I became a 1st-time Dad just over a year ago. I’ll never forget the excitement, anxiety, bewilderment, confusion, and mind-numbing fear I experienced when leaving the hospital on B-Day (Baby-Day) with a our very own brand-spankin’ new, fresh baby! Everyone says the same joke “where’s the instruction manual” because everyone feels that way!
In addition to rounding off my first year as a new dad, we have our second kiddo on the way! I have learned a lot in the past year, and will do a better job with baby #2, Maximus Excalibur. (Sigh… sadly, my wife keeps vetoing this name.)
IMPORTANT CAVEAT: I definitely have NOT done all of these things superbly, or even decently at times. I have learned a lot from my wife and others. By the grace of God, I am improving and growing. Nonetheless, you can file all of this wisdom away as near Gospel. You are welcome.
I don’t know if I’m allowed to say this, but this first year has been really… well… weird, exhausting, annoying, frustrating, and wholly overwhelming. In a previous post I shared a couple major epiphanies about being a new dad: [Ponderings of a New Dad] God’s Love is Illogical and I Surrender All?.
For most guys, it is difficult to connect with babies. I am most guys. At initial, selfish glance… they just get in the way of life, marriage, sex, social activities, happiness, hobbies, and sanity. Side Note: Speaking of hobbies, say goodbye to those for the next couple decades. You have much more important things to do.
It DOES get better. It can be awesome. I have grown more than I could have imagined. There is a reason the word “exhaustion” appears many times throughout this micro-eBook of a post.
My love, appreciation, admiration, desire of and attraction to my wife has never been as high as it is now. It really is growing at alarmingly rapid rate, despite the inevitable tension that has occasionally flared up [more than the combined history of our pre-baby marriage ]. I am frequently overwhelmed by the stature, strength, heart, compassion, beauty, and innate motherliness of my wife. I remain baffled at (and learn from) how easy everything seems to come to my wife AND the constant insecurity she feels regardless of how awesome she is. I feel like a bumbling buffoon…
Here is what I have learned…
Dear New Dad…
Wahoo, you have just been dropped into your very own multi-year, Navy-Seal-Team-6-level sleep deprivation and holistic life-marriage-stress combat zone. Except… it isn’t a drill and you have very little training. The only things at stake are: your sanity, your marriage, the life of your new human.
Your baby’s existence essentially consists of the following: peeing / pooping, screaming, eating, looking around, grabbing at everything, and sleeping… that’s pretty much it. This is before they can cause all kinds of additional exhausting havoc by crawling / walking around! Babies are not very engaging by normal human standards. Side note: I haven’t even gotten to the stage where they can talk back and be intentionally disrespectful jerks (like I was)! However, this post is about being a daddy to a baby…
Your baby is on a odd, anti-micro-evolutionary mission to see his/her own demise. You must be ever vigilant.
Being a great dad is actually mechanically pretty simple, but it is definitely not easy! It’s freaking exhausting… but, that’s OK. Your job as a dad is to lead your family in the knowledge, service, grace, and love of Christ whether you like it or not, regardless of the exhaustion. This is your mission. Regardless of your preference, you will be measured by these statutes by the King of Kings. Praise God for grace!
Like all things of immense worth in life, you need to work HARD at it. Your job and opportunity is to reach far beyond your capabilities, personal interests, strengths, desires, anxieties, [lack of] patience, selfishness, preferences, pride, comfort, and [lack of] energy… to abide in Christ. The Holy Spirit will extend and transform you far beyond yourself. My friends… this is called sanctification. It’s a gloriously painful and fruitful process the points to the magnitude of God’s glory.
Big Idea #1: Focus on & Serve Your Wife!
DING DING DING! Congratulations, you’re a winner! This is the “Free Bonus Wisdom”.
“Wait a minute… this guy pulled a fast one on me. I thought we were talking about being a dad.” Yup. We are. Being a good daddy necessitates prioritizing focusing on being a servant-husband! As you do this, your desire for being good daddy will grow. This is the priority of the Christian man: God, Wife, Kids.
Simply put, do whatever you possibly can to help and serve your snookums. Clean the house without being asked. Hold your baby without being asked. Pray for her. Change diapers without being asked. Be attentive. Send her for pedicures and massages if you can. Try to find ANY way for her to get the heck out of the house for “me” time or time with her girlfriends. Affirm her like crazy. Encourage her like crazy. Buy small gifts frequently. Surprise her with her favorite treats and foods. Write her letters.
Cherish her. Be playful.
She has probably never been this exhausted and out of her element in her life. Let her cry and listen. Hold and hug her.
DO WHATEVER YOU CAN TO HELP HER ENJOY SLEEP! Did I write-yell that loudly enough? I used CAPS and bold for crying out loud! As I write this, moms across the world unite in screaming “AMEN!” (before passing out from sleep deprivation). If possible, try to find a way to plan an overnight trip at a hotel without the baby as soon as makes sense.
Her self-image and self-esteem is probably at the lowest in her life. She may be a bit disheveled. She is your gift from God Almighty. Marvel at her beauty and constantly tell her how beautiful she is. You don’t do this “just because” you do it because SHE IS!
Her body hurts. Her brain hurts. Her stomach hurts. Her big and pinky fingers and toes probably ache. Have Icy-Hot or warm / cold compresses handy. Massage her without trying to get some lovin’. Wait on her “hand and foot”. Give her a bell to ring if she will use it (but she won’t because it might wake the baby).
You will absolutely screw all this up. Apologize quickly. Do better.
If you don’t feel like doing these things, get over it and do it anyway.
Oh ya, while you are at it… you can basically continue all of these actions for the entirety of your marriage :-).
Now… on to the “being a daddy” part.
