One Piece of Advice for New Dads

I have been a Father for 13 years now and have 4 healthy, happy girls. I have made some mistakes and there have been some bumps along the road. Life gets busy, goes by fast and there have been times I lost sight of what is most important in life. By no means am I an expert on parenthood (my friends nodding in silent approval) but I have done one thing that I am proud of and will be when I am on my last days.

When my first girl (Georgie) was born, I ran out and bought a $10 notebook to start a Father’s Journal. I started the process of documenting  what was happening, what I was thinking, how the world was shaping around the family and of course all the milestones. I guess, like this blog and my other journals I keep, I have this need to reflect and document how I am feeling about life from a variety of perspectives.

The benefits of keeping a father journal are many, but here are my top 3:

  1. It gives you a reason to sit down and reflect on family and Fatherhood. For 5-10 minutes every once in a while I am in the zone thinking about my kids and how they are growing and developing. I reflect on how different life situations are impacting the family and I and it brings forward need for change every once in a while. I sit with pride thinking about the recent great memories, sometimes reflecting about the weekend, sometimes about the holiday season after it has come and gone.
  2. It freezes moments in time that you can go back to. We all now have old hard drives around the house full of low quality pictures, Facebook and other electronic means of pictures but a journal is different. I can look at a picture from 2003, but I can’t remember where my mind was at that time. With my journal, I have always wrote about what was happening yet I also provided how I was feeling about what was going on.
  3. The kids love it. I read them entries from time to time. Birthdays they will ask “Dad, can you read about when I was born?” They get a real kick out of hearing about their first day and my interpretations of their journey. I write my journal in a manner that I want the kids to read it when they are adults. I have written this to the girls and I am describing to them how I felt along the way in bringing them up. I have entries where I am a proud father, I have entries after nights of sickness and all the unpleasant events that go on when a family gets sick. I talk about the phases that challenged every bit of my patience and point out directly in the diary who was causing me agony.

Getting started

The good news it is cheap and easy. While you could do it on a device and then back it up several times to ensure its safety, I prefer the book method. There is something old-fashioned and more personal about seeing the book. It provides a visual cue that generates a positive emotional response. Plus the kids will always have my hand-writing, making it that much more personal. I have also dedicated a few pages where the kids have written or scribbled in it before I was fast enough to catch them, but that’s all good.

I am not consistent or regular with it. I will grab a few minutes and talk about what they are up to, what Rae and I have going on in our lives and just our overall state. I wrote about the challenges we had during Laura’s beginning and it is interesting to see how things came along both in terms of her health and my outlook on life.

While I started this and have kept it up since day one of our first born, I don’t think it is ever too late to start. My Grandmother just passed away and now we are in the process of going through her possessions and ensuring people in the family are able to have things that symbolize the meaning she left with them. I know that when I am gone, this journal that I am investing a few minutes a week in will be the most valuable gift to the girls.

So Fathers, go grab a $5 hard-covered note book somewhere. Make your first entries a bit longer and explain the purpose of the book. Talk about who you are as a person, what you believe in and what your kids and family mean to you. Then continue to update it as life moves on. Facebook will never replace the memories you will create with a Father’s Journal.

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