My motley crew…
The incredible Dave Mirra and his wife Lauren have started a combination social media movement and webshop called #BeADadNotAFad. It’s an amazing project that injects a little positivity daily into my life. My friend Nate is about to become a father for the first time, and he sent me a list of questions that he sent to other friends of his who are dads asking them for their insights. The questions are likely better than my answers, but I thought this was something worth sharing. And at the very least, it’s my contribution to #BeADadNotAFad for today…
What is the best thing about being a father?
For me, I think it is the sense of being a real “provider.” I have a very non-traditional job, but we have a relatively traditional family structure in that Jill does not work. That gives me a lot of pride, the ability to fill that sort of traditional male role in spite of having chosen this wacky career. I’m all in favor of the “new” normal with two working parents, or a working mother and stay-at-home dad, etc. But I also think there’s something nice about a traditional family and being able to make that work and to support that is something that really resonates with me. It makes me feel good about being a “man.” I feel like I’m doing what I am meant to do. In that way, I feel like my sense of self is really fulfilled because there’s a harmony between what I do and what I think I should do.
What is the most difficult thing about being a father?
It’s related to the above. It’s that sense of responsibility. That this family is relying on you to provide for them. That’s an awesome burden, in the literal sense of both words. And, at times, it can be overwhelming. Like most things, the best and worst things are the same, just a matter of perspective.
What is something you never expected?
The sense of “protectorship.” I didn’t really know what sort of feelings I’d have towards my kids. But the most overwhelming feeling I have is a drive to “protect” them. To keep them safe. To insulate them from anything bad. That’s hard to prepare for, because I don’t think you can feel it for anyone other than your own child(ren).
What is one piece of advice or something you wish you would have known when you first became a father?
In my experience, fatherhood is really learned behavior. Specifically in contrast to motherhood. Especially in our house, as soon as Quentin was born, Jill immediately was a different person. Like, the moment she sees the baby, she is now a mother. But being a father is a learned process. Especially for the first six months, when you are largely useless (assuming she is breastfeeding), you can easily get left by the wayside as mother-child bond. So your immediate reaction is probably not going to be like, “oh wow, this is so awesome.” I mean, there are moments of that, but there are also moments where you wonder if you will ever get your wife back. And if this baby will ever care about you. So that’s a learning process. In my experience, fathers “learn” to love their children much more than mothers, who just do. I’d say it took me about 6-9 months with Quentin to really get to the point where I was like, “I would do anything for this little person.”
What is your best “fatherhood” moment (so far)?
The unexpected moments when your child just says something so heartfelt. Like, out of the blue, they will say, “I love you so much.” Or something like that. That is the best. No matter what has been going on in your life, everything is made better at a moment like that.
What is the single most important aspect to being a great father?
Patience. It’s probably cliched, but I think it ties into the whole aspect of protectorship. Kids can be super frustrating at times. Maybe most of the time, since they basically have no sense of a lot of what is normal – self-preservation, cooperation, and all sorts of things that we require to interact in a functional way with other people. Kids have none of these things. They need to develop them. And that’s a process. And supporting them in that process is the hardest part and also the most important.