Before my first was born, I had a vague notion that parents more and less had it all together and did everything deliberately according to their parenting philosophy of choice; now I know that we're basically making it up as we go along.
When my children were born, I became aware of how much they needed me to be happy, healthy and present. They depended on me to meet their physical and emotional needs and without prioritizing my health, I couldn't be the mom they needed.
There are a few universal truths about tiny, baby humans. They cry. They poop a lot. They need a lot of love and attention (but not actually a whole lot else). They have delicious-smelling heads. But there was one thing I got wrong about those little, love-and-attention-needing babies.
Who you are and what you have to say and what you have to offer and what you think matters. I want you to learn how to speak your mind. If you have a good idea, share it, because your words have value.
You think you'll remember every key moment of your kids' lives -- but you won't. Oddly enough, I can recall the theme song from 'Gilligan's Island' but I find it nearly impossible to draw out of cold storage a memory of my oldest kid's first bike ride.
When the time was right and we were both able to open up our minds and put our fears aside and see through our rolling and crying eyes more clearly... We found that we fit into that round hole perfectly.
As a dad, there are moments I'm filled with doubt because my hope is that I'm doing everything I can to give my daughter the best life possible. To me at least, part of giving her the best life means giving her space to grow and be independent, even as a toddler.
I grew up wearing hand-me-downs and eating from dollar menus, and I was often left wishing for more toys under the Christmas tree. You'd think I'd say I didn't have much -- I lived in a trailer home, I shopped at thrift stores and my family survived off food stamps. But the truth is different.
I was miserable for the first 10 days of my child's life. Breastfeeding was hard, but you were supposed to see it through, you shouldn't give up. It would get easier. It would become natural. On Avery's eleventh morning, she had a meltdown after I nursed her for two straight hours.
Motherhood is humbling. I think my experience has been compounded by the fact that I did not become a mom until I was 35 years old. I thought I had learned most of the more important lessons on management, but attempting to "manage" my three sons has taught me a lot.
If my dad has to pee, he will walk into any building anywhere and use their bathroom. If I run a 5K while my dad is in town visiting, he will join me in the "runners only" beer tent and enjoy free beer while wearing a sweater vest. My dad does not think it is inappropriate for him to be anywhere.
"Daddy," he said, turning toward me, the palms of his not-yet 3-year-old hands up, arms spread. "I really need a fish in my life." He squinted his eyes, the wrinkles in his sun-kissed face pressed for an appeal.
Without the confidence she exemplified, I would not have learned the significance of loving myself, and in turn, teaching my daughter to love herself, too. Through my mom, I learned loving yourself is the beginning of all victories.