I’m not a perfect dad, nor a perfect man. I am, however, aware of my shortcomings and always trying to improve myself. I’ve put together a short list of simple things I know I can do to be a better dad.
STOP EXPECTING PRAISE
I don’t know when it started but fatherhood standards have been set awkwardly low. We shouldn’t be expecting praise for doing everyday things that need to get done. Sometimes I get angry because it seems that the things I do go unnoticed but then I realize it’s like asking for a gold star because I flushed the toilet after I used the bathroom. If the laundry needs to be done, do it. If the baby needs more food, make it. If the baby can’t sleep, take a turn trying to hypnotize it. If we’re doing things for praise we’re doing them for the wrong reason.
CHANGE MORE DIAPERS
I’ve gotten some of the best laughs out of my mini while he was on the changing table but that doesn’t mean I haven’t huffed and puffed a few times when the smell hits my nostrils. I keep telling myself that I have to do what I can to teach him proper hygiene because wiping his butt at 13 is going to be a whole heck of a lot weirder than it is now.
LET MOM SLEEP
Seriously. Someone has to be getting up in the middle of the night to pump or nurse or change diapers and it’s not usually me. Saturday morning I take the dude on a walk or to the grocery store or have him help me at Home Depot so mom can get her beauty rest. I assume she’ll return the favor in one way or another when I’m least expecting it.
CARRY THE DIAPER BAG
I get that it might not look “cool”, but it would look much worse if I was nose deep in my phone and there goes mom holding the kid, the bag and her water bottle. I recently realized that the diaper bag immediately makes me a VIP with my toddler because he knows that’s where the snacks are hidden. Also, as times goes on, the bag will become easier to carry than the kid.
WEAR YOUR BABY!
I have a big beard and a good many tattoos so when I’m wearing the baby the looks I get are just incredible. It also lets me interact with him without strain: narrate our adventures, help him point at this and that, explain what’s going on around us and keep him warm and safe. It’s also easier on your back to have him strapped in and not just flailing about. #realmenwearbabies
SAY “I LOVE YOU”
There will be a time when our kids are too cool to acknowledge it but my goal is to have them convinced that I really do love them well before the rebellion sets in. If they grow up only knowing one thing for certain, it should be that their papi loves them.
READ TO YOUR KIDS
I’ll assume we have all read books to our kids but there’s always another page of another book. I try to do different voices for different characters and read libros in español tambien. To me, the important thing is to read for real: show emotion, use physical humor, describe what’s happening on each page. I don’t want my kids to think that reading books is some boring mandate from above. I’m trying to read street signs and mailboxes and house numbers too. At worst, it’ll strengthen my comfort in communication with the little dude.