Hello, soon-to-be dads as well as you guys who are just thinking about it. This piece is for you. I think it’s nice to share tips and stories with each other. So here we go with a few of the big things I have learned as I approach ten years of being a dad.
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Your strengths and weakness will most likely align pretty closely with those of your father. If your father had a short fuse and lost his cool a lot, you’ll probably have the same tendency. All of those jokes he would tell that only he found funny, they’ll come up again. If you hated being tormented or tickled as a child, remember that when you’re passing that down to your children.
If you want to do it differently from how your dad did, you can, but it takes some conscious effort to break away from your bloodline.
Support your spouse and remember that this gig can be tough on relationships.
This might seem a little harsh, and I’m really just trying to sum up this serious reality with a bit of weird humor, but here’s the deal. When parents are fighting or going through a divorce, and they tell their kids, “It’s not your fault,” they might be fibbing a bit. I’m not saying this is always the case or that kids are the only challenge to relationships, but raising children has a way of accentuating the peaks and valleys. I would put this in the “it takes conscious effort” file.
Try not to yell; you probably will, but try not to.
You’ve probably heard a mom or dad say that they are just trying not to screw up their kids. I think there are a lot of things you can mess up and get away with. However, really losing it and yelling seems to stick, and the results are not good. If you’re not careful, you’ll end up seeing your kids adopting this as a tactic to get whatever it is that they want. This is a tough behavioral habit to undo, so I have heard.
Don’t worry too much about what other people think about you or your parenting style.
It’s always good to reflect on things and take good advice. After all, there is a lot to learn and we all need to periodically take a moment to ask ourselves if we are doing the best job we can. However, stay true to who you are as much as you can. You will always find someone who disagrees with your style and that’s fine. On the flip side, don’t be offended when you offer your best tip for something and your idea gets shot down or ignored.
You can’t run away.
There will be moments when you want to run away, but you can’t. Unless you really are OK with not being there for your kids, this urge to pack a small bag and run is only a dream. Taking a weekend trip to be alone or to hang with friends is a nice alternative, but don’t expect it to magically make everything better when you return. If anything, being away can lower your tolerance to chaos. Just enjoy your weekend.
Be ready to give up on the idea of keeping things in nice condition.
I love old things that have been preserved in good condition and work like they did on the day they were made. One thing I still struggle with today is accepting that things are going to get scratched, lost, broken, etc. Even if I have my children perfectly trained to take good care of things, it just doesn’t matter, mainly because they have friends.
It’s going to be as great and as lousy as you’ve been told.
Seeing your baby for the first time really cannot be compared to any other experience in life. Seeing your child reach major milestones will give you the sense of purpose you need. The proud moments really do make up for the lows that are inevitably going to happen.
As for the notorious lows, you pretty much have to count on those, but hope for mild cases. For example, I still believe my girls will love me throughout their teenage years, even though most people warn me that this will not be the case. I haven’t given up on my hopes of maintaining a good relationship, but I know not to be surprised when it does change. I’m prepared to give them the space and independence they will need.
Before I had children, I had a pretty good idea of what the highs and lows would be. The thing that has surprised me the most is how extreme these peaks and valleys can be. I would say I was anticipating the rolling hills of Tuscany and ended up with the gnarly, jagged terrain of Switzerland. The landscape in Switzerland is much more varied and difficult to conquer, but it seems to be worth it in the end.
By Brian Wilson
Brian is the father of three children. He teaches golf and coordinates a Zurich Dads’ group in his spare time. email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Illustration by Lemady Rochard
Lemady is an artist who also runs Storycraft classes for children aged one-and-a-half to eight years in Ruschlikon, ZH. She is currently studying for a master’s in fine arts and also has a background in theatre arts and children’s literature. Lemady lives in Thalwil with her two young children. Contact her: email@example.com