4 Reasons I’m A Thankful Dad

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

5 Surprising Changes That Come With Fatherhood

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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.

Ben Stein’s 10 Commandments of Fatherhood

In his 1998 book Tommy and Me, Ben Stein chronicles his feelings of frustration and joy of being a father. It’s a short book, at 152 pages, and contains many insights into parenting that made me stop and think. I especially enjoyed his concluding chapter. Here it is (in abridged form):

Ben Stein’s Ten Commandments of Fatherhood:

1. Time is of the essence. Spend large amounts of time with your child. Kids don’t want “quality time”… They want you to be there all the time.

2. Share your strength with your child. Be an ally, not an adversary. Share with him stories of your own fears, failings, and anxieties and how you overcame them.

3. Do not expect your child to make up for your own losses when you were a child. Let your kids pursue their own hopes and dreams.

4. Look for the good in your child and praise it. Children are nurtured by praise as plants are nurtured by water. Deny it to them at their peril and yours. Children who are told that they can succeed in fact usually do succeed.

5. Do not allow your children to be rude. Being polite is a basic foundation of human interaction, and kids will not succeed in life if they’re surly and disrespectful.

6. Patience is indispensable. Children’s behavioral flaws cannot be corrected by flipping a switch. It takes a long time and a lot of patience to teach positive behaviors. If you are an impatient, demanding, short-fused dad, you will get that irritable, demanding kind of kid.

7. Teach your child and let him teach you. Children will tell you what they want and need. Dads get into trouble when they do not listen to their kids and dismiss their feelings as not important. Also, your child should get the benefit of your wisdom and experience about life, so tell him what you know about the world around you. Learn from your children and let them learn from you.

8. Value your child for what he is, not for what you think he should be. I want my son to know that whatever he becomes in the future, he is prized just for being my son, right now.

9. Raising a child is a job for Mom and Dad. Children with absent fathers are wounded for the balance of their lives. Dad should and must be in there pitching along with Mom, helping out as an equal partner in the tough job of raising children. The true heroes of our generation are at home with their kids.

10. Being a Daddy is priority number one. When you decide that your kids come before your sales quota or your poker-playing schedule or your overtime to make partner, then you will find that all of the other pieces of Daddyhood fall into place – teaching and learning, patience, looking for the good and praising it. When you put your kids first, you are far less alone in this world. What’s more vital, so are they.