On Being a Dad

This post was created immediately after talking to a friend who was apprehensive about becoming a dad for the first time, and the ideas shared here reflect strong desire to help dads have a more joyous experience of being a dad.

My friend is having a baby in 6 months and he's a bit worried about the experience. Maybe not worried so much as unsure. He has no experience of being a dad and has no idea what to expect.

I shared, "From that minute you hold your baby for the first time, you know exactly who to be, even if you have no idea what to do next." I told him that as much as you love anyone or anything in your life, that moment you hold your baby, you will experience a love you've never experienced. Whatever love you feel for your wife, friends, nieces, siblings, pets or material possessions will somehow instantly pale in comparison to the love you feel for this baby.

You'll have a spiritual experience that rivals psychedelic drugs or being with a guru. Looking into your baby's eyes, you will be able to see God and the entire universe in an instant. Despite the fact that they know nothing about this world and have zero capacity for language, they will look into your eyes and, if you are willing to "listen," they will share the secrets of the universe with you. They'll let you know why they chose you.

In the early weeks and months, as you operate on far less sleep than you're used to, you'll be filled with an energy and joy that you've never felt. When they wake up screaming at 2AM, even though you've just managed to fall asleep again, you'll be at their side within seconds, eager to cater to their every need. As you hold them, your senses will awaken. The smell of a new baby isn't like any other smell. To me, it's a somewhat earthy, not flowery or perfume-like smell, that's so wonderful and comforting, as comfy as the blanket their grandma knitted to take their home from the hospital.

As you rub your hand over their head, it's a feeling as if you're caressing the world. Their super-fine, wispy hair feels other-worldly, softer (and often greasier) than anything you've ever felt.

Their skin is smoother than a freshly waxed Ferrari, and yet looks like an oversized winter jacket.

As days go on, you'll remember that time that you held them for the first time, and look back on that feeling of a love greater than you've ever felt, and probably felt that it wasn't possible to feel any more for any human. Yet, as they grow, so will your love. It's the only time that you will experience the concept of "more than infinity." Well, it's the first time, actually. Because if you're anything like me, the love will just keep growing and growing, at a rate far faster than even your child grows.

They'll show you how the world works. They’ll show you that time is an illusion. As she learns to roll over, crawl, or walk, They’ll show you that no matter how many times you fail, success is absolutely inevitable, and that failing isn't really that hard. They’ll show you that you can forgive more easily than you ever thought possible. They’ll show you all the parts of your spousal relationship that you failed to appreciate in the past, and guide you through the rough spots too.

And, they’ll let you have fun! I mean, real, unadulterated fun, the kind you haven't experienced since you were a child. They’ll know how to push your buttons to make you laugh. They’ll sense when you're sad, even before you know it, and will make up a story that they want a hug, just to make you feel better.

And all that stuff you worry about and are tempted to commiserate about, even before you've experienced it — I promise, you can skip it. There’s no such thing as "Terrible Twos." The behavior of a two year old that is often referred to as terrible is as normal and appropriate as a baby pooping in their diaper. And it's your toddler's way of helping you practice patience and tolerance.

If you think kids are expensive, let me assure you that there's nothing you can buy, at any price, that will bring you what a child brings you. And if you think kids are hard work, you’re right, but it’s the kind of hard work that you do pursuing your favorite hobby. And compared to all the time you likely spend just for a lousy paycheck, raising a child is way less work with infinitely more reward.

You know where that baby came from, right? You know about the fertilizing the egg part. But did you know that that fertilized thing — a single cell, 1/10 of a millimeter in size — contains the entire roadmap of how to create a baby? That single cell knows how to divide over and over again to create two trillion cells! But not only that, it knows exactly when and how to make a heart, and when to start it beating. It knows when to make eyes. It knows when to make thighs and has the common sense to make them super chubby. And what does mom (or dad), need to do to "manage" that process? Virtually nothing. Even babies exposed to a horrible diet, drugs, and so forth, can survive and even thrive.

So, if you didn't need to manage the process of a single cell turning into a perfect, gorgeous baby, why do you think you need to manage every aspect of their growth as a human? Kids learn to eat on their own. They learn to poop and cry on their own. They learn to roll over, crawl, and walk on their own. They figure out how to use toys on their own. They gain an understanding of humor on their own. Eventually, they learn to have opinions and preferences. They learn about friendships and disappointments.

They are self-contained. They just need a whole lot of love. As humans, I think it's difficult to think of unconditional love until you have a child. And as it appears that your child is testing your patience, it may look like your love has conditions. But, as I've told my daughter since long, long before she could understand language, "There is absolutely nothing that you can do to make me love you any more or any less. Nothing." What would be possible in your life if you knew that? What if you knew it from day 1?

Oh, no doubt, it's going to look sometimes that you can't handle it. But, just look into their eyes, and ask what you see behind those perfect pearls, "Can I handle this?" and wait to receive everything you need.

For children to grow up with unconditional love, knowing who they are, without fear will be huge for them and for humanity. And this is why I'd love to help dads, or dads-to-be to see how amazing life can be with a child, all the time.

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