4 Reasons I’m A Thankful Dad

8443968364_dced4ae675_o

On the day my first child was born, a dad was also born. That was me. And it was a bit of a surprise. Sure, as the pregnancy moves along and you read the books, attend the classes, and baby-proof the house, you think, “Hey, I’m going to be a dad. That’s cool.”

But then, right in that moment when you see your child for the first time, you can’t help but realize that your life just took a radically different path upon which you are going to see and experience things that you may never have known if not for becoming a dad.

To borrow a bit of philosophy from Doctor Who, a TV show I only started watching because of my kids, the moment you become a dad is a Fixed Point in Time, an event that shapes history to such an extent that everything that follows must change. On that day you first became a father, you didn’t just bring a life into the world, but you also drastically reshaped your own into something unrecognizable from what it would have been.

Since my own birth as a dad, I look back on all the changes that followed and realize how truly blessed and thankful I am to have taken this path, and to have had the experiences, both positive and negative, with my kids along the way. I don’t think much about what my life would’ve been like if I hadn’t become a dad, but I’m confident it would have been lacking much of what makes me happy today.

Here are four reasons I’m thankful for becoming a dad.

1. Child’s Play

Having kids gives you a free pass to jump into a ball pit, watch Disney movies in the middle of the day, climb all over the playground, cannonball into the pool, build Lego cities, and basically do all the fun things you used to do when you were a kid. It’s called “being a dad,” and is completely in line with the duties of fatherhood. I would have a hard time getting away with most those activities if I didn’t have children. Most people frown upon childless men frolicking at the park. But if you’re a dad, you can play all day.

File_000 (8)

Oh sure, you might point to that verse in Corinthians, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” Me? I’d rather quote Geoffrey the Giraffe, “I don’t wanna grow up, I’m a Toys R Us kid…”

Seriously, though, it’s one of the biggest perks of becoming a dad, to have fun with your kids on their level. Play is so important to children. I would suggest that it’s also important to adults, and we far too often forget that. I’m thankful I’ve had a good reason to be silly, creative, active, and spontaneous with my kids.

2. Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

I’m thankful for the many adventures I’ve had with my kids as we’ve focused on family travel over the years. We’ve been to many places, but there’s one in particular that I would have a hard time explaining if not for the phrase, “We’re taking the kids…” Yes, I love Disneyland. It’s one of my happy places. But I’m not sure I’d feel quite as comfortable there without children in tow, especially when meeting Winnie the Pooh or riding Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train. Yes, I like riding through the giant watermelon, what of it?!

Even when we go to more “grown up” places, I’ve enjoyed organizing the itinerary around things for the kids. On a family trip to London, we spent time at the Princess Diana Memorial Playground, toured Harry Potter sites, and saw Shrek the Musical in the West End. None of those places would’ve interested me if not for being a dad. Other family trips, to the Washington Coast, Yellowstone, and Hawaii, were all planned around the kids. I’m not even sure what adults do in those places, and I don’t really care.

Many years ago, we took my then 3-year-old son on a road trip to the small Idaho town of Emmett to see and ride Thomas the Tank Engine, He was a big fan at the time. So was I. My childless friends felt sorry for me for having to endure the giant blue train and the strange man in the top hat. All I could think was, “Trains are cool. Thomas is cool. This is fun.” The huge smile on my son’s face was awesome, but the smile on mine was kind of nice, and for experiences like that I am truly thankful.

File_003

3. Energy is Contagious

It didn’t take long after becoming a dad for me to learn that kids contain almost endless amounts of energy. And it definitely is contagious. I’ve heard parents say that they feel drained of energy by their kids. Yes, I’ve had those moments, but for the most part it’s been the other way around. Through the years, my kids have kept me young, perked me up, given me new life, and focused my thoughts. Basically, they’ve been like the best cup of coffee you could imagine.

