Five years of dadding has taught me at least two things: my life has totally changed for the better, and it’s going to change a whole lot more. I’m not going to pretend I’m a parenting expert and tell people how to raise their kids, but if you’re just getting into this thing, here’s what I think I’ve learned so far.
None of this is easy. As a parent, you’re always Unpleasant-Decision-Maker-in-
Be patient. More than you ever thought you could be. Patience is pretty much the only insanity prevention tool you have.
Get used to touching gross stuff. The stuff you will have to touch is only going to get more gross. Your kid is going to poop on your lawn, in the bath, in their car seat. They’re going to wake up in the middle of the night, frightened and pooping. Poop isn’t the worst thing you’re going to have to touch.
Learn sleight of hand. You don’t have to be Ricky Jay or anything, but knowing how to buy yourself a second with distraction can save minutes of misery and that’s really amazing.
Take all the time you can. Ten minutes for the next train here, a well-spent sick day there, an extra chapter at bedtime. It all adds up and you never get it back.
Respect the hell out of your kid. If they cry uncle, stop. Look at them when they’re talking. Don’t talk down to them. Don’t mock their fears. You’re their strongest model for behavior.
Nurture adventurousness. Lift them places they can’t climb down from, watch them dance, take a new way home, sing even if you can’t carry a tune.
Outfit yourself with small essentials. Ponytail bands and nail clippers fit well next to spare quarters in change pockets.
Let your kid make decisions. What game to play, where to go, what to eat, what to wear. One day you will find yourself playing rocket ponies on the train into the city and one day you will pack an extra sweater on the sly when they swear up and down short sleeves are fine for the snow storm store run. It’ll pay off.
Listen. Listen past words. You understand subtleties that your child does not. Your child speaks with subtleties that differ from yours. She’ll tell you she never liked that food and you know damn well that isn’t true because it was her best ever favorite yesterday. She’ll tell you your haircut is weird and she’ll say she doesn’t want to talk to you ever again. Listen with patience and no love is lost.
One day you’re going to be out solo with your kids and some well meaning mom is going to tell you that napkins are a great way to keep your kid clean when they’re eating. You’ll be sitting there with a baggie of wet wipes in your back pocket, letting your kid eat her ice cream the way she wants (cone bottom first, yolo), and they’ll look you in the eyes and give you this great advice and you’ll just say thanks, yeah. It will make you scream inside because lol dads are so dumb but the important thing is that your kid is enjoying this thing and none of the grown ups around are fucking it up, right? The sun will set and you’ll walk back home and your daughter will skip a few steps ahead of you and your son will close his eyes and rub his face into the side of your neck and you know he’ll be asleep in half an hour’s time. Your daughter will wait at the crosswalk and take your hand and you’ll take the back way to look for some neighborhood cats that you haven’t run into for a while. On the way back she’ll tell you some words in her secret language that’s still a mystery to you and a parked pick-up will catch your son’s attention. When you get home, the windows will all be open and the lights will all be on and someone will find a book or a puzzle or a toy and your whole family will have fun with it until everyone, one by one, starts to get tired and you all fall asleep looking forward to what’s next.
Tell them you love them. Every damn day.
Today’s special Father’s Day post was written by Tedd – husband to Mom Meet Mom cofounder Christa and proud papa to P. and Bo. We <3 you, Tedd!