3 things I Wish I Knew as a New Dad – Joe Jestus

So if this is your first “3 Things I Wish” post, and for most of you reading this it will be, since it’s the first one ever written for HappyDad, here’s the game plan.

HappyDad Jim Valvano QuoteEvery month I’ll be asking someone to write a version of this same article and tell the rest of us HappyDads (and HappyMoms) what three things they wish they new as a new dad. Each month we’ll get to hear from someone new and hopefully over time we’ll all learn some really cool things and become better HappyDads in the process.

So to kick it off I thought I should take the challenge, especially since I’m going to be asking other HappyDads to do it.

So here goes, the inaugural “3 Things I Wish I Knew as a New Dad by Joe Jestus”

Dad Stats

Name: Joe Jestus

AKA: Dad, Daddy, HappyDad, El Hefe – I think my wife calls me this jokingly, but I’ll take it 😉

Experience: 13 years

Roster: 2 Boys and 2 Girls

Favorite Dad Quote: “My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me.” – Jim Valvano

My Three Things

HappyDad and Bella

#1 Your kids are just like you.

Mind blown. I know, not really, but stick with me here.

I know how it works, the whole having a baby thing. But I didn’t realize how much I, me, dad would show up in those cute little bundles of joy as they grew into children.

It’s SCARY and from what my dad tells me they are just like their grandparents too. So look out.

Nature vs Nurture

I think this is true because of two key things. We’ve all heard the nature vs nurture debate and the facts as far I as can tell from personal dad experience is that it isn’t an “either or” but a “both and” world.

Your kids are just like you because they are a part of you and they are just like you because you are modeling you for them each and every day wether you realize it or not.

So straighten up and fly right. I mean it.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

You’ll at least save them from the nurture part but don’t get discouraged too much because of the fact they still act like you due to the nature part. Keep in mind it goes both ways: good and bad.

They’ll be exactly like you in regard to some of your good qualities and it’ll