10 things I’ve learned in 10 years of fatherhood.

It may be a worn out old shoe of a phrase but it’s true; kids really do grow up too fast. On Wednesday my oldest son will be turning 10 years old and it has me reflecting upon what I’ve learned in this past decade of fatherhood. To stroll down the hallway where we hang our family photos I can see an obvious progression from the shiny faced, first time dad I was to the chisled featured master of dadness that I’ve become. I like to think I’ve gained more than a few gray hairs and wrinkles though. So here goes, in no particular order, 10 things I’ve learned in 10 years of fatherhood

  1. Purpose through selflessness. Before kids, I was constantly preoccupied with dreaming about the grand things I would accomplish in order to leave my indelible mark on the world. Meanwhile, I mostly just sat in a barstool drinking $2.00 PBR’S until someone told me to go home. In short, I was a selfish, useless idiot. Fatherhood was a big plunge for me because it forced me to truly matter for someone else. I’ve never stopped dreaming but the difference is that now my dreams serve a purpose that actually matters.

2. Happiness through purpose. Having kids will not make you happy. They are expensive, goo covered, tantrum throwing, tiny house guests that never leave and don’t chip in for groceries. They’re cute sometimes but mostly having kids is just a lot of work. That said, what’s the big deal with being happy all the time? We weren’t put here to be tourists, drifting between distractions and smiling like morons while doing nothing but taking selfies at sunset. Life is about finding meaning. For me, fatherhood is my highest purpose and I’m happy to serve it.

3. Farts are funny. I’ve been hearing it since Mrs. Coats’ kindergaren music class. “There’s nothing funny about farts, Adam.” Well I hate to break it to you Mrs. Coats but I’ve been conducting a decade long social experiment and the evidence is overwhelming that farts are in fact hilarious. Babies, with no social context whatsoever will giggle their little butts off at farts and fart noises alike. The words fart, butt and poop are comedy gold around my dinner table and while I hate to brag; I’ve been killing it around the friday meatloaf since 2009.

4. A good attitude is good leadership. Setting the tone is truly half the battle. Kids are cool in that they will mostly go along with whatever it is you are doing. Kids are sponges. Getting ahead of the curve with a positive mindset and a goal crushing attitude sets the stage for their behavior. Conversely, falling victim to negativity all but guarantees failure. Dads dont have time for that. Keep your head in the game.

5. Mistakes are part of the process. I’ve learned that fatherhood is often about screwing up. I know I’m supposed to keep my head in the game but often times that is just easier said than done. Sorry goes a long way. I own my mistakes, then I learn from them. That way they aren’t mistakes at all, just part of the process.

6. When in doubt, build a fort. Forts are like gateways to another world. I’ve found few parenting problems that can’t be solved by building a fort. The greatest threat to modern parents is digital based distraction culture. If you aren’t building a fort a week, you’re doing it wrong.

7. Honesty is the best policy, except when it’s not. I believe in being honest with my kids but I also believe in letting them believe in Santa Clause and the tooth fairy. I told my youngest son that the emergency exit at the restaurant was a doorway to the monster dimension so that he wouldn’t accidently escape to the parking lot while he was at work with me. Some lies are just unreliable truths that we need at a young age in order to hope for a better future and then have the vision to execute it. Some truths are just lies that we’ve forced ourselves to believe as we’ve grown older.

8. Freedom is parenting capitol. Kids are like people but smaller. Past the essentials like water food and shelter, people need freedom to thrive. Determining the exact right amount of freedom that a kid both needs and deserves is the ever evolving dilemma of any parent. Too much freedom and a child will be overwhelmed with the responsibility. Too little and they will lash out violently in an act of subconscious rebellion. I have found this to be true of every age.

9. No two kids are the same. Show me the parent of a single one year old child and I will show you a parent who thinks they have cracked the parenting code. That first baby is a real opportunity for growth and discovery. Then comes baby number two, who’s sole mission in life is to expose you for the fraud you are. There is no such thing as a one size fits all approach to parenting, people are messy; even small people. Just when you think you’ve figured it all out… That’s when the learning begins.

10. You must write your own “how to” manual. Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I grabbed a machete and bush whacked my own path. Family is all that matters, figure yours out. The internet is filled with opinions about how to parent correctly and they are all only as right as they are wrong. The reason kids aren’t born with instruction guides is because that’s your job to write them. It may be daunting and exhausting and terrifying but it’s also where all the fun is had. Veture forth boldly, make mistakes, keep your chin up, tell fart jokes and enjoy the journey.