My daughter, Ava Marie, will turn 1 on June 19th, just after Father's Day. Prior to her being born, I was excited, scared to death, nervous and probably every other feeling possible. I had no idea what to expect. After all, how do you prepare for something you have never experienced? What do you do with that little human being once you bring them home?
I friend of mine is an NBA trainer and father of a little girl, so prior to Ava being born, I asked him, "Do you have any advice for me?"
His response, "Don't drop her..."
As I laughed, he continued, "But seriously, it's really hard to break a baby."
For some reason, after he said that, I felt relieved and decided to not worry about what the future would hold and just respond to every moment.
There was a point in my life that I wasn't even sure if I wanted children, but my wife helped me change my mind (thank goodness).
Bringing a baby into this world is truly a miracle and I can confidently say that the past 12 months have been the best 12 months of my entire life. This post is my take on being a father, and the top 10 lessons I learned. Enjoy...
1. Children are living proof that our true nature is that of love, curiosity and focus.
Ava never took a course on peak performance, but she exudes all the qualities that most people look for. As adults, we don't lack it, but we often block it with overthinking.
2. Nothing can prepare you for fatherhood, so it's best to respond in the moment.
I never experienced fatherhood, so nothing anyone could say and nothing I could compare it to could get me ready, so to me, there was no need to worry about it. That would be wasted energy. Just respond to the moment and take things as they come.
3. Fatherhood is unconditional love.
A baby cannot take care of itself, so as parents, we need to provide food, shelter and clothing. I have learned to love unconditionally, regardless of whether she is being happy and cute or needs to have her clothes cut off of her because she just had a poop explosion (yes, I just went there). The good, the bad and the ugly are all part of being a father, and there's no sense complaining about it. Babies don't purposely try to frustrate us, so we needn't take it personally.
4. It's not all about me, it's about we.
I used to just look out for myself, but now that I have a family, I have to think about saving, making adjustments to my schedule and life. I need to take into account everyone in the family... and that's perfectly OK. Life is actually more exciting and challenging (who doesn't love a challenge?), and I feel more fulfilled by helping do my share.
5. Fatherhood doesn't have to fly by.
When I tell people that Ava will be turning 1, they usually respond with something like, "I can't believe it! That just flew by!" But it didn't... for me. The reason why is because I stay in the moment. I am engaged in whatever it is that I'm doing, whether it's reading to Ava or strolling around town. When people live in the moment, the game slows down (think about the zone in sports) and we feel more in control and are able to enjoy the process.
6. Children cannot drive a parent crazy.
At grocery stores daily, there are parents believing that their children are making them feel crazy. But this is false, children cannot make you feel crazy; only crazy thinking can do that. Isn't it interesting that sometimes a certain situation bothers you, and other times it's not a big deal? It's 100% our thinking, not our children that determines what we experience, moment to moment.
7. Fatherhood is a journey, not a destination.
So many people look at Ava and say, "Don't you wish they could just stay that age?" I don't. To me, part of fatherhood is experiencing EVERY stage of your child's life. As amazing it was to see my daughter take her first steps, I'm just as excited to see her get married one day and reach so many other "adult" milestones.
8. We are all childlike inside.
I am now in my 40s and sometimes I'm surprised at how silly I can be with my daughter. And we both love it! I give over 50 lectures a year and up until I became a father, I was always surprised that even the most mature and professional people loved to be playful during my talks. I was recently talking to Dr. Cornel West about this exact topic and he put it best by saying, "We don't ever lose it, it is just latent inside us." I couldn't agree more.
9. We listen in different ways.
Since babies cannot speak, you have to truly listen to see what they need. Most communication is non-verbal, and this is especially true for babies. Sometimes you just have to guess what it is they need. If one thing doesn't do the trick, try something else. Stressing out about a distressed child never helps the situation. A big part of fatherhood is listening. Who says guys don't listen?
10. Children are like mirrors.
I feel that I am pretty zen-like, with a calm attitude. People see that in Ava too. I believe children pick up on their parents' energy and reflect it back like a mirror. When I feel stressed, she will feed off of that and/or copy my behavior. That is reason enough for me to stop stressing and just live in the moment. I don't want to raise a sheep who just follows the flock, or does what I say. I want to raise someone who thinks independently in the moment, and is able to be calm, and cool regardless of what's going on in their life.
By no means am I a perfect father... and I never will be. But I believe the lessons I learned in the past year has helped me become a better father, husband, son, business owner, athlete, friend and human being. And that's the best gift of all.
To all you past, present and future fathers out there, remember this: We all have negative, nervous and insecure thoughts, but that's normal and part of being a dad. Just because we have a bad thought, doesn't mean it's true. Some people say, "Don't believe everything you hear." I say, "Don't believe everything you think."
Happy Father's Day.
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