Before becoming a dad, I didn’t lack energy. I just didn’t always have a reason to use it. I could sit down and stay down for hours. No kids to feed, chase, chauffeur, or play with. I’m thankful for every moment where lethargy was interrupted and my pilot light was reignited by one of my kids’ needs. Those moments have always transitioned into renewed spirit and momentum toward personal goals and activities.

4. Think About It

I can’t imagine what interests I would have if I’d never had kids. Much of what I enjoy thinking about and doing these days stems from my 19 years as a dad. My current interest in live theatre has grown from my daughter becoming involved with local community theatre. Over the years, we had attended a musical or play now and again, but I never personally appreciated the performances until I saw how much time and effort went into the shows that my daughter was involved in. She is also responsible for bringing much of my music collection up to modern times, with her love of bands like Twenty One Pilots, Panic At The Disco, and Mountain Goats, not to mention the Hamilton soundtrack, helping introduce me to new sounds. Who knew that any good music came out after 1998?

My son’s interest in Scouting led me to rekindle my own memories and experiences from way back when. I became involved with his troop as a leader, nearly three decades after putting away my Eagle Award. Without my son, I would never have remembered how much fun it can be to camp, build fires, cook in a Dutch oven, and even tie knots. It became a big part of my thoughts for over 5 years as my son worked toward his own Eagle and I helped other boys advance to their goals.

File_000 (7)

Mostly, though, becoming a dad has completely changed how I think about the plight of children in this world. I’m not sure how much I ever thought about how kids are raised before having one of my own. Now, every news story, discussion, and issue surrounding children gets my immediate attention. I think about small things like after school programs, park improvements, and movie ratings. And, thanks to my daughter’s involvement with a theatrical education group called Girl, Awake, I pay attention to big issues like childhood poverty, neglect, and violence.

That one moment when my first child was born, everything changed for me. Every single thing. Being born as a dad reshaped my life in ways I never could’ve imagined. And I find myself now, looking back, thankful for every one of them. On this Father’s Day, I hope you are thankful for how your life has changed.

I’m also thankful to Pampers for allowing me to reflect on the incredible feeling that fatherhood has brought to my life. For more than 50 years, moms and dads have trusted Pampers to care for their babies’ happy and healthy development. Visit pampers.com to learn more about their products, join the Pampers Rewards program, and find ideas and information to help your baby get the most out of love, sleep, and play.

Watch this cool new #ThanksBaby video from Pampers that captures the amazing relationship that is created between a dad and his baby when a child is born and the beautiful journey of fatherhood begins.

Disclosure: I have partnered with Life of Dad and Pampers for this promotion.

Remote Out Of Control

This is how my family watches movies together. Sitting down for a viewing of the 1964 Disney movie The Three Lives of Thomasina…

Me (pausing DVD): “Hey, look, it’s the girl from Mary Poppins!”

Movie resumes.

Me (pausing DVD): “Cool. Her father is Patrick MacGoohan from The Prisoner.”

Movie resumes.

Me (pausing DVD): “Kids, see that little boy? He played the girl’s brother in Mary Poppins.”

Movie resumes.

Me (pausing DVD): “Whoa. You know who that is? The vet’s assistant? That’s the actor who played Paul’s grandfather in A Hard Day’s Night! He looks so different.”

Movie resumes.

Me (pausing DVD): “What? I don’t believe it. Honey, do you recognize her? C’mon, we just watched the last season of her TV show. Hello? Monarch of the Glen? That’s Molly McDonald, only 40 years younger.”

Movie resumes.

Me (pausing DVD): “Did you know that the girl playing Mary is the daughter of…”

Everyone Else: “Somebody take the remote away from Dad!!!”

Why Am I So Tired?

File_000

“Why am I so tired?”

That’s a question I hear a lot. From friends, family, strangers. But mostly from myself.

It’s a rhetorical question, of course, because I know why I’m tired.

It’s called being a parent.

I remember a time when I never thought about sleep. When I could stay up until 1 or 2 in the morning, then get up at 6am and head to work with a focused mind and enough energy to get me through my day.

Then came children. And worries. Lots of them. And they only multiply over the years (the worries, but sometimes the kids too).

