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The non-advice new dad advice


By this time, I will have welcomed two new nephews into the world.

I’ve got a lengthy list of friends expecting babies sometime this year, too.

Babies are everywhere, which seems to happen when you have your own babies the way that you seem to see the car you just bought all around you.

It makes sense, then, that I’d write some kind of masterful, all-encompassing, inspirational, sage column about the perils and perks of fatherhood for all of the new dads around me.

I’ve got all the requisite qualifications to give dad advice:

  1. I write monthly columns for fatherhood for a parenting magazine. Check.
  2. I run Instafather.com, a site I started for the sole purpose of encouraging new dads. Check.
  3. I have three kids under 3. Wait. Three kids 3 and under. My son turns 3 this month, even though that’s impossible because he was just born yesterday. So, yes, three small kids. Check.
  4. I have tried to fix things in my house without having any idea how to do it, and then when it doesn’t work, I blame the craftsmanship of the person who built it instead of asking for help. Check.

Everything is lined up for me to help you, new dads in my life.

Or, as someone teased me, “Why don’t you go online and talk about how much you love being a dad?” (Um … haha? I will?) So that’s in my pocket, too. I talked about fatherhood a lot.

So here’s what you need to know about fatherhood:

Each and every day, I have no idea what I am doing.

Each and every day, I have said something I regret. Or I have snapped at one of my kids because of something they can’t control. Or I have ignored one of my kids who wanted my attention.

Each and every day, I am more tired than I would be without kids. I am more tired than I thought possible, to the point that I have taken four-minute naps because I was haunted by the alternative of staying awake for four minutes when I could otherwise be asleep. And then I set my alarm because if I don’t, I won’t be able to wake up—after a 4-minute nap.

Each and every day, I watch a cartoon when I’d rather watch some AMC show or a movie or “Flip or Flop” even though that is SUCH a ridiculous show because all they do is flip and they never really flop and why are they acting shocked at the cost of remodeling when they do this all the time?

Each and every day, I do something one-handed that requires two hands. I take 30 minutes to get out the door for something that would take a non-parent three.

I talk about poop.

And at this point, you’re waiting for the inspirational “Butttttttt….”

You’re waiting for the, “But that little angel makes it all worth it! You’ll be so full of love and the giggles and smiles will melt your heart and you’ll be so glad to be a parent that your heart bursts with joy and makes everything else trivial!”

That’s what you want to hear. It’s not untrue, after all.

You’re looking for reassurance. For comfort. For the silver lining. You’re looking for some kind of faith that if you do X, you’ll get Y result.

But, man. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about parenting, it’s that you can’t rely on the smiles and the precious moments and the sleep-through-the-nights-happy-all-days to be what gets you through tougher periods. You’ll have long stretches where none of that happens, and then what will you do? Being a dad isn’t an input/output thing, like putting in hours on the driving range should make you a better golfer.

Sure, you’ll get a grip on diapers and swaddling and car seats, but that’s not parenting. Those are tasks. You’re probably more worried about “Am I going to be a good father? Can I handle this?”

The new dad advice is this:

You don’t need to be a superhero to be a dad. You just need to try, every day, and soon enough those tries turn into a confident and capable dad. You’ll never feel like you really know what you’re doing, but you’ll feel like you’ll be able to handle whatever is thrown at you, somehow, some way.

And you’ll keep trying and making things work and doing what you thought was impossible because without even realizing it, you will have made the decision you’d do anything for that baby.

There are days when I can’t fathom how I’ll get through it (and remember, I LOVE being a dad). You’ll have those days, too, I promise.

What do you do in those moments?

You try. You try to be patient. You try to be better about paying attention. You try to take the baby more often on your own even if you’re a little scared about it. You try to be a good role model.

You sincerely, honestly, wholeheartedly try. When it’s easy. When it’s hard. Especially when it’s impossible.

Some of those tries won’t pan out. Some of those tries will.

But you’ll never regret trying. Your baby needs nothing more that.

Sounds like a pretty great dad to me.

Andrew Shaw is an award-winning reporter, comedian and father based in York. He can be found at Instafather.com.

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