On Being a Dad, Part 1

A new addition graced the Ryan household on Valentines’ Day of 2015. After 40 weeks of waiting, my wife and I were blessed with our first child – a little girl whom we named Tabitha Joy. She is amazing and we are very blessed. With a few weeks gone by to reflect, it’s pretty apparent that she is an extraordinarily curious little girl. Beginning on her second day alive, she has always been an eyes-wide-open little girl whose only complaint in life seems to be when she can’t see what it is she wants to see. Well, that and she hates it when you pull the bottle away before she’s drained the last ounce from the nipple. She is playful, quick to smile (once she figured out how) and is generally just happy and content with everything around her.

The most common question I’m asked these days aside from “Sleeping much yet?” is “What’s it like to be a Dad?” Answering that question has proven harder to do off-the-cuff than originally expected. So, instead of dropping the ball completely, here are a pair of observations from my vast twelve weeks of experience.

Truth: You are never 100% ready. But, also truth: It’s completely OK not to be 100% ready.

This was a solicited piece of advice from a co-worker who has three kids at home already. “Looking back,” he said, “it was completely naive of me to expect that I was 100% ready for any experiences that a baby entering my world could possibly throw my way. No one ever is.” He went on to say that it was the unscripted moments that not only “built character” but also provided the very fabric of happiness that you get to don when becoming a dad for the first time.

The advice told me two things: a better strategy than worrying about everything was ultimately to trust in your own ability to adapt and overcome. And two, your own problem-solving skills are kicked into overdrive immediately upon birth.

There’s actually an instruction manual. Men should read it.

Not going to go into details, but I have to say that darn near everything that you will ever encounter in the first year of life of a newborn baby can be found in the What to Expect series of books. They’re a really concise, accurate collection of “watch items” that can work to provide a reliable and trustworthy backstop from which to mirror your own experiences. Need to know what weird noise your kid is making and why it’s happening? How much poop can she really generate in a day? Should I be concerned that her head size measures XX number? The answers are indexed, and available by general time frame of occurrence.

So, Dads… now that there really is an instruction manual, please no pulling the macho “I don’t need directions, I’m just going to keep driving” routine. It’s OK not to know, but there’s no excuse for refusing to learn.