Now that my kids are teens, one of my biggest worries is whether they get enough sleep, as sleep deprivation is a huge danger to the developing brain of a teenager. Each morning I ask them if they slept well, and each night I remind them to go to bed early, turn off phones, and give their brains a chance to recharge.

I’m like the airline passenger who ignores the flight attendant’s instructions to “put your oxygen mask on first before helping others.”

I keep forgetting to worry about my own sleep. And yet, that question persists.

“Why am I so tired?”

You can imagine how happy I was when Beautyrest sent me their Sleeptracker monitor to help me collect data about my sleeping habits, so that I can make some positive changes to my daily routine in the hopes of improving my role as a parent.

It’s really difficult to be good at anything when you’re sleep deprived. Even though my teens don’t need as much of my attention as when they were younger, one of them still relies on me for driving her to the myriad of activities she’s involved with seemingly every single day of the week.

Driving while tired is a recipe for disaster, so I was quick to set up the Beautyrest Sleeptracker monitor on my bed. The installation was simple. You place the sensor between your mattress and box frame and it magically monitors your movements, breathing, and heart rate through the night. The product actually comes with two sensors, one for each side of the bed if you share it with a partner. The sensors connect to a small processor that can sit on the floor, and then each night’s data is streamed to a smartphone app that you can download for free.

That’s not magic. Just amazing science and technology to improve your life.

BR17_ST_Componants_with_Box_03-A-e1492184457982

It’s an extremely well-designed product, much better than the invasive wearable sleep monitors that I’ve seen in the past. The Beautyrest Sleeptracker monitor measures things like how long it takes to fall asleep, the various sleep cycles, body movement, and heart rate. It then makes suggestions on simple changes you can make to your routine to feel better rested.

The key, really, is to understand how you are sleeping, so rather than ask, “Why am I so tired?” you can instead ask, “What am I going to do about it?”

After only a week of using the Beautyrest Sleeptracker monitor, I was already feeling more refreshed because of the personalized coaching that the Sleeptracker app offers each day based around my sleep habits.

Something as simple as letting the product change your wakeup time by 15 minutes through the Smart Alarm feature can make a world of difference in how you feel for the rest of the day. I’m hopeful that continuing to monitor my sleep, and following through on making changes, will give me the energy and focus I need for on my parenting journey. #ISleepTo be a better dad.

Learn more about the Beautyrest Sleeptracker monitor on their website. Or follow them on Facebook. Don’t wait to get it for yourself, so you can stop asking that question, “Why am I so tired?” Even with everything a parent needs to worry about, there’s no reason you should be losing sleep.

I have partnered with Life of Dad and Beautyrest for this campaign, but my opinions are my own.

BeautyrestSleeptrackerLogo

Visiting Yellowstone with Kids

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone is the crown jewel of our National Park System. It was the first of its kind, and remains the most unique and diverse wilderness experience that you will find in this country.

It’s also an extremely cool place for kids.

But with almost 3500 square miles of lakes, geysers, canyons, and hot springs, there’s too much to see in one short stay. So, after four visits to Yellowstone, and consultation with my own children, I have compiled the following list of park sights and activities that will make your family trip an especially memorable one.

Ten Cool Things For Kids (and Grown-Ups) in Yellowstone National Park:

1. Dragon’s Mouth Spring

Dragon's Mouth Spring

How can you resist telling your kids that a dragon lives in a cave near a mud volcano? It doesn’t take much imagination to think that this cavern, with its growls and thumps, and spitting steam, might just hold a real dragon.

2. Fishing Cone

Yellowstone Fishing Cone

It’s probably just a tall tale, but the story goes that the early trappers and explorers would catch fish in Yellowstone Lake, swing them directly into the Fishing Cone geyser just off shore, and have a meal of boiled fish in just minutes. “Hook and cook,” they called it. Like the dragon cave, another cool sight that will fire up the imagination.

