Today, my son Joseph celebrates eight years of being amazing. It’s funny how fatherhood changes your outlook on life. Nine years ago, I was solely focused on getting myself onto the anchor desk at ESPN. Today, I’m motivated to work hard and make enough money to take my wife and kids on fun vacations.
Thinking back on the past eight years, it’s hard to believe all the unique situations I’ve been thrust into. What’s better is the way I’ve been able to handle these situations that makes introspective moments like this so fun. Here are eight tips I’ve gained that distinctly changed my perspective on becoming a dad:
* Puke is just puke. When Joey was three, we were waiting in line at a local restaurant. To get a better view of the items available, I put Joe up on my shoulders. He saw or smelled something he didn’t like and, without warning, unloaded the contents of his stomach all over me. Have you ever seen the show You Can’t Do That On TV? Yep…I was slimed. As I wiped the puke away from my eyes – it was running behind my glasses – I realized that puke is just puke. No reason to get upset…go home, take a shower, put on clean clothes. Needless to say, we ate at home that night.
* Real Dads Change Diapers. Not calling anyone out, but I know men who’ve never changed a diaper in their lives. With Joey, and now our daughter June, diaper duty has been a regular part of my routine. Sure, it’s gross and smelly and potentially toxic…but it’s such a great bonding time with your kids. For me, I always had a phrase I’d say whenever it came to cleaning up the kids – “Hello, Nuggets!” – which June recently said for me, which caused us both to laugh. It’s moments like that where I know I’m making a difference in my kids lives.
* Chicken Nuggets, Pasta, Pickles Can Sustain Kids. I definitely didn’t know picky eating habits were hereditary. However, since I’m a picky eater, my kids have become picky eaters, too. The takeaway here is that even if you don’t like to experiment with food combinations, for your kids’ sake, consider branching out. As my wife reminds me on a weekly basis, while chicken nuggets, pasta and pickles may fill our kids tummies, that doesn’t make it right.
* Walks Beget Talks. When the weather cooperates here in Minnesota, I like taking my kids for long walks through the neighborhood. When I have this time alone with my kids, I make a point to quiz them on the things happening in their lives. For Joey, it’s talking about school, games or airplanes. With June, it’s usually asking her to point out things she sees. While our conversations aren’t going to resolve the government’s spending problems, they certainly will increase the time we’re spending together. I’d encourage everyone to lace up their sneakers and grab your child’s hand and get out the door.
* Cool Heads Prevail. No matter how hard we adults try, when a kid is agitated, there’s no getting a message through to them by yelling or shouting. Joey, as sweet and caring as he is 90% of the time, the other 10% makes me want to pull out whatever hair hasn’t already fallen out. Children pose an emotional marathon that we all have to run for 18 years, and if we’re lucky, well beyond that. Whether young or old, leveling your emotions and talking on a plane that harbors collected composure will win out every time.
* Be There When You’re There. My work consumes more of my life than it probably should. It’s just how I’m wired. My dad was a workaholic, therefore I’m one as well. The thing we need to all remember is that when we’re off the clock, we need to clock in with our kids. Joey has been lighting my world for eight years now; it’s the moments when we sit down together to build Legos, read books, or go on our walks, that we really connect. But why should that connection be limited to these moments? One thing I’m still learning is to be more available to my kids. Sure, that’s easier said than done, but it’s a work in progress for me…as it should be for you, too.
* Whatever You Thought You Knew, Think Again. Fatherhood is the greatest fraternities we can ever pledge into. Every day of every year your children walk this earth, you’re likely going to get paddled with something and the best part, you won’t mind asking for another. If you think you’re an expert at being a father, you’re wrong. No matter how many kids you’re blessed with, each child poses an amazing learning experience. Toss out whatever preconceived notion you thought you had about being a father, because Life certainly has a new script and it starts fresh every single morning you hear that pitter patter of little feet.
* Anyone Can Be A Father… Growing up, we had a needlepoint picture hanging in the hallway between living rooms. It said “Anyone Can Be a Father, But It Takes Someone Special To Be A Daddy“. I was honored when my parents passed this picture down to me, and it’s something I look at every single day. How am I being “daddy” for my kids? What am I doing today to be the best “daddy” I can be? These rhetorical questions can’t be answered with words, but rather with deeds. So, what are you doing to be the best daddy you can be?
Looking back on the past eight years, I’ve had some absolutely amazing experiences. I’ve traveled the continent, shared in some historical moments and even met some celebrity-types. But there’s not a moment that goes by when I don’t thank God, my lucky stars, and the great powers of this universe for my little giant, Joseph. He is the lifeblood that surges through my veins, and one of the three faces I look forward to staring into for the rest of my days. Happy birthday, son, Daddy loves you!