I was 28 when I found out I was going to be a dad.
Back then, I still thought I had what it took to be a rock star, even more so a dad.
(And to be clear, I had absolutely no idea what it took to be either of those things.)
Now, with my eldest daughter about to turn 21, and my other two girls in their late teens, there are a lot of things I would tell my younger self if given the chance. Things about building confidence into my kids, about mistakes to avoid, and mostly about the lessons I learned the hard way.
So let’s imagine for a moment that I either get in a time-traveling hot tub or phone booth, have the chance to drive a 1.21-gigawatt Mr. Fusion-powered DeLorean, or take a trip through the quantum realm . . .
These are some of the things I would tell my younger self about being a dad.
Sometimes silence is the best answer.
When I first became a dad, I thought “dadding” was about dishing out advice whenever your kids were facing a difficult situation, (And, of course, teaching them to ride a bike). In reality, sometimes your kids simply need you to listen.
So, my advice to myself would simply be: Don’t speak unless you can improve the silence.
As dads, we usually want to ride in to rescue our kids, but sometimes what they really need is a safe place where someone will simply listen. Sometimes your kids need to vent about their problems more than they need solutions to their problems.
And choosing to hit pause on a response can create the space for your kids to find the solutions for themselves.
When your kids are young, everything is a game and anytime can be play time. But as they grow older, and start to deal with middle and high school, things seem to become more serious. This is precisely why you need to be intentional about creating opportunities for laughter.
Your kids may not remember all the serious and wise fatherly advice you gave them, but they will remember how you made them feel—so why not make them feel joy?
In my house, I’ve bought a family arsenal of Nerf guns for random ambushes when kids come home from school. We walked our kids through an entire summer of Friday night 80s movie marathons. And I’ve even been known to sneak them out of school to go see the latest Marvel release at the theatre.
Make sure your kids laugh as often as possible. And make sure you laugh with them!
Seek advice and ask for help.
As men, it can be easy for us to think we know everything we need to know about anything. And anything we don’t know, we can probably YouTube while no one is watching, right!?
But, being a dad is the most important job you will ever have, and since kids don’t come with instruction manuals, we need to get help from other dads.
So be intentional about finding other dads who are one step ahead of you, who you can seek advice from and ask for help. It may not be intuitive, but it will be beneficial. So find other dads you can connect with, discuss parenting with, and who will support you when you’re unsure of what to do—which will be every other month!
And don’t just stop there. Read books. Attend conferences and seminars. Download apps. Listen to podcasts. Buy games to play with your kids. Purchase books and resources for your kids that communicate all the things you wish you could say to your kid (and actually be heard), like Carlos Whittaker’s Press Play: A Kid’s Devotional to Build Confidence that Lasts—anything that will help you be a better dad and leverage whatever influence you have while you have it.
The bottom line is, you should never stop learning, because parenting never stops teaching.
Even in the modern world, it’s easy for dads to feel the responsibility of providing for their family. This is not archaic, and it’s certainly not a bad thing—unless we get so focussed on working to provide for our kids, that we miss them being kids.
That’s why it is so important to rest.
There is all sorts of literature available on the benefits of sleep, but I’m also referring to having time every day when you’re not working or on a call, but actually spending time with your kids.
Rest is something that was so important to God that He even made it one of the Ten Commandments! And yet, the commandment to rest is the one dads brag about breaking the most! We boast about hustling 24/7 and climbing the corporate ladder . . . but what is the toll on our family?
Did you know that the first thing in the entire Bible to be described as holy is not God Himself, not a church, not even the Bible—it’s rest!
Look it up for yourself!
If rest is holy . . . perhaps you should get some!
So these are some of the things I would tell my younger self if I got that chance—that and to make sure to purchase pharma stocks in late 2019.
As a bonus tip, I would remind myself that all the dads I know who I would define as highly successful fathers are:
Being a dad is a marathon . . . so take it one day at a time, and be the dad you needed when you were young.