“You cannot have a meaningful life without having self-reflection.” –Oprah Winfrey
Kids are simply amazing. They observe, analyze, memorize, conceptualize, and apply new information at breath-taking speeds. My five-year-old daughter, almost every day since the day she was born, shares with me something new she’s learned. For example, she began reading simple three and four letter words last spring, but by the end of the summer, I look up, and she’s now reading whole books and composing texts on my phone. Where does the time go? Before we know it, our kids are teaching us lessons.
We are much better at noticing our child’s development and growth than we are at reflecting on our own growth and progress as parents. By taking an afternoon to value and reflect on where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’d like to go, we become more self-aware of the lessons we have collected along the way.
9 Things I have Learned Since Becoming a Dad
The following are nine lessons I’ve learned as a dad from my daughter, my spouse, and about myself as a co-parent. I challenge you to also take some time for yourself and reflect on how far you’ve come on your journey. Feel free to use these prompts or come up with your own!
Three Lessons I’ve Learned with My Daughter
1. All of Us are God’s Children.
My daughter is not concerned with race, social status, or religious background. She does not care where her friends come from, if they have two moms or two dads, or what kind of home they live in. The lesson she has taught me is to treat everyone the same, and if you are wearing a smile, if you are warm and inviting, she’s ready to be your friend and play.
2. To Become a Better Dad, I Must Forgive Myself.
I’ve learned to say I’m sorry. We all make mistakes, and the truth is, your kids see all of them! There is a deep humility in admitting to your child you’ve made a mistake, and an even deeper lesson and grace when you realize your child has forgiven you and moved on before you do.
3. To Be Present I Need to Relax and Have Fun.
I’ve learned how to have fun again. When we first started to visit the park as soon as she could hold her head up in the infant bucket swing, we spent hours watching each other’s facial expressions. We were both hooked. More recently, she learned the rules to the card game UNO, and it has been more fun than I have had in years.
Three Lessons I’ve Learned Co-Parenting with My Wife
4. We are a Team and Have Each Other’s Back.
Look for opportunities to give your partner a day, or an afternoon, sometimes just an hour to be alone. You learn quickly that breaks like this can make all the difference in the world. Especially when you are needing a break!
5. Giving Up the Ego Feels so Good!
While there are times when you are tired, angry, or just low energy with your partner, one simple rule my spouse and I have is to keep communicating. That can mean to speak, text, email, write a note, or even just make eye contact. And the sooner one of us gives up the ego and breaks the ice, the better.
6. We are Role Models for Our Children 24 Hours a Day, 7 Days a Week
For better and for worse, you’re a team, and your kids have a front-row seat. So when patience is stretched, and disagreements occur, always remember this lesson, all is not lost! These situations often have the potential to be an opportunity to role model how to forgive and work through a problem with someone close to you.
Three Lessons I’ve Learned About Myself Through My Parenting Journey
7. Lesson Number One, Shame is Toxic, Let it Go and Move On
I must forgive myself. If you are like me, you’ll go through a wide range of emotions as a parent. A few of my more shameful ones include tuning out, impatience, and my least favorite, getting angry and losing my temper. The sooner I forgive myself and resolve to improve, the sooner I can get back to being the best dad I can be.
8. To Be a Dad is to Be a Lifelong Learner
The more you learn about parenting, the more options you have. Whenever I read a book, listen to a podcast, or talk to another dad or parent, I come away with a new idea or activity to add to my toolbox.
9. Progress is Not a Straight Line
Being a dad may be the ultimate inspiration to get healthy. I quit smoking, eat better, exercise more frequently, and meditate almost daily. However well I’m doing though, I also have relapses. Those days I eat the extra piece of pizza, skip a workout, or raid my daughter’s treats after she’s gone to bed. As a dad, the axiom that “progress is never a straight line” has never made more sense than it does now. As I look back on where I was before our daughter was born and where I am now, I can see I’ve been trending upward these past six years, and that’s a good reason to be proud of myself. The lesson absolutely always is, get back on that bike!
Now It’s Your Turn
The American author and businessman Lawrence Bossidy wrote,
“Self awareness gives you the capacity to learn from your mistakes as well as your successes. It enables you to keep growing.”
While we invest time and energy into ensuring our kids are growing and learning, it’s also important to reflect on our own journey. Again, I challenge you to journal for an hour and think through what you’ve learned about yourself on your parenting journey.