Updated: May 4
Just over three years ago, my twin sons were born making me a father for the first time. I had read and heard how much becoming a father was a game changer. But until you live it, you can't truly understand it. Things that once before seemed so important were suddenly trivial. Time that seemed abundant and plentiful was all of the sudden so precious. A minute not spent with my family felt lost forever. Life altering does not even begin to describe the feeling, it felt larger. In those short three years, the learning curve was steep. Sure books, blogs, advice from family, friends, and professionals help, but true learning comes from doing.
Start by Doing
Life is crazy busy for us all. Everyone has a path for each minute of every day. Distractions are all around us, perhaps even more so today than any other time in the history of human existence. Technology undoubtedly made millions of things in life better and more efficient. But one of the cataclysmic drawbacks is it's byproduct; to consume us and prevent us from being present. It is not uncommon to see a family of four eating dinner at a restaurant with all four faces buried in a device. Recognize this and snap out of it. Have a "no device" policy at all meals with your family. Show your children what it means to have a meal together, talk, share feelings, and simply enjoy the time together.
The Big Feels
I read a fascinating article about how fathers can better connect with their sons. In general, society has conditioned us men to hold back our feelings, the "suck it up and move on" mentality. Sure that my be the proper response for a small scratch on a playground, but for the 99% of other problems we face it may be detrimental. The long term consequences to the development of a child are in jeopardy. See from an early age we see our fathers as strong, emotionless, and leaders of our pack. That's how they were raised, and their fathers before them. For the modern day father, I say take a look at how you got where you are today. If and when you notice yourself "conditioning", recognize it, but make a conscious effort to change the pattern. Talk to your child, ask questions, have a genuine interest in what they are doing or what is causing them frustration. Empathize with them, put yourself in their shoes, and help them express how they feel with words.
Presence is the Present
As a father, gifts are welcomed of course. Who doesn't like the excitement of opening a gift? New device, tool for the garage, grill accessory, or some customized collar stays all make great gifts. Most are useful for a short time, some can be cherished for many years to come (I'm looking at you collar stays). However, nothing really is more precious than being present while with those whom you love the most. Disconnected from the world wide web, social media, and work. Your loved ones will definitely notice if you are present and that is a gift that never gets old; one that makes not only you happier, but all those around you.