Almost 3 years ago, I became a father. My daughter was born November 2014 and our lives have never been the same.
People told us things would be different. Some tried to tell us life would be extremely different. But I’m here to tell you, it’s completely different. The things we think about, dream about, and talk about are all different than they were before. The items we purchase, the conversations we have…all different.
And it’s a good different.
Some people think of parenthood and picture vomit, diarrhea, and not sleeping. Those things are definitely present (in vast quantities at times), but fathering a tiny human is far more than that. I’ve learned more about myself and what it means to have the heart of a Father.
Below are 5 things I’ve learned since becoming a Dad:
#1 – I’m capable of WAY more than I thought.
Nothing spells exhaustion like getting less than 5 hours a sleep a night…for a whole month. But even when running on fumes, I was still able to wake up in the morning, go to school to work on my Master’s degree, then go to my part-time job, and come home to help cook/clean/give-my-wife-a-break. I was still able to have friendships. (And boy did I value friendships during that time…thanks for the free meals friends!)
Looking back at those first few months of my entry into fatherhood, I realize that I’m capable of way more than I thought. I could actually function as a partial human being! I did say partial…
#2 – My heart can explode every day.
Seriously. This is no joke. I look at my daughter and I feel my heart pulsating with love and pride. “Look at my most bestest creation!” It’s incredible to think that this beautiful little person is part-me and part-my-wife.
Being a Dad makes me say things like:
“I just want to eat your FACE!”
“I could just squeeze you to death!”
“I wanna nibble your toes…”
And other canniballistic-type things…but I promise it’s out of love, not sadistic hunger. I have so much love for my daughter that I’m pretty sure I die once a day of an overstimulated heart.
#3 – I can experience the full range of emotions in 60 seconds.
Nothing, and I mean nothing, can make me teeter on the edge of utter insanity and complete euphoria…at almost the exact same time…
Except for being a parent.
This child that I love so much can do the most absolute sweetest thing that makes me dote all over her, and then half a second later do something that makes me want to scream and throw her across the room (Is that too real? If it is…you’re not a parent. I now know why you’re shown a “don’t shake the baby” video at the hospital.)
If you’re like me, you love to take personality quizzes and tests and figure out what your strengths and weaknesses are. Some of my strengths are things like responsibility, connectedness, and learning. My weakness? I don’t have enough emotion. The quizzes I’ve taken basically say, “Are you even human? You don’t feel anything!” My wife can attest to that.
But being a Dad? I’ve discovered all the emotions…and can span the entire emotional spectrum in a very, VERY short amount of time. I even cry more. It’s terrifying.
#4 – My desire to love, protect, and provide is strong.
When I first entered in to marriage, I realized a lot about myself. I wanted to love, protect, and provide for this woman God gave me. And in the almost 7 years we’ve been married I’ve vowed to do just that.
But over the last two years since my daughter’s been born, my desire is the strongest it’s ever been. My wife is a full-grown adult who can take care of herself all on her own. She doesn’t need me.
But my daughter? If left to herself, she would die. She needs her parents to take care of her. To feed her. Clothe her. Put her to bed. Sing to her.Pray for her. And the list goes on…
The lover and protector in me are fully alive in full force. I’m constantly thinking about how to provide for my family in the best way possible. How to keep them safe. How to keep them happy and healthy.
And I wouldn’t change it for the world.
#5 – My marriage has to come first.
When you become a parent, it’s easy to get sucked into only thinking about the needs of the child. But I had to remind myself of this truth: children are a temporary assignment. Marriage is for life.
Now hear me: my children will ALWAYS be my children. Nothing can change that. But eventually, they’ll grow up, move out of the house, meet someone, and have a family of their own.
But my wife will be the person I go to bed with every night for the rest of my life.
As important as it is to keep our children alive and train them up in the way they should go, I cannot neglect my marriage. We long to be a good example of what a strong marriage is for our children. So that when they get married, they have an example to look up to.
My wife is my partner. My lover. My confidant. And my best friend. She has to come first. There will be seasons (like the newborn stage) when much of our focus and attention will be on providing for that child. But we must always come back to what’s most important: our relationship with each other.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. But it definitely encapsulates a lot of what I’ve learned.
Being a Father is hard, but so incredibly rewarding. There’s absolutely nothing like it.
Derek is a gifted leader, writer, speaker, musician, and visionary. He has been a justice filmmaker, pastor, financial coach, songwriter, and an advocate for the voiceless. He writes about gaining influence, leading well, and connecting deeper at www.derekharvey.me. He resides in the Pacific Northwest with his beautiful wife and daughter, whom he’s smitten with. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and his website.