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DAD BEAT: 3 Things I’ve Learned My First 3 Years As a Dad

Needless to say, the last three years have been a roller coaster ride of emotions: frustration, fear, joy, peace, paranoia and relief.

My son turns 3 today. 

My wife and I will have succeeded in keeping our baby alive for 1,095 days. This is a big win — especially considering that we killed every plant we’ve ever owned, occasionally forgot to feed our dogs and spent a large portion of our time talking about decisions made by fictional characters from television. 

So, in celebration of this miraculous life our son has lived in spite of his parents being little more than children themselves, I’d like to share some things I have learned as a new dad. In no particular order …

It’s not all about me. OK. This first one might be obvious, but it wasn’t to me when I became a new dad. It wasn’t like I brought my child home from the hospital with a brand-new outlook on life, immediately knowing that my old way of doing life was over. Before having a child, I could sleep in on Saturdays, watch whatever shows I wanted, leave the house whenever I wanted and use the bathroom in peace. Once I became a parent, any expectation that I could live the same way I did before withered away pretty quickly. I had to change my perspective and realize that there were other breathing human depending on me. If I could change my perspective to find enjoyment in helping other people, I could find joy in waking up early on Saturdays, watching “Baby Einstein” videos and always having company to enjoy the show when I use the bathroom.

Enjoy the present. This isn’t just hippy-talk. At every stage of my child’s life — crawling, walking, eating solid food — I thought to myself, “I can’t wait until he can” or, “When he’s old enough, he’ll be able to.” My mind was constantly set on the future and what we’ll be able to do together when he got older. I was so focused on surviving my current season of life, or getting my child prepared for his next milestone, I would forget to just “be.” A huge life lesson from this dad to you is that you don’t realize how fast those first few years go by. Seriously, enjoy the now.

Empathy solves many problems. All good people have one characteristic in common: they show empathy. They are able to put themselves in the shoes of another person so that they can understand the world through different eyes. When you’re in the thick of learning how to be a dad, you can make the difficult seasons better by showing empathy toward your child and partner. Patience, papa. If you can figure this out, you’ll enjoy being a dad a LOT more. Trust me.