This is the beginning of a series where I will be writing about being a dad. Dad is on the rise again. We are becoming more engaged, more passionate and we’re raising our kids like no generation has ever done before. A highly important topic for the well being of our communities is parenting and how to do it. This is a series about Dad… and he is back.
So you are going to be a dad. All that time as a child you may have looked at your parents as a super being, the all knowing and all reaching. Now, all at once, you have to be that person. You may have thought there would be a glorious moment that would turn you into that hero you knew. Except now, you are here and realizing that you still feel like you always have… only now you have a child that is going to start looking at you like you did your parents. You might feel lost, overwhelmed, under-prepared or jealous of the dads on YouTube who have better reflexes than you (those reflexes are earned through failure and stress… you will have the gift soon enough). You are still young in your journey, but you won’t always feel that way. Your quest has started, so become that hero you always thought your dad was.
Some of us always wanted to be dads and yet some of us never thought we would see the day. For some reason or another, we all find ourselves together in this unique endeavor. You are dad. No one else can have that title for your child and no one else can be an expert like you. There are many things in this world for which we are replaceable, but being dad is not one of them. There isn’t a person in the world that can be a better expert on your child than you… except maybe mom. Are we excited yet? Are we stoked to learn and talk about what makes dads unique in parenting? Good, because you have just been served the first layer of a turd sandwich. Here is your turd; 4 out of 10 kids are going to go to bed tonight without a father present. Thats 40% of the kids out there right now without a vital component to their development. To make it worse, you have all seen the dads that scream at their kids in the grocery store, the dads on their cell phones talking business when their kid makes their first goal or even the dads who fall as low as to engage in physical abuse (the stuff you see in public, let alone what happens at home). These dads build the public perception of dads as much as the good ones do. Here is the part that hurts, I would guess that most of these dads didn’t start that way. It may have been gradual, or it may have built quickly, but they started as new dads just like you. We all have visions of how great a dad we are going to be but it’s important to remember that all of the terrible dads came from somewhere. If the statistic holds, a portion of everyone who is reading this blog right now will not be in the same home with their child. One or more of you will be that dad who yells at their kid in the grocery store. So you are at a crossroads and I think you would all agree on which path you would rather follow. Make that choice today, make that choice tomorrow and make that choice every day after that. Continue to evaluate where you are as a dad and see if it aligns with where you wanted to be when you first started the journey.
Let’s get back on track, no one wants to hear the ugly side of things, but it can be immensely helpful to see the pitfalls that others are already falling into because it can help us steer clear. So you have made the choice to be engaged and to be that hero… now what? We here it again and again, “mom knows best”, “no one can do it like mom”, “nothing can replace mom” , and while I agree with statements like these (mom really does have entirely unique physical and emotional aspects that are irreplaceable), it feels as if it’s derogatory to dad’s inability to do these things, which is absolutely false. In that same light, dad has characteristics to his parenting style that only he can do and mom can not. This isn’t mom vs dad, in fact its the opposite. It can be easy to focus on who does it better, when we should be looking at how these two vastly different styles can be used together as a team to create something better than each individual can provide.
I wasn’t always this passionate about being a dad or teaching others to follow suit. I have been teaching the Boot Camp for New Dad’s class at Flagstaff Medical Center since December 2013. This is a unique parenting class in that there are no women present. No female instructors, no moms, just men. In today’s childbirth education environment, there is a huge focus on the female role in childbirth . Lets be honest, we as men don’t have a whole lot of physical connection with the process. Women carry the child, they give birth and they breastfeed. The focus of the Boot Camp class is to bring men together as well as veterans (and their baby) of previous classes to talk about the challenges and successes of being a father. This unique environment creates an incredibility effective and authentic experience. My first experience in this class was as a rookie who had not yet had their kid. I have to admit I was one of the dads that was signed up by their wife. I showed up to class thinking “what could there be to learn”, I was convinced I was going to be a great dad. When I showed up to class, I went and took my seat hoping it wouldn’t be a waste of time. I was fairly indifferent to the whole process. This quickly changed, the environment of the class was different than what I expected and my fairly lackluster attitude turned into passionate engagement. In October of 2013 we had our first child, Ellie. Since taking the class and having our kid, the instructor for the class left and the Childbirth Educator that my wife knew from work had reached out to see if I was interested in teaching the class. The experience of being in this classroom is not replicable on the internet. Being with veteran dads and their kids in an all male classroom is what make this class so powerful. I highly recommend taking this class before you have your first kid, or even if you need a refresher if you’ve had a long break between kids. You can find your local classes at the Boot Camp for New Dads website. There are great instructors all over the country.
If you cant find a class or for some reason can’t enroll, there is one book I recommend that is specifically geared towards dads. Most books are written with a broad scope, most are “parenting books” but this book was written for dads by dads and is specifically geared to our perspective. This is a book you can be excited to read, so don’t leave this one out when you are inevitably overwhelmed by all of the parenting books clamoring for your attention.