An Open Letter to You, Dad-to-Be

Don't stress, dad-to-be! Here are some tips to start off fatherhood right.
father to be

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Hey, man --

In about five seconds, you're going to be a dad. I know: Her due date isn't for five months -- or three weeks, or whatever. That's immaterial. In dad-to-be time, it is five seconds.

We're talking about the amount of time it takes to remove 20 bucks from the ATM. A mere blip.

But these five seconds are precious. (Fact is, you don't know what "precious" means until you hold the warm, gurgling bundle of your own tiny baby.) Savor these seconds. Cherish them. Luxuriate in them, dude, because you'll never have this much quiet or relaxation or freedom or domestic peace or relative lack of stress ever again. And that's good.

Being a dad-to-be is way different than being a dad. You're about to become much less important (suddenly you're no longer the key person in your world) and much more important (you're about to become someone's father!) Note: It'll take some time to comprehend this completely. I speak from experience; I've got two kids. My first child was born in 2002, and my place in the universe is just becoming apparent to me right...about...now.

Yes, such responsibility probably seems frightening. And intimidating. And confusing. But I'm here to tell you a few secrets that'll make you feel better about the whole thing.

1. Probability is your friend. You may be freaking out, worrying that, despite your best intentions, you'll fail to supply your forthcoming child with the necessary amount of...something (milk, tummy time, fatherly affection, Baby Mozart CDs). Worry not! The odds are overwhelmingly in your favor that your kid will turn out fine. Children are resilient as hell and can prove remarkably resistant to all sorts of parental inanities. When I was a dad-to-be, I was sure I'd screw up in some horrible way, and then I accidentally dropped my son on his head. I was worried about that for a very long time -- and then we moved on. Today he's a happy, smart, funny second grader (and he doesn't even remember it!). Don't mess yourself up with too many what-ifs.

2. Historically low expectations. The notion that fathers should have any significant role in the raising of a child is so new that paint is still drying on it. (Imagine, say, your grandfather reading a book or an article on how to be a good father!) Society's expectations for dads-to-be are generally quite low. No one will watch your parenting the way they'll watch the mom-to-be.

3. Embrace your ignorance. The best dads are the ones who don't pretend to know everything. They're the ones who know they'll occasionally mess up. Those who actively seek to learn and who ask for help when they need it. Be one of these guys, and you'll be a much better parent. Be humble in your mistakes. Don't beat yourself up for not being perfect; instead, be the dad who does better the second time around.

4. A hero is both a sandwich and a dad. Heroism: This is the payoff of being a dad. I don't care what you've accomplished previously -- fatherhood is your chance to be a hero like you've never been a hero before. You will inspire and receive the kind of adoration that is, a great a guy as you are right now, simply not available to non-dads. If you can hang in there, outlast your anxiety, and do the necessary work, then you, my friend, will be a bona fide hero to your kid.

So...fatherhood. Take a deep breath and hold it for about five seconds: One, two, three, four, five. You're ready.

Talk soon.

-- Ken

Copyright © 2013 Meredith Corporation.

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