Notes To My Younger Dad Self
BY CRAIG STEPHENS
Photo © smashleytime/Twenty20
Jan 2, 2019
Dear Younger Dad Me,
You may not believe it, but 11 years have flown by since you first looked into your daughter’s eyes. Eyes that you made. Eyes that looked back at you with nothing but absolute newness. Seeming to ask, what light will you bring?
It’s all a small price to pay for the magic you are about to experience.
You think of this as, numb with fatigue, you carry your swaddled newborn down the steps of the underground parking across from St. Michael’s hospital. At level B2, a kind-faced older man holds the door, smiles and says, “That’s precious cargo.” You nod and smile back.
You find your car in the corner spot and place the bassinet on the garage floor as you search for the keys. Suddenly a car rounds the curve. You grab her and hold her close as it hits home: from here on in, this kid’s well-being is in your hands. It’s a terrifying thought.
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Just when you finally get the hang of one stage, a new one emerges.
Younger dad, I won’t say it’s easy. You will be tested physically, mentally and emotionally. You will find yourself putting the bib on your partner and pouring the baby a coffee. You will come down with every child incubated affliction in the book. You will lose count of the days you have gone without sleep. But it’s all a small price to pay for the magic you are about to experience.
You are now a dad, and it’s your time to shine.
For those first few months, you will be a stranger in a strange land. There will be night feedings, diaper changing, floor walking — as all the while you work to never miss a deadline or disappoint a client. Take it from me: this is one time work can wait. Know that you are exactly where you were meant to be, doing exactly what you were meant to do.
Remember your partner. You had the easy part. She has conceived, carried and delivered. Now more than ever, take good care of her. Be gentle with her postpartum moods, cater to her every need and remind her that she’s beautiful even though she might not feel that way.
Remember that a critical remark or thoughtless dad joke can sting, sometimes for life.
As the days pass, you will acquire all kinds of new skills, like stuffing an uncooperative kid into a snowsuit. Shivering for hours in a waterpark. Trying not to fall asleep during that 8:00 p.m. bedtime cuddle (you won’t be very good at this). Embrace it all and, as you lace up those skates for the first time in decades, appreciate the gift of a second chance at childhood.
The days will fly by. Just when you finally get the hang of one stage, a new one emerges. Somehow overnight, your toddler becomes a climber. Get ready to spend a lot of time spotting her on the monkey bars. Now she is learning to read. Look for books that appeal to you both because you’ll want to spend a lot of time reading them together.
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In the blink of an eye, princess dresses give way to tween fashion fads. She begins to take the shape of the young woman she will soon become. Remember that a critical remark or thoughtless dad joke can sting, sometimes for life. You are here to build confidence, not undermine it. Your best lessons are taught through the life you lead. When discipline is called for, be calm. Lift her spirits without raising your voice.
So, my younger dad self, get ready for the ride of your life. It’s your time to shine. It’s your time to pour into your child the most luminous light of all: the light you bring.
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