell. She’s a just a tiny baby animal right now, but welcome to your new favorite person. You two will spend every holiday together. Her presence will be both intoxicating and grating. You will crave it and want to escape! Time to get to know each other.
Start talking to her on Day One. Doesn’t matter if you’re just narrating your FaceBook newsfeed. She doesn’t care, so go on and share your beloved articles on snakes, weight lifting, Alabama football, and all those odd obsessions just so she can hear your sweet voice and recognize her safe place. Baby will have a lot to say too, but her preferred method of communication will be crying. While you should totally try and find out what’s going on when this occurs, please know that sometimes babies just cry and it’s not anyone’s fault. That can work the nerves, though, so big hugs!
I look forward to watching you step up and own your new role. Claim your child with each diaper you change and each minute spent holding, feeding, and bathing her. That’s YOUR girl. You’re not ever “helping” your wife. You’re being a dad to your child. Don’t ever allow yourself to get sidelined or miss out. Opposite gender parents know what it’s like to be someone’s sun, moon, and stars. It’s heavenly. She will laugh at everything you say and stare at you wide-eyed for it. Earn it.
This baby girl will also watch how you treat your wife and note every kind word and act of service. Treat your wife the way you want your daughter to be treated by her partner because that’s happening one way or the other. Support your wife and defer to her when appropriate. Let your wife be respected and strong so your daughter will be able to roar when she needs to one day. If you want your daughter act fiercely and be treated kindly, show her how that looks with your own wife and she will never ever accept less.
Wield humor as a parenting weapon. Start early with your child. Joke with her constantly, even if she doesn’t get it yet. It’s gonna be relationship glue one day. Many a tantrum-filled bad afternoon in my household has been turned around by a well-timed poop joke. Go even further and show your girl the full range of emotions. Laugh with her, cry with her, be sad and silly — let her in.
Listen to your girl and treat her thoughts seriously. This world is pretty sexist and will cut her down to size early on. Show her Daddy thinks even her small stuff is big so she develops confidence this mean world can’t shake. But let her be the child and you be the adult. Keep your home life calm, and don’t let anyone bring drama around your child. She will have her whole life for that mess.
Let her freak flag fly. Whatever she’s into, go with it. Legos? That happened with your nephews, and your sister, the girly girl, is now practically a master builder. Moreover, I speak fluent Power Ranger and Angry Bird. Immerse yourself in her interests. Just follow her lead and let her do alllll the things — puddle stomping, princess dressing, whatever. Just wait, she’s gonna be complicated. It will surprise and delight you.
While you will enjoy your time with this girl and never regret a single moment in her presence, it is ok to take breaks as needed. Even if it’s just hiding out in the bathroom, playing Candy Crush on your phone. Parenting requires a ridiculous amount of patience. You have to watch your words to her because they will become her inner monologue. Try to keep those words warm and accepting. Despite your best efforts, you will sometimes lose your temper and make her cry. It happens, and that’s fine. Kids are resilient. Forgive yourself quickly and move on. You will probably even ask yourself if you’re a good parent at times, and the fact that you will care enough to question yourself means that you probably are. Just keep trying.
Finally, and most importantly, have fun. My best memories with our father involve taking a walk or long drive down a country road, just the two of us. I laugh about the times he accidentally spilled coffee on my dress or shut the truck door on my tiny hand. Children are quite forgiving. Takes some of the pressure off, doesn’t it?!
So, buckle up! Here comes dad-hood. ☺
Anyone else have unsolicited advice for new fathers?