3. Old Faithful Inn

Old Faithful Inn lobby as seen from Bat's Alley; Jim Peaco; October 2003

What kid won’t love the largest log hotel in the world? Just walk inside the 100-year-old Inn’s lobby, with its four stories of lodgepole pine balconies and 500-ton stone fireplace, and your kids might just want to sit for awhile. Preferably in one of the many handmade wood rocking chairs. Better yet, stay in one of the Inn’s rooms. Prices are reasonable, and the food in the dining room is first-class.
Continue reading

When Bad Things Happen

Parents play so many roles, but one of the most important is that of protector.

I still remember the feeling that came over me when we brought our first child home. Driving away from the hospital, I was on full alert, ready to defend my newborn son with every ounce of my being. I had our car surrounded with a psychic force field the seven miles it took to reach the safety of our house.

Those early years were easy. My job as protector was mostly physical — making sure the house was baby proofed, or that my son didn’t get carried away by eagles. The perceived dangers were clear.

But as he got older and started learning about the world around him, suddenly things got complicated.

When he was three years old an airplane flew into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. My wife and I couldn’t help but watch TV coverage for days, but we didn’t encourage my son to absorb any of it. “Go play,” we’d tell him. I felt he just wasn’t old enough to think about this kind of evil.

You don’t sit a 3-year-old down and teach him about things like terrorism, rape, torture, and disease.

Eventually, though, they have to start understanding the harsh realities of life.

One of the saddest things about your children growing up is when they start to figure out that the world isn’t a blissful paradise with smiling people living on candy mountains.

I just want these feelings to come slowly. Step by gradual step.

When my son was nine, he took a big leap in his grasp of how cruel this world can be sometimes.

We were learning about Anne Frank, and how her family hid from the Nazis during the German occupation of the Netherlands. We read about the years of isolation, and then the betrayal and arrest of everyone in the hiding place.

At first, my son was mad that somebody had ratted them out. But then he asked me, “So what happened to Anne?”

I answered, “She was sent to a concentration camp.”

“And?”

“And, she died there.”

He looked up at me suddenly, and I could see it in his eyes, this sort of angry bewilderment. It was like he was thinking, “What the hell is wrong with us that we do these things to each other?!”

He thought about it for a minute, and then the understanding dawned. Yes, this is, was, and always will be a cruel world. Bad things happen sometimes.

I think he really truly gets that now.

As his protector through the years, I’ve slowly guided him toward these moments of wisdom. Because of that, I think he’ll be better able to process the information and make good choices for himself.

But at the same time, I’ve given both my kids the chance to grow up with a foundation of hope and love, to know that the world is, first and foremost, a beautiful place with countless reasons to be happy and optimistic.

Even in our worst moments, I trust they will never forget that.

The King of Soup Lives in Idaho

File_000 (2)

Here in Idaho, to quote George Harrison, it’s been a long cold lonely winter. An above average amount of snow and ice has my family feeling the cabin fever. We want to get out of the house, and yet it’s not always so easy, so we tend to want to stay in. It’s a very real winter paradox.

One thing we miss about being snowed in for so many months is a fun family night out at one of our favorite local steakhouses. That cozy comfort food always tastes great on these dark winter days. I’ve always struggled to recreate that atmosphere at home, to serve up a juicy steak, loaded baked potato, grilled vegetables, and fresh tasty soup laid out on a table decorated with fancy cloth napkins, flickering candles, and the good silverware.

I’m not alone in this. A recent survey showed that an overwhelming 92% of parents wish it were easier for them to recreate the steakhouse experience in the comfort of their own home, and at a dramatically reduced cost. So, you can imagine how happy I was to be contacted by my very own state’s premier provider of potato products, Idahoan® Foods, to talk about their brand new line of Premium Steakhouse® Potato Soups.

File_003

These restaurant-quality soups are made with real Idaho® red potatoes and red potato skins. Believe me, we here in Idaho take our potatoes quite seriously, so I checked. We won’t stand for any of those puny tubers from Washington or Wisconsin. Our Famous Idaho Potatoes are considered royalty, so you can consider any soup made from them as the #KingofSoup.

