On Being A Dad

Recently I wrote a post about how things were going for me since becoming a mom, you can check it out here! I thought that now would be the perfect time to write something from Ben’s perspective on being a dad.

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You’d think that after watching your own dad be a dad for your entire life you would have a good grasp on how to be one yourself. But that isn’t always the case. When you are gifted this new life, it can feel like you’ve never even seen a baby before. That first night after you bring her home feels like an eternity. Is she still breathing? Is she going to wake up if I roll over and the bed creaks? Maybe I should wait another five minutes before trying.

After a while all of that bottled up uncertainty turns into knowing. Eventually you learn what your baby likes and what she doesn’t like, and you are able to watch her learn about the world rather than worrying about if she ate for long enough or if you need to wake her up from her nap. (Hint: You probably shouldn’t wake her up :))

So I have asked Ben a few questions about fatherhood in general and about becoming a dad himself and here are his answers.

What is your favorite part of being a dad so far?

Seeing Lucy smile. One of the areas I can’t wait for her to be more developed in is interaction and communication because my role in her life right now is a lot different than yours. We both change diapers, shush her to sleep, listen to her cry, etc. but she has a physical reliance on your presence. While you nurture and snuggle and feed her, my job is better described as ‘taking care of you taking care of her’ (which is great. Not complaining.), but when I’m holding her she has one of two modes: A) content because you fed her or B) crying because she’s hungry. A good friend of ours described his infant son growing up as moving from a ‘husband with a child’ to ‘father with a son’. I really look forward to interacting with Lucy and playing with her and showing her new things and I feel like getting a reciprocal smile back from her now is a glimpse of that relationship.

What is the hardest part about being a dad?

I honestly didn’t expect it to be so demanding (silly I know)! It takes an entire reframe to realize that your time isn’t your own anymore and for the next eighteen years this helpless human is going to need you to look out for it. I always knew I wanted to be a dad but it’s one thing to hold a happy baby for a few minutes at a party and something completely different to bounce a raptor–clawed banshee to sleep at 2am. When you’re exhausted your mettle is revealed real fast. Feeling helpless is another less-than-fun emotion (especially for guys) that I’ve felt multiple times when she’s just overtired. To know that shushing and rocking is doing bupkis to calm her down and that it’s not me that has what she wants is humbling to say the least. It all falls somewhere on the learning curve though and I can honestly say that everything she’s thrown me falls under ‘butt-kicking I needed to make me a better person’.

What are things that you are doing to be a better dad?

My current struggle is keeping my inner cool in her more temperamental moments. The closer I feel myself getting to “OH MY GOSH, BABY GIRL WE GET IT, YOU’RE UPSET! GIVE US A BREAK!!” the more I know I need to take a quiet minute, breath, and ask for some divine assistance. Being a good dad is also being a good husband so filling up your love tank and making sure you are taken care of and showed affection is a critical part of taking care of Lucy, and there’s always ways I can do those things better.

What are some qualities that you think are important for a dad to have?

  • a solid understanding of what makes a good pun
  • a robust repertoire of dad jokes
  • grill skills
  • a completely unfounded belief in one’s ability to fix any and everything
  • a proper understanding of when to embarrass people

But in all seriousness I think the most important quality for a father to have is a furious love for his children. There is nothing that will serve them better in the long run, be more beneficial for them in the present, or form them into more well-adjusted people than a vested and powerful interest in who they are as people and the validation of what they bring to the world. It seems far easier to me to have the world crumbling around you but be assured of the devotion of your loved ones than to wander lonely through the world getting every other thing you could want. Love as central to human life and community permeates our being and animates our interactions. What could be more revelatory and essential than to love one’s children authentically and teach them to do so in return?

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Are you a dad, a mom? What are some challenges that you have faced in welcoming your little one(s) into your home? 

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