At nearly two years of being a dad, I still find myself waiting for that “oh sh*t” moment to hit me. That overwhelming feeling of “what the hell am I doing?” That uneasiness that is inevitable; or at least expected when you’re to become a parent for the first time.
There’s a lot that contributes to that expectation. “Are you ready?”; the question everyone asks you when you’ve shared your news. The tone of the question itself; excitement with a subtle hint of angst. And each time it’s asked, the answer is different, but with a similar theme. Are we ready? I don’t know. The nursery is built, we’ve bought the books, we’ve watched the media, we’ve experienced parenthood from our siblings, and friends. We’re prepared to bring a life into this world, but after that, we’ll have to see how it goes.
The motive behind the question is to call out that your life is going to change dramatically. Is it for the better or is it for the worse?
Now, it’s completely fair that I might be intensifying this moment of uneasiness, and I’ve experienced spurts of it over the months. Or, it’s just going to hit me hard eventually. Seasoned parents will read this and think how naive I am, I’m sure, and I’m right there with them. But, I think it’s kind of the point I’m trying to make. Being “ready” is to realize you don’t know what to be ready for and in my short time as a parent, I’ve learned what I believe to have contributed to prolonging this sense of fear and how not being ready is counterproductive so long you rely on a few things that make you you.
1. Patience is a super power.
Lean into it. If it isn’t a strength of yours, now you know what you can work on. Patience is just a great trait to have generally. I honestly believe the world could be a better place if everyone practiced this well, but I digress. I double-down on it as a parent. Not acting on impulse isn’t easy.
Patience helped even before my daughter was born. Of course there’s anxiety, and maybe even feeling a little on edge, naturally because there are a million things going on in your head. You have to be patient with yourself, and more importantly, your partner. I take time to internalize. Don’t have an answer for everything. Make the effort to empathize first; reason. It’ll save a lot of headaches and frustration.
Be patient. Let life happen. Getting worked up is failing the test. Times are going to be trying, and that fact won’t be going away. Patience helps me navigate; control the things I can control. And for what I cannot, understand why it’s the case. That in itself is empowering, less fearing of what you’re unprepared for.
2. Remember, you were once a child.
What greater way to learn than from experience. Times are different from when I was growing up, sure, and no one remembers being an infant or toddler. But I’ve experienced growing up. We’ve all experienced being raised, or had influences to help mold who we are today. What’s true are values. Knowing right from wrong, how to take care of something you care about. And I know that everything wasn’t perfect; and isn’t going to be perfect as I continue life. You may have already thought about the type of life you want for your child even before reproducing was a reality. I know I did.
Whether you had the “ideal” childhood or a troubled one, you’ve learned what to practice in good faith and what you wouldn’t want for yourself or others. Natural instincts kick in. Those stories you hear about someone doing something supernatural to protect their young is real. I believe it. Trust it. In many ways, I feel like I’ve been preparing for this all my life.
3. Expect the unexpected.
Get comfortable with being wrong. Not everything is going to go the way you want it to, no matter how much you’ve planned and visualized the outcome. This really is the moral of all I’m writing. Having certain expectations can break you down and solicit that feeling of “I don’t know what I’m doing.” There’s truth to it, you don’t. But the power comes in realizing that, being okay with it, and taking the respective actions to settle this temporary feeling.
I know this isn’t groundbreaking, but there’s a bit of relief when you simplify something pretty complex that is parenthood. And this overwhelming fear I allude to could totally be non-existent. Because when that child is born, and a whole new energy takes over your being, there isn’t the opportunity to think about fear. You kind of know exactly what you’re doing. Uneasiness is overtaken by the calm of a resting baby. Any moment of fear is drowned out by the moments of pure happiness. There are moments in the middle of the night, when I’m deep into my REM cycle, I’ll wake up smiling because my subconscious was thinking about my daughter. It’s those moments, you weren’t quite expecting, but are everything to you. The raw joy she brings me will always make all of this worth it.
I couldn’t be more ready to be Mila’s dad. And I don't know if that “oh sh*t” feeling is just permeating. But I do know I’m ready to take anything on for her.
(written by Aubrey)