Although I’ve only been a dad for a little over five years now, it’s difficult to remember a time when I wasn’t. One of those memories I have that remains pretty clear, however, is the time when I was struggling to decide if I had what it took to be a dad or not. After all, I had lived for almost 40 years not being a father. Therefore, I had understandably become accustomed to a lifestyle that didn’t include The Wiggles, Happy Meals, and an endless, continual loop of Frozen. So as my wife and I were making our decision as a couple about whether or not to adopt at all, I had to first decide whether I had the ability to fulfill my role as a good dad to our future child. Truthfully, I wasn’t all that sure I did.
I knew for a fact that discipline was not going to be a particular strong suit of mine. The best father figure I had ever known, my own dad, was a certified and bona fide, grade-A marshmallow when it came to disciplining his children. The man endured the many trials and tribulations of raising five of us. He worked harder than anyone I ever knew or have known, and he certainly had a tough exterior that let very few people beyond the walls of our quaint little home know anything about him. But when it came to his kids, he turned to pure fluff.
Understanding that discipline was going to be a parental struggle for me going forward, I needed to think about what else it may take for me to be a good adoptive dad. Here’s what I came up with–see if you think that these might be four things for any prospective dad to consider:
1. Just be There
People had told me this before Madeline came along. The single most important thing about being a good dad is to simply just be there. Be there when your son or daughter wakes up in the morning. Be there when they go to bed at night. Be there at dinnertime. Be there to take them to they playground. You get the picture. Just be there!
2. Don’t Worry, Be Happy
Enjoy it while it lasts. My daughter just turned five, and I already see her getting so big, so smart, and so grown-up so very fast. Sure, I’ve got plenty of great Christmas times, snowball fights, and Disney movies to enjoy with her over the next 10 years or more, potentially, but I can already see it all moving past me right before my eyes.
3. Be Your Own Man
Everybody out there, even those who have never been parents before, has advice for you on how to parent your child. Respectfully listen to the advice of those you truly respect, and then make your own decisions based on what you know and feel within yourself to be right. Don’t just follow the hollow words of wisdom from some self-proclaimed childhood expert on television or the suggestions from your know-it-all friends and relatives. Chances are that your child will benefit most from the gut instincts and well-meaning actions of the people who love and care for them the most: mom and dad.
4. Don’t Forget about Mom and Dad
I don’t think I was all that different from most first-time parents in that I totally freaked out and thought it had to be ALL about the baby ALL the time. Big mistake! Your child will be much happier and healthier if you first take the time to be happy and healthy yourself. Take a break when you need it to play golf, watch football, play video games, or whatever it is you did before fatherhood that makes you happy. Oh, and don’t forget to let mom take a break and do what she likes every now and then too. You know what they say, “If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” What that old saying leaves out is that the same goes for Dada.
Every once in awhile, I still have to remind myself of some of these things. It’s easy to get caught up in the stress of day-to-day living and constantly trying to be proclaimed “World’s Greatest Dad.” In fact, it’s completely normal. Instead of trying to be the World’s Greatest, maybe just try to be as good as you can be. When all else fails, fall back on the first item I mentioned here and just be there. That’s seriously half the battle and probably a little more. At least that’s what I do every time Madeline asks me for “just five more minutes” before going to bed and I give in almost immediately, because yes, I still struggle with discipline. . .