June is nine months old today! And it's awesome! I am definitely not one of those parents who say things like, "I wish you could stay this small forever." I love that June is growing and developing and it seems like each month she gets older is my new favorite month of her existence.
I received an e-mail from someone the other day asking me if I had any tips for a soon-to-be dad. He said he read my post on marriage and was wondering if I had any tips for fatherhood. He explained that he was pretty nervous about the whole thing. So this post is for him, other soon-to-be-Dad's and even "old dads", listing nine things I've learned from my little girl in the last nine months. Obviously this isn't an exhaustive list, but it is what I have found to be helpful. I am also going to include my nine favorite photos of June in the post, one for each point! Because she's so stinking cute.
1. YOUR MARRIAGE IS AND WILL ALWAYS BE MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOUR KIDS.
If you love your wife well, you will love your kids well. It would be very easy for me to wrap up my whole identity in being a dad. Kids come in like thunder and totally rock your world. They take time, energy, patience, endurance and so much more, all in the best way of course! It would be really easy for both Brooke and I to make our lives and identity all about being parents, all while sacrificing what it means to be a good husband or wife. Whenever I come home from work, with Brooke and June waiting for me, I usually say something like, "There are the number 1 and 2 ladies in my life." I want Brooke to know that our marriage and relationship is always a top priority for me and I want June to know that too. If I can love Brooke well I will give June a living example for how she should be treated by her future husband. If I can love Brooke well I end up being a better dad because I am serving the whole family, not just part of it. Don't let your kids become an idol in your marriage. Don't let them dominate your lives. Set aside time to talk, enjoy and nurture each other outside of being parents. June is alive because Brooke and I love each other. She will grow up well if we continue to love each other well, and that's why I believe marriage is always more important than kids.
2. GET YOUR POM-POMS OUT.
The labor and delivery of a baby is the craziest thing in the world. It is so intense, hard and just incredible, but the intensity of motherhood doesn't stop when the baby comes out. There is recovery, the difficulty of breastfeeding, living without as much sleep and so on. I found myself on the sidelines a lot, by default, in those first few weeks. I couldn't feed June because, well, I can't lactate! I felt helpless at times, but Brooke said the best thing I could do was encourage her, tell her she is doing a good job and that we will make it. That's what you will need to do. Get out your pom-poms and start cheering on the woman you love. Tell her she is doing an amazing job, that she is beautiful and that she is a great mother. Remember that one of you just pushed a baby out of your privates and it was FREAKING HARD. Be filled with compassion toward your wife, serve her, love her and do all you can to make her life easier. Brooke was on bedrest for the first two weeks of June's life and I had a severely sprained ankle. We were a hot mess and our lives could have been even worse if I hadn't made a point to be the encourager. Be an encourager at all times, but ESPECIALLY at the beginning of your journey as parents.
3. CONSIDER IT ALL JOY.
In the first couple of months of being a dad you will be tired, you will get crapped on, you will get peed on, you will get up in the middle of the night, you will have to stop watching TV to help, you will have to wash dishes, do laundry, clean clothes, clean floors, go out for diapers and so many other things. Most people love complaining about all these things, but I think what has changed my role as dad is to have the mindset that it is all joy! In the book of James it says, " Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds" I don't know about you but it was definitely a trial the first time poop ended up in my hair and on my hands. It is so easy to have a negative attitude about some of the aspects of fatherhood, but why? It's not going to help you, it's not going to help your wife, and do you really want your little one being raised to see things so negatively? People always ask if June is "always that happy?", and for the most part, she is. It might just be her natural personality, I am hopeful that is part of it, but it also might be that since she was born her mother and I have considered every aspect of her a joy, whether it's smiles or giggles or poops that make your eyes water.
4. TAKE THE PHOTO AND THEN GET OFF YOUR PHONE.
I love taking pictures of June, mostly because she is such a cheese ball and smiles for all of them. I don't, however, want June's memories of her dad to be my face behind the glow of an iPhone screen. I want her to experience me, all-in, with all my attention. I don't want to be half in when I am interacting with my beautiful daughter. Do I always get this right? No, and there are definitely times when Brooke has to tell me to get off my phone or when I have to remind myself to put it down and be all in. In fact, June has made me realize how often I check it and I am really making an effort to check it less. I have turned off all notifications and tell Brooke that she can tell me to put it down at anytime. I want to be an all in dad and I can't do that if I am checking my phone all the time.
