I have three children. One boy and two daughters. My oldest, Tristan, is 7-years-old. I often look at him and wonder what kind of father he will be. I haven’t been a father all that long, but during my time I’ve learned a few things that I want my son to know about being a father.
Your daughter will melt your heart and drive you crazy: No one will give you a warmer, fuzzier feeling than a daughter. She will frustrate you and make you smile at the same time. You will look in her eyes and feel both love and fear. You will think about her future and feel a need to protect her, and fear of what you might do if anyone ever harmed her.
Your son will eat his boogers, pee on the toilet seat, act like a weirdo, and a bunch of other things that you regretfully did at his age: Few people will embarrass you like your son. And it’s not that he is extraordinarily embarrassing for a young boy. It’s that he will remind you of a time when farts were the funniest thing ever and eating boogers was socially acceptable. He will make you think of a time when you just didn’t understand why taking a bath was important, and why clothing was necessary. It was an awkward time in your life that you hoped no one would ever know about, and now you have a little boy that looks a lot like you and acts like you once did. It will make you realize who you were, who you are, and how much work you have ahead of you to turn this little boy into someone respectable.
You will want to be strict with your children. Don’t. Talk to them instead: There will be a masculine part of you that will say, “disciplining your kids means not putting up with their crap.” The funny thing is, kids are a lot like bumper boats running at full speed with no rules, little control, and built to smash. What they need is guidance, not blind aggression. It’s okay to get mad. It’s okay to get frustrated. Kids are frustrating. But once the dust has settled, be sure to take a moment and explain your frustration in terms they will understand. It will help your children understand who you are as a person, your values, your rules, and why they are important.
The best thing you can do is accept your role as a father: When I first had you, I was really worried being a father meant I was old. I spent a lot of time fighting the fact that I was a young father, and trying to compensate by acting young and cool. I wasted a lot of time and energy and put a lot of strain on my marriage. Once you become a father, embrace it. Love it. Run with it. Don’t try to hide it. Wear it on your shoulder. Don’t worry that it makes you feel old; rather realize that children keep you young. Get excited about the challenges and success that come with being a father. Realize that your children need you, and that you need your children. It will make your life as a parent much easier, and keep you from looking at what you once were with regret, and give you the opportunity to look forward at your life as a father with anticipation.
Be a good example: Love your wife. Be there for her. Show your love for her. Get up in the night with your kids. Clean up around the house. Show the fact that you are part of a partnership. Wear it on your sleeve. Because you know what, your children are watching. They see what you do, and they learn from it. Setting a good example early on will help them be able to build a happy family, and grow up to be the caliber of father and husband you know they can be. This is not to say that you won’t make mistakes. You will. But if you spend time each day thinking about what a good father and husband looks like, and then try to live up to that image, you will make a huge impact on the lives of your children.
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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress, and an angry baby girl. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His work has been featured in Good Morning America, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, The Good Men Project, Fast Company, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.