A really good friend of mine just found out he’s going to be a dad. He’s a hell of a guy. One of the best. He sent me an email, asking for advice on being a great dad. I have a ways to go, before I can claim to be great, but I did offer him 3 pieces of advice. As I read the email I sent him, it dawned on me, other new dads might enjoy those rumblings.
- You’ll screw up often. Or at least you’ll feel like you’re screwing up often. It’s ok, we’ve all screwed up. I’m serious. You can’t beat yourself up for the stupid mistakes. There will be plenty of them. I remember not realizing the reason Cora was so “sick” was that she wasn’t. She was just teething. But, all the signs said, no she’s deathly ill. You and your wife will make mistakes and that’s fine. No book, no web site, no person has all the answers. There’s no playbook. Remember that. Remember it often. It’ll help you stop beating yourself up for making mistakes.
- Cherish the middle of the night feeding. Totally serious. I’d always volunteer for the 1am/2am feeding, so my wife could sleep. Man, it was awesome. I told my daughter stories, we listened to Abbey Road over and over, we watched reruns of WWF wrestling. We did all the things she’ll never remember, but I will. For a solid hour, it was me and her. Remember to love this special time you get.
- Keep a journal. Could be a blog. Could be paper. The format doesn’t matter. Use it to write down everything from the serious to the mundane stuff that happens. I kept one for John’s first year. It was a combination of Post-It notes with dates, emails to myself, blog posts and other random ways for me to remember things. It had everything from the first time he watched Jordan highlights with me, to the time I changed his diaper 8 times in an hour and a half…then just gave up. You’ll laugh about these things. It’ll also make for a great reference manual when you have your 2nd.
Being a dad is the best job, even when it’s a shitty day on the job. Remember that when you get a call from an irate client. The work stuff is important. You’ll feel a burning need to “provide” for your child. It’s natural. But, at 1am, when you’ve got a bottle in one hand and the other cradled under your baby’s head, that bad meeting will seem so irrelevant and inconsequential. There will be other jobs. There won’t be another Cora or John.
I’ve edited the contents of the email slightly and added a few more notes. I’m glad I get to call myself a dad. It beats any fancy title out there and the ROI is tied directly to the effort you put in.