Being a first-time father has taught me some valuable lessons over the past year and a half. Some of the most important things I’ve learned is the importance of establishing parenting habits, being flexible, and being present. These lessons have helped me navigate the challenges of parenthood and have helped me build a strong relationship with my child.
Every day, my daughter wakes up at six in the morning like clockwork. I hear her cooing and talking to herself through the baby monitor as I get ready for my day. I take her out of her crib and feed her milk, while talking to her and saying a little prayer over her. By the time she’s finished with her milk, her mom has finished making her breakfast and I give my wife and my daughter kisses. Then, I’m usually out the door around seven in the morning.
Prior to having a child, I was accustomed to leaving for work close to nine and normally getting in quiet time with God when it felt convenient at night. Now, spending time in the word and prayer is the first thing I do when I get into the office before anyone else. It’s become a habit. So much so that my day feels incomplete if something has gotten in the way of my routine. This habit has allowed me to have less anxiety and more clarity for the day ahead.
I think having a routine and establishing habits comes naturally for some, but I’ve always been more of a “play it by ear” kind of guy. But when it comes to parenting, having a plan and developing good habits that work is a necessity.
Establishing good habits for my daughter has really been about me and my wife establishing good parenting habits for ourselves. While parents have differing opinions on parenting techniques such as sleep training, it was a lifesaver for me and my wife.
Our daughter has stayed on a pretty consistent sleep and nap routine. Her playtime, mealtimes, and outdoor activities have stayed on a steady schedule as well. Even when we’ve traveled out-of-state to see family, our daughter has followed the same routine. Developing a baseline schedule and program for sleep, feeding, and even playtime has helped me and my wife maintain our sanity.
While I follow a stricter schedule now than before my daughter was born, I’ve also learned the importance of being flexible. As a parent, you must be willing to adapt to changing circumstances and be open to trying new things.
Whether it’s trying a new parenting technique, occasionally meeting with your small group on Zoom, or getting used to eating dinner earlier than most folks (our family has dinner every night at five), being flexible is key to navigating the challenges of parenthood.
Having routines and being flexible with them has been important for me as a new dad. But, what I believe I will look back on as most important during these years is the trust I’ve built with my daughter through consistency and being present. Being fully engaged with my child through the conversations I have with her, the books I read to her, and the way I react to her all have an impact on her.
Many of the things I thought she wasn’t picking up on, she has ended up mimicking later at unexpected times, to my astonishment. My wife and I are amazed at the words she unexpectedly says, the behaviors she exhibits, and even problems she solves that were taught to her months ago. They really do pick up on everything. Being present with her I believe will play crucial roll in her development.
While parenting isn’t always easy, by focusing on these key elements, I’ve been able to create a positive and nurturing environment for my family so far. I look forward to continually learning and growing as a father in the years to come.