Big Idea #2: Enter Your Baby’s World
One of the ways we serve and love people [in general] is by entering their worlds. We observe and figure out what is important to someone else, and make it important to us. This idea is decidedly tricky with babies… so let’s deconstruct and explore it.
Your baby has a pretty tiny world. Enter into it. Define it. Add to it. Expand it.
Your baby knows NOTHING and has experienced very little . You have the opportunity how these voids are filled.
To make it even simpler… I’ll break it down into a handy list of PRACTICAL action items. In no particular order, just do all of these…
#1. Be Goofy, Dance, & ENGAGE!
It’s OK to look like an idiot! Don’t be boring. Be wacky. Get your butt on the ground and crawl around like a bear, chupacabra, moose, chicken, bull, fairytale rainbow unicorn with a missing leg, stegasaurus, blue whale, lizard, baboon… whatever.
Make funny voices.
Put on music and dance in place or around the house. Make up songs. Sing like you are Barry White or Celine Dion. Turn your kid into a puppet and move her / him around.
Play with the stuffed animals and all the noisy, colorful, light-up plastic, China-made doodads.
Make up games and play them. The fun thing is NOTHING has to make any sense… just be present and engage!
Kiss, hug and hold your kid all the time! Lavish your kiddo with appropriate physical touch.
Do all of the above at the same time.
Once your kid starts laughing, it will be like deliciously soothing crack cocaine to your soul. You will crave it like an addict. It will light up your face and spirit with new joy.
#2. READ the Bible to your Kid
The little bugger won’t sit still, has the attention span of a caffeinated ADHD-riddled banshee in a funhouse, rips the pages, and can’t understand a single word you are saying. Read to your kid anyway. Read the Jesus Storybook Bible. Inject the inspired Word of the Creator into your kid’s brain. Hopefully, you were doing this while the kid was baking in your wife’s uterus. If not, start now.
#3. Talk to Your Kid ALL THE TIME
Talk to your kid when you are doing anything and nothing. Describe what you are doing.
Talk about your kid’s future.
Share your heart [out loud] with your kid. Talk about how much you love Jesus, church, your kid, and your wife.
Your tyke will eventually respond to your voice and face.
#4. Do the DANG [Often Dirty] Work
When you hear another dad say “I don’t change diapers”… you kick him in the groin. You change diapers. You are a real man. Real men change diapers. When you vomit from whiffing putrid feces (after the kid starts eating whole foods), clean that up too. Wear a HAZMAT suit as needed. You WILL get peed and pooped on. This is a right of passage and appropriate collateral damage. For the love of everything… make sure to keep your mouth shut when your are changing your baby!
Your kid will throw up all the time. It bears repeating… make sure to keep your mouth shut or you will go through the vomit / clean cycle multiple times here as well. Is this too gross? Yes it is. This your reality. By now, you may have the idea… clean the throw up.
Bathe and clean your kid. DO NOT forget how slippery that kiddo is! One bonus is that naked babies are gosh darn adorable! Again, don’t marvel too long or some substance will spew from your kid and you’ll have to rinse-and-repeat this cleaning cycle.
Your house will turn into a Toys/Babies-R-Us graveyard. Clean up the toys.
You will use a lot of baby dishes. Clean the dishes.
You will go through tons of clothes and wardrobe changes [because of the aforementioned peeing, pooping, and vomiting]. Clean the clothes.
When your kid starts eating whole foods and tosses it all over the house like a rabid Tazmanian devil at a critter-buffet. Clean it up.
You see a theme here?
Also, you had no idea such a small humanoid package could wail louder than a tornado siren. The baby is not your mortal enemy! Stay up late rocking, praying for, and singing to your annoying crying baby.
#5. PRAY Like Freakin’ Crazy!!
Pray for everything. Pray for anything. Pray without ceasing. Pray out loud. Pray under your breath. Pray through your tears. Pray through your fears. Pray with your face on the ground. Pray with your hands on your kid. Pray hugging your wife and baby. Pray in your head. Pray blessings. Pray for a glorious future. Pray for wisdom. Pray for discernment. Pray for leadership. Pray for strength. Pray for clarity. Pray for encouragement. Pray for restful nights.
If your personal prayer life does not skyrocket when you have a kiddo, then you need to spend some serious time with God because somethin’ ain’t right. Few things in the human experience catapult your prayer life like having a kid. Seriously, I’d love to see a pie chart or Excel spreadsheet of some sort in heaven.
Pray for your kid’s doctor visits, love for Jesus, future spouse, future friends, mind / heart / physical development, that they will be saved as a young child in a profound way, future school, ability to pray, experience of God in a supernatural way at a young age, ability to understand scripture, occupation / interests, schools, decisions, pains, fears, teachers, mentors, ability to proclaim the Gospel in word and action, love for the church, desire to serve, spiritual gifting, personality, protection from the enemy, desire to proclaim Christ to the nations, dreams, visions, love for God, humility, they they will see Christ in you and your marriage, and anything else you can think of.
Pray for ideas of what to pray for.
Pray against the enemy, his servants, their works, and effects. Constantly dedicate and declare your home for Jesus. To the best of your ability, disallow idolatry and sin in your home because they do not belong. You will fail. Repent. Confess. Change by the power of the Holy Spirit. Your body and home are temples of the living God. Dedicate and treat them as such.
Pray more still.
You have your marching orders cadet.
You will miserably fail many times.
I do (regularly).
Dust yourself off.
You will get fatigued.
Get back at it with even greater resolve.
If it isn’t hurting; you are missing something.
When you think you have nothing left. You are wrong.
You can do it… only by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Read your Bible even if you can’t bear to be conscious.
Serve and love.
Serve and love more.
Serve and love more still.
Serve and love more.
Serve and love .
I sincerely hope this was helpful.