Fatherhood is a learning experience.
Here’s some of what I’ve learned in the past year and a half:
1) I’m important.
To him, I matter. A ton.
2) Even little kids notice when you’re not there.
If I’m away, he misses me. (And I miss him.)
3) Words are important.
If you have a toddler, teach that kid to sign! I’ve discovered that he definitely has feelings, ideas, and needs that are important to him. Giving him ways to express those thoughts has helped us all.
4) Routine is good. (For kids and for adults)
I’ve learned (and relearned) a lot that applies to me by watching how things affect him. It’s easier to notice the impact that things have on little kids because their little systems react quicker and they get fussy, but grownups are impacted by the same things–we just mask it better. For example, he goes to sleep better with a nighttime routine. Turns out… so do I.
5) Exercise helps you sleep better.
We started making a point of wearing him out to ensure a good night’s sleep. Now I make sure to also wear me out physically as well as mentally.
6) Reading is better than watching television.
It’s so much easier to watch a show, but so much more fulfilling (and just as interesting, usually) to read a good book.
7) Things that seem important, might not be.
When you’re little, everything seems big. I just need to remember that, taken in context, many of my problems are just as little as his sometimes seem to me.
8) Walking makes you less grumpy.
A well-timed walk outside can counteract the post-nap grouchies or lower Dad’s blood pressure after a stressful meeting.
9) A smile, wave, or kiss can make someone’s day.
At least one from him can make mine.
10) Smartphones are addictive, so limit your time with them.
Today’s toddlers will grow up in a world where instant answers are a given and video chatting around the world is commonplace. But the ability to resist that siren call and focus attention without tech will be even more valuable as a result. Limiting his smartphone use has made me pay attention to mine.
11) A friendship can easily start with just a genuine smile.
One thing he can do so much better than me is make friends. Turns out it’s often not that hard if you show that you’re genuinely happy to spend time with a new person.
12) My wife is a superhero.
She ‘s literally leaped into action at a split second’s notice to save him from falling into a pool. But she’s also accomplished many other superhuman feats of endurance, patience, bravery, and intellect.
13) Everything you do is setting an example of how to behave.
This is good and bad, because whatever I do, I’ll probably see it again.
14) Your kids will trust you. A lot. Be worthy of it.
My son likes to climb things, then try to jump to one of us. Unfortunately, he doesn’t tend to wait until we’re in the ideal place to catch him. He just assumes that if we see him and he jumps, we’ll be there. We’re working on that. Still: he’s going to trust me to be there and I’m going to do everything I can to live up to that.
15) God really does care, even if he doesn’t step in.
I allow bad things happen to my son all the time. I let him try things that he can’t do. I take away things he wants. I usually don’t pick him up when he falls. But it’s not because I don’t love him so very much. It’s because I’m looking at things from a much different perspective than he is and I’m focused on his ability to develop for the long term. I think maybe God looks at us in a similar way.
16) The world is magic. And we’re all wizards.
With the touch of finger we can create light, remove walls (open a garage door), summon appearances from far-away friends, play symphonies, or open portals to see stories of strange worlds. It’s awesome!
17) If something’s important, we do it even when we’re tired.
Nighttime prayers are part of his bedtime routine. First we read, then we pray, then we sing, then he sleeps. Shortly after we started our routine, he fell asleep during reading. So I closed the book, planning to take him straight to bed. We can skip prayers tonight, I figured. Nope. Dead-tired little toddler folded his arms as soon as the book closed. Even though he was almost asleep, he was going to make time for prayers.
18) Constant growth is possible (but you have to put in the time).
It’s amazing to watch someone learn to walk and talk. Watching the process, I was also impressed by the constant work and repetition he put in on reaching each new step. Babies learn and grow so fast because they spend a ton of time practicing. Adults can experience a lot of growth too if we do the same.
What important things have you learned from watching children?