Becoming a parent is a lot of things, and one of them is definitely the fear that you have no idea what you’re doing. Here’s the thing, though – no one knows what they’re doing the first time around, and they only know a little bit more than that by the time they’re “finished” and their kid is grown and flown.
You do learn things along the way, though. Truths that you take to heart, that help shape your kid and family in a positive way, and those are the lessons we like to pass down to the parents coming behind us.
Like these 10 pieces of advice from dads, for dads, on surviving the marvel of fatherhood.
10. Do what you can do, and don’t push it.
“You can’t be a successful parent if you’re not honest with yourself. It took me a long time to realize that being ‘SuperDad’ doesn’t mean being able to do everything perfectly all the time. Instead, it means being able to give your best to every situation you find yourself in. My wife gave me that advice when she saw how needlessly exhausted parenting was making me.
Also, Alfred says it to Bruce Wayne in The Dark Knight.”
—Tom, 34, Indiana
9. Give them reasons for what you say and do.
“My mom once expressed her regret over saying, ‘Because I’m your mother, and I said so’ so often when I was a kid. She was reflecting on the fact that what she taught us was that being older and bigger than someone gives you the right to treat people however you want. That’s obviously not the lesson she wanted to teach, and she didn’t do it intentionally, but that’s how it came across.
You have to be careful with the difference between what you say and what you’re implying. They can easily be two separate things.”
—Michael, 35, Texas
8. Live up to your own standards.
“I’d never heard the phrase ‘Keeping up with the Joneses …’ until I had kids. It refers to comparing yourself to other people — ‘The Joneses’ — who seem to have it all together. My best friend, who I’ve known since college, dropped that advice on me when I was having a breakdown over some post on social media that made me feel like a bad parent.
The instinct to compare and question yourself as a parent is so, so powerful.
You just can’t do it. It’s a complete and total waste of precious parenting energy.”
—Christopher, 37, Ohio
7. They’ll learn more figuring it out on their own.
“It’s hard, but my dad said some of his favorite memories of me growing up involved watching me struggle and then succeed. There were so many times, he said, where he wanted to jump in and help, but held back and let me figure something out on my own.
He said it was so difficult, but so, so rewarding.”
—Jared, 34, California
6. It’s true. They do.
“I don’t know if this was the best parenting advice I ever got, but it definitely sticks out the most. A friend of mine said it in passing once we brought our first son home from the hospital. It was a quick phone conversation, and he just ended with something like, ‘Be careful, dude. Babies puke a lot.’ It was like he set off my Spidey Sense. I immediately tuned right in to my son’s puke reflex. I got to the point where I could basket catch a puke without looking, I was so prepared.
Like I said, not the most poignant advice, but it definitely helped a ton.”
—Neil, 35, Colorado
5. Show them emotions are fine and good.
“Too many dads think they have to constantly put on a brave face, for no other reason than because ‘it’s what men do’. I don’t disagree with the notion that a man needs to protect his family, but I do disagree with the idea that he can’t be scared, upset, or sad. I actually credit my son with this advice. He’s a teenager now. My father passed away about five years ago, and I noticed that he was struggling so hard to be brave and not cry. I asked him why, and he said it was because he didn’t want to make me cry. As you can imagine, when I heard that, we both bawled.
It touched my heart, and made me realize I was treading close to teaching him a pretty lousy lesson.”
—Brian, 44, New York
4. Honest moms for the win.
“New parents get really caught up with ‘firsts’. The first time baby rolls over. The first time baby burps. The first time baby sits up. Doing that is just going to make you feel stressed and guilty. Chances are, you’re not going to be there for every ‘first’. You’ve got to accept that. My mom taught me this when I asked her what my first word was. She didn’t remember.
That’s a pretty big first, but the fact she didn’t remember sort of put it in perspective.”
—Sean, 32, Washington
3. I love this concept.
“At my daughter’s school, they promote flexible thinking. It’s a constant. Whenever a kid has an issue — big or small — and doesn’t want to budge, they ask the kid if he or she is being a flexible thinker. Is this a big problem, or a small problem? Stuff like that. Flexible thinking is so important to being a functioning human being in the real world that we immediately started using that term around our house.
My wife and I even use it with each other when we’re being stubborn.”
—Jack, 41, New Jersey
2. Put your partner first.
“We knew a couple who got divorced. They had two sons, and we stayed in touch with the husband after they split up. He told us that they drifted apart because they began to neglect each other. Not on purpose, but as a result of everything going on in their lives. They just became non-priorities. Physically, emotionally … they just let each other go. His advice was pretty simple: kids make staying intimately connected harder, but they also make it more worthwhile.
We were able to learn from their unfortunate mistakes, and keep from making some of the same ones.”
—Luis, 39, Indiana
1. Ask for help. That’s what your village is for.
“I was amazed at how willing a random, fellow dad was to help me deal with a diaper issue in a Target bathroom. I was a new dad, and a friend of mine — also a dad — said that asking other dads for help is par for the course, within reason. This was completely out of reason. I mean, a dirty diaper? But the guy pitched in like it was his own kid. I was blown away and humbled. And I’ve paid it forward several times. Luckily, no random dirty diapers, but I’m not shy about pitching in if I see another dad struggling to carry groceries, or something like that.
We’re in this together, right?”
—R.J., 26, Louisiana
I’m not a dad, I’m a mom, and I love all of these – for my sons and my husband!
What’s the best piece of advice you ever got from another man about fatherhood? Share it with us in the comments!