What I Learned About Myself By Being A Dad

I’ve always been introspective. I’m very aware of myself.

That’s a fact.  I am not saying that I’m on a higher plane than anyone else.  I’m not saying I’m more in touch with my feelings than anyone.  I’m not saying that to be self-complementary (as you can tell from my previous disclaimer sentences).  In fact, anyone who knows me knows that’s about the last thing I would ever feel comfortable doing.  

Well, that and karaoke.

Rest assured I am very aware of my faults, regrets, fears, and shortcomings.  Unfortunately, those are the things that usually come to mind when I’m spending some time in thought.  And over my life, those moments have more often than not been a burden that I’ve struggled to deal with, much less overcome.

It’s funny how when these moments happen, my good qualities aren’t the first ones that pop up.  Well, maybe funny isn’t the correct word.  All that to say…I thought I had myself pretty well figured out.  

My kids said, “Not so fast, Dad.  Have we got some lessons for you!”

So here’s what I’ve learned about myself since becoming a dad.

You’ll always be able to find the energy

It’s amazing what you can do on absolutely minimum sleep. I was always someone who thought that if I didn’t get a certain amount of sleep then my day was going to be rubbish.

Boy, was I wrong.

What I Learned About Myself

I learned that lesson the hard way and the way most parents do; by waking up in the middle of the night when my kids cried. 

I went from sleeping to napping.  That’s a huge difference.

But you know what?  I was still able to function throughout the day.  Sure, some days were worse than others, but I still made it through.

Even now, my kids sleep solidly throughout the night, but there have been a handful of nights in the last month where I’ve gotten 2 or 3 hours of sleep because they’ve been sick.  Surprisingly, I still manage,  just like everybody else.

That’s not to say that I don’t function better on a full night’s sleep:

It’s just a realization that I can function on a lot less sleep than I once thought.

My kids don’t care how much sleep I’ve had.  They attack the day the same nearly every day, and I need to muster up the energy to follow suit.  

I don’t know where this cache of energy comes from.

Maybe my dad bod fat stores.  That’s probably it.

I’ve learned to see the world from other POVs

I’ve always tried to be an empathetic person, but until I had kids who are trying to figure out this great big world for the first time, I didn’t really know the level of empathy that was available to me.

I always try to remember that everyone has their own burdens and crosses to bear.  

But when I see the world from my kids’ perspective, it changes me more than I imagined possible.  

The little people I love the most are trying to navigate this great big world for the first time.  And most of the time it doesn’t work out as they want.

That’s where dad comes in to help and comfort.  They need me, obviously, but I need them, too.

I’ve learned to live in the moment

I’ve already talked about this some, but I think it’s really important.  My kids love me, and want to play with me, and be around me.

How lucky am I?

But for far too long, I didn’t take advantage of those moments.

What I've Learned About Myself

What really changed me was my son saying, “Daddy, come play with me.”

It was one of the sweetest things I had ever heard.  

And it made me take notice.

After all, how good of a dad would I be if I couldn’t make time for my son and daughter?

These are ephemeral moments.  Once they’re gone, they’re gone.

And I’ll only have my regret and myself to blame.

Carpe Diem.

I’ve learned the importance of routine

We’ve talked about this before

Kids thrive on routine.  It gives them a sense of security and reduces stress.  In fact, some routines, such as family dinners, can even help to develop social-emotional health.

Who doesn’t want that for their kids?

Now, I admit that I didn’t know about all these benefits when I became a parent. Developing a routine was just something that was necessary for managing twins.  

Maybe subconsciously, my wife and I noticed that our life got a little easier because our kids were a little easier to handle and a little happier than they used to be.

My kids are 3 now, and if I try to throw something new and sudden at them, then I’m just asking for problems; not necessarily big problems, but problems just the same.  

Now that’s not to say that we can’t have some flexibility to make changes as needed.  Say, for example, it’s not going to rain after all and we can go to the park, then it’s best to give them a heads up with a time frame.  

As opposed to saying, “ok guys, stop what you’re doing. We’re going to the park,” I’ll say, “ok guys, in 30 minutes we are going to clean up our stuff and then go to the park.”  Then I’ll remind them in 20 minutes, and 15 minutes, and 10, and 5, until it’s time to go.

I’ve learned I need to better manage my emotions

I pride myself as being a pretty even keel guy.  

I try not to get too high or too low. However,  that isn’t always easy with kids, especially when you’re a stay at home dad.  

Every accident, emergency, fight, and dirty diaper is in my job description.  Those add up.

One day, when I was at the end of my rope, I yelled at my daughter for something so insignificant that I can’t even remember what it was.  I saw the look in her eyes. She was scared and sad. I instantly hated myself. I told myself that I couldn’t let that happen again. For the most part, I haven’t. 

It’s hard and I’ve definitely failed but it’s something that I work on.

My life isn’t just about me anymore.  

My emotions affect everyone in my house.  

I need it to be a positive, supportive, loving, happy home.

I’ve learned what a full heart feels like

I’m an introvert.  I don’t necessarily crave human interaction.  I’m perfectly happy with minimal contact. When I married my wife, I thought I had everything I could ever need. 

Then when we had kids, I learned that I was wrong.  

My mom would always tell me, “It’s different when you have kids.”  I knew she was right, but I didn’t know how.

There is happiness I have now that I think only comes with being a parent.

There’s no use in testing my limited vocabulary and eloquence to try to convey what I’m talking about. 

However, my guess is if you’re a parent reading this, you know what I mean.

These 6 themes are the main ones I keep coming back to. There are definitely more, but these resonated the most when I sat down to think about it.

One great thing about being a dad and parent is that it teaches you more about yourself than anything you’ve ever done.  

What reverberates with me might be different than what sticks with you.  

So take some time.  Think about it. I think you’ll end up feeling better about yourself.

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