Welcome to Dad Stuff

Because I’m not busy enough, I decided a few months back that I would add a little side project to this venture. In all of what I write, I strive for one core concept: write what you know. I’m writing from my lived experience.

A good amount of that lived experience for the past few years has involved a heavy dose of “dadding”. I would write about it in my “swimming” blog, but only tangentially and occasionally. This space, the focus will be on the experience of being a dad.

Like 100% of my fellow dads, I had no idea what to expect when I became a father. I was so overwhelmed by the moment my daughter appeared that I spontaneously burst into tears. I hadn’t cried for a long time before that.

Then reality sunk in, despite my best intentions to be an equal partner with my wife, I was the one that was quickly back at work and she was at home, in a foreign country, trying to make sure that infant didn’t die.

Three years ago, that all changed. Circumstance brought me home, and roles reversed (a little). I was able to be there in the morning, and night, and all the weekends I was missing. I’m so thankful for that, because it gave me a chance to break a really important cycle in my own family.

Generational Knowledge

Like many other things, parenting is a skill where we tend to hand things down generationally. That’s not to say we don’t do some things distinctly different from our parents, but most of us do a lot of things the same way, without even noticing.

My father had a complete absentee father. My grandfather and lived in to my late 20s. I saw him three times my entire life. He was not a parent in any definable way to my dad.

My dad did better, he at least hung around with us, but hardly. He was and is a workaholic that would be out the door before you ate breakfast and return home sporadically during the day until he dive bombed in for dinner from 6:00-6:30 and then went back to work.

He’s a nice father, but he was and is essentially living his own life. When I left home to go to college and beyond, the only times we would talk were Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I didn’t want to be that kind of father to my kids, I knew that. What I also didn’t know was how to do something better and different. So I set out to teach myself how I could not be just another DeSantis father who existed in distant orbit of his children.

Giving them what they need

So there I was, suddenly with a lot of time to parent, a child that was just beginning to form words and my own upbringing haunting me a little bit. I quickly got a few pleasant surprises that motivated me to push further:

  1. My daughter had a noticeable, positive change in mood having me around more. My wife went to work but was also there in the morning and evening. I could see how much security my daughter drew from the additional presence

  2. A lot of the toddler “problems” we had been dealing with became far easier to overcome when I wasn’t trying to rush to solve them.

  3. By learning how to give emotional support to her, I was able to heal a part of myself that I didn’t even really understand was wounded.

If I had one simple message that I would like to send to Dads out there with this blog, it would be this:

Your love, time and emotional support for your child/children can be the biggest difference maker in their entire life. If no one showed you the way growing up, it’s ok, you can learn.

Next up: Don’t let dad myths keep you from sharing the load with your partner