5. WHO CARES WHAT PEOPLE THINK IN PUBLIC?
Brooke will roll her eyes at me from time to time as I am sprinting up and down the Target aisles just to get June to laugh. But honestly, do whatever you can to bring joy to your kids hearts and if that means being a little silly in public, then so be it. I would so much rather have a bunch of happy kids with me in public because I am a goofball instead of sad kids in public. Being a dad has helped me strip away another layer of caring so much about what people might think of me. And it's fantastic. I believe that our heavenly father wants to love us extravagantly. I want to be that type of dad.
6. GIVE YOUR WIFE ALONE TIME.
I try to make it a point to offer Brooke time to be by herself so her identity isn't solely wrapped up in being a mom. I want her to feel normal and enjoy the things that she enjoyed before June. I try to watch June whenever I can so she can go to Target or Starbucks (really only the two places we go besides our studio). And when I feel like Brooke wants to be at home by herself to work on a house project, I will try to take June to my parents or on a few errands. I actually love taking June to run errands because people are SOOO much nicer to you when you have an adorable baby with you. If you have ever missed the return/exchange deadline on something, take your baby with you! 😂 Make time for your wife to be by herself whenever you can. If you aren't good at picking up the signals your wife is throwing down, just ask her to ask for alone time, and when she does, oblige!
7. BE PREPARED!
If your baby is coming soon and you have no idea what to expect in the delivery room I would seriously start to look into it. Brooke and I decided to go the unmedicated route for delivery and it was intense. If I hadn't known, at least a little bit, of what was coming I wouldn't have been able to be there for Brooke like she needed me. Even if the unmedicated way isn't for you be prepared for what to expect. Find out the steps and processes of what is going to happen in the delivery room. It's like the wild west and being mentally prepared will help you know what to do for your wife. You will be able to support and love her better if you are prepared.
8. GET THAT BABY ON A SCHEDULE!
We read the book that millions of parents have read - On Becoming Baby Wise. Literally my favorite book of all time, outside the Bible. It gives you an idea of what to expect, how to schedule feedings and get your baby sleeping through the night as soon as possible. Can I get an amen? I don't know about you, but I love sleeping and after a few weeks of getting up every night I was starting to feel and look crazy. I don't know how long it would have taken June to naturally sleep through the night, but with the Baby Wise method she was sleeping through the night at 8 weeks and it was amazing!! I can not recommend reading BABY WISE enough. Do it! Just buy it and read it. You will not regret it. Also, there will be "Baby Wise haters" out there so get ready for them. But, I am definitely not one of them. Who knows... I might even get a Baby Wise tattoo on my butt.
9. END WITH JESUS.
Like all of my list posts, I like to end by telling you to end with Jesus. In the gospel Jesus gives us the tools we need to be great dads. We need to love relentlessly through all struggles and pain. We need to serve our wives like Jesus served the church. We need to teach our kids who God is and how He loves them so much. We will all fall short as fathers, but God never will. He will be enough for little June like He is enough for Brooke and I. I will fall short at being a dad in a lot of ways, but my hope and prayer is that I will be able to point June toward Jesus so she can follow Him with passion, purpose and excitement!
BONUS - APPS I USE A LOT AS A DAD
1. Baby Bundle - This app allows you to track feedings, diaper changes, etc. You may think that stuff is easy to remember but after a few nights of not sleeping enough your brain starts to forget. EVERYTHING.
2. 1 Second Every Day - Allows you to easily montage one second of video every single day. You will probably find yourself watching these videos after she goes to bed.
3. VSCO Cam/Grid - I decided to upload all my photos of June to my VSCO grid so I could have one place on the web to go to and see them all. You can see them all here - http://tjmousetis.vsco.co/grid/1
I have only been a dad for nine months, but I hope what my advice helps all dads of all ages out there. I know that fatherhood will bring all sorts of unexpected turns, twists and outcomes. I know that at times it will be hard and frustrating, but I also know that it is all totally worth it. I know that with Jesus I can consider it all joy because my hope is in Him and because of that all the rest of life is bonus. If you try to love your children like God loves his, I think you'll do a great job!