After a successful steakhouse dinner with these premium soups from Idahoan® Foods, I can rightfully declare that they are, in fact, the #KingofSoup. My kids have even started calling me the #KingofSoup. But only because I told them they had to, or they wouldn’t get more soup.

File_000 (2)

There are four flavors: Creamy Potato, Loaded Potato, Cheddar Broccoli, and Three Cheese Chipotle. My kids love them all. These soups are so easy to make. You simply add water to the package, heat it up on the stove, and within five minutes you’re serving a delicious, nutritious soup to your grateful family. Add steak, veggies, bread, and those fancy napkins, and you’ve transformed your dining room into an expensive steakhouse.

File_000 (3)

So, let the snow pile up while we sit safely inside sipping our potato soup. I can be the #KingofSoup until spring at least. After that, I’ll still serve my kids Idahoan® Foods Premium Steakhouse® Potato Soups, but they’ll probably be back to calling me “Dad” by then.

Check out all of the premium product offerings from Idahoan® Foods’ premium products at Idahoan.com and follow @IdahoanFoods on social media.

Idaho Dad has been compensated for this review/post, and all opinions are entirely mine. It’s really good soup, so go get some!

5 Easy Hikes for Kids in Maui

kaanapali-beach1

Hawaii is, without a doubt, an expensive place to take your family. Most popular activities will hit your wallet hard, so it’s good to have a few freebies lined up on your itinerary. Taking a hike is almost always going to cost you absolutely nothing, and it might just be the most memorable thing you do during your trip.

Picking the right trails to explore is key to an enjoyable experience. Whether you have toddlers or teenagers, you will want to limit your hiking to half a day or less to avoid tantrums and breakdowns (anything over 5 miles is probably too much). On our recent family vacation to Maui, we took five easy, kid-friendly hikes that gave us a taste of the islands without making anyone feel too tired. Consider one of these hikes if you plan a vacation to Maui.

1. Kapalua Coastal Trail
This is a 2-mile walk from Kapalua Beach to D.T. Fleming Beach. The highlight here, besides the stunning beaches and wild rocky coastline, is the Dragon’s Teeth area, a unique lava formation that juts out into the water and really does resemble a giant set of dragon’s teeth. Kids could spend an hour alone at this one spot, scrambling over the rocks, watching for sea turtles in the water below, and letting their imaginations run wild. The trail is accessible from several places, but we recommend parking near the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, exploring the Dragon’s Teeth, then heading west toward Kapalua Beach.

2. Iao Valley State Park
This lush, tropical area is home to the famous Iao Needle and was the site of an important battle during King Kamehameha’s unification of the island in the late 18th century. The history and natural beauty make it a great place to hike and learn. Several short trails are available, including a paved path to an outlook, as well as a garden trail that leads you through thick vegetation. It’s nothing more than half a mile. There are picnic tables and restrooms in the park, so take your time and admire the scenery.

3. Twin Falls
These are the first waterfalls you’ll see on the famed Road To Hana, in Ho’olawa Valley on the north shore of the island. Bring your swimsuits and water shoes, because you and the kids will want to take a little dip in the pools at the base of each falls. The first is a 10-minute walk, and the second is another 15 minutes beyond. It’s a little slippery in places, but worth the effort. There are porta potties and a snack stand back at the parking area.

4. Pipiwai Trail
This is the most challenging hike on my list. At 4 miles, it’s also the longest. The reason I found it so challenging is not the trail itself, but the fact that you must drive the entire Road To Hana to get to it. If you can manage that drive, the trail is worth the effort. The first 2 miles are uphill, but kids will love the surprises they find along the way. Highlights include a massive banyan tree, Pipiwai stream, Makahiku Falls, several wooden bridges, a breathtaking bamboo forest and, at the end of the trail, the 400-foot Waimoku Falls. There is so much to see along the trail, you barely even notice you’re hiking. The way back to the parking lot is just as stunning, and all downhill. If your kids can manage a longer hike, this is the one they’ll remember the most.

5. Ka’anapali Beach
This particular hike isn’t really a trail, but it might just be our favorite non-trail trail in Maui. Ka’anapali Beach has been called one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and after visiting it, we know why. The entire beach is about 3 miles long, but we recommend walking the lower mile from the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa north to Black Rock at the Sheraton Maui Resort and Spa. Park your car at the Hyatt, stroll out to the beach, take your shoes off, and leisurely walk north along the powder-like sand. Just this one mile might take you several hours, because the kids will find so much to see and do along the way. It’s a great place to watch surfers, swimmers, boats, parasailers, snorkelers, and even the occasional drone buzzing through the air. Off in the distance, you can see the islands of Lanai and Moloka’i. If you’re there in early spring, it’s a prime spot to view humpback whales. Once you reach the Black Rock area, you can rinse the sand off your feet, put your shoes back on, and walk back on the boardwalk, where you can gawk at the resort and condo complexes. Stop in at Whaler’s Village for a bite to eat, or some shopping. Ka’anapali Beach is, by far, the most beautiful beach my family has ever had the pleasure to walk on.

Walking for a New Camp

File_000 (2)

In just a few weeks, I will begin walking the 84-mile Hadrian’s Wall Path in Northern England, along with 11 other dads. We are raising money to open a new Camp Kesem chapter at the University of Maryland in honor of our friend Oren Miller, who passed away last year. Camp Kesem is a free summer camp for kids that have been impacted by a parent’s cancer.

At Kesem, each child is given a special name tag during their stay. I have seven of these blank tags to bring with me on our week-long hike. For each day of the hike, I would like to wear the name of someone you know who has battled cancer or is currently fighting cancer.

In order for me to wear the name, donate at least $100 through our dads4kesem.org fundraising site. Make sure you list in the comments the name you want me to wear, or send a message to me directly. I will take pictures and video during the hike while wearing the name tag, and will honor your loved one’s memory all that day.

Thanks for any donation you can make. It will be greatly appreciated by the kids who get to spend a week at Camp Kesem.

Superhero Days

Being a dad is tough work. There are down days and bland days. Every now and then, however, you get to have superhero days.

A superhero day starts off like any other, but then a situation or opportunity arises where you have to call upon every dad skill you know, and some you didn’t even know you possess.

You’ve been there. Maybe you crawled up a play place slide to rescue your stuck toddler, or you drove to seven different stores to get materials for a school project due the next day, or you made pancakes for dinner.

Superhero days are actually kind of mundane to most folks. To your kids, however, there’s nothing more amazing than a father who is willing to step up to do the things that need doing.

And what a great reminder of dads as superheroes than the new Marvel Collection from Cross Pens.

Cross_CollectionLanding_815x335_en_Tech2_Marvel_v5

These top quality pens feature the most prominent icons in the Marvel Universe: Captain America, Iron Man, and Spider-Man. They’re perfect for those days when your to-do list is extra long. Seeing this cool pen in my hand as I cross chores off my list is a great reminder that I have it within me to be a superhero to my kids. Check them out here.

It doesn’t take much to be a superhero dad. Be present, be patient, and do what needs to be done. Your kids will look at you like you’re Captain America.

Thanks to Cross Pens for partnering with me for this post.

5 Surprising Changes That Come With Fatherhood

8444518631_e3cce20be2_o

Becoming a new father changes you in ways that you could never imagine. When a baby is born, a dad is born. I underwent the transformation from dude to dad almost 18 years ago, and most of the changes have settled in, while a few still seem strange and new.

But change is a good thing and, when it comes to fatherhood, change is absolutely necessary. Just don’t be too surprised when you feel them coming on. It might happen the first time you hold your new baby, or when someone refers to you as “daddy,” or in the middle of a particularly messy diaper cleanup.

Just to help you out, here are five surprising ways that fatherhood has changed me.

1. Most bodily fluids no longer bother me. It might not have been during the first diaper change, but it certainly happened soon after. Babies poop a lot, and you just have to deal with it. Your brain quickly adapts to the mess by downgrading its perceived toxicity. What you once saw as a biohazard requiring a Level 4 containment system, you now view as nothing worse than rancid chocolate pudding.

Babies also throw up a lot, usually on your shoulder, hair, or face. Again, your brain takes over to calm you with the thought that the vomit isn’t too far removed from being food in a dish or breast. And, of course, babies are mucus-producing machines. You will be wiping your child’s nose for the next decade. Get used to it.

Blood? No, you never get used to seeing blood come out of your kid.

2. I’ve lost all control of my emotions. That’s right, once you become a father you are no longer in charge of being happy, sad, angry, confused, scared, and all the other myriad of emotions that you haven’t even discovered yet. Who’s in charge? Mostly your child. They will push your buttons in weird and wonderful ways. You will never see it coming, and you’ll have no idea how to make it stop. They will drag you through the day like a stuffed animal on a leash, completely in control of your various feels. One minute making you cry with pride, the next making you cry with fear. Oh, you’ll also laugh hysterically, bristle with anger, and pull out your hair in frustration, sometimes all in a manner of minutes. Your new baby is in charge of you now, and they won’t even realize it until their teenage years.

3. I know things I never thought I wanted to know. A huge part of fatherhood is introducing new interests and experiences to your kids. And I don’t mean wine tasting or skydiving, although those can certainly come later, much later, on. From day one of being a new dad, you want what’s best for your child. Suddenly, you have to know the nutritional value of baby food, how to change a diaper, and the effects of sleep deprivation. As they get older, you learn about children’s literature, kindie music, and why some poor animated kid named Caillou is so reviled. Before too long, you’re learning the difference between a tenor saxophone and an alto saxophone, and which type of earplugs works best for you. Without my kids, I might never know Lin-Manuel Miranda, Neil deGrasse Tyson, or Gerard Way, all of whom I follow with great interest now. My kids have given me an education greater and more varied than any college degree.

4. I’m broke. I knew children were expensive, I just never realized how much. At first there are all those necessary baby gadgets, like a stroller, crib, and high chair, but then you start filling your home with toys, stuffed animals, and Dr. Seuss books. Me, I got hooked on kids’ books, bringing them home new, used, and in between. My attitude was that books were an excellent investment for a child’s education, which they are, but a costly investment nonetheless. And then you have to feed and clothe your kids. And take them to the zoo. And out for ice cream. And to Disneyland. It never ends, and it’s never as cheap as you budget. So, in the end, despite the best possible financial planning, you’ll be broke.

5. I’ve become a neat freak. Everything must be in its place. That’s the “neat” part. But things are never in their place. That’s the “freak” part. Basically, fatherhood has brought out the part of me that needs order. I want my kids to be safe, free from worry and illness, and focused on personal growth. How can any of that happen in a messy house? I see dishes piled up in the kitchen and think, “There’s an incubator for disease.” I see toys strewn across the living room floor and think, “There’s a tripping hazard.” I find books stuffed onto a shelf upside down and turned around and think, “There’s a waste of knowledge.” The struggle against chaos began even before my first child was born, as I surveyed our home for dangers and baby-proofed everything I could find. Over the years, my pseudo-OCD has only grown worse. And it’s a losing battle, one in which I refuse to wave the white flag.

There are so many other ways in which fatherhood has changed me. Some were expected, some were not. All of them are a part of me now, for better or worse. A man who is not changed by becoming a dad is not much of a man. Diapers are not the only thing that need changing when a new baby comes into your life.

I’d like to thank Pampers for giving me reason to celebrate these changes, and the incredible feeling that goes along with being a dad. Fatherhood is the biggest, and best, role a man will ever take on in his life, and it’s important to recognize that. Whatever changes may come your way with becoming a dad, embrace them. You’re helping your baby have a better, more fulfilling life.

Disclosure: I have partnered with Life of Dad and Pampers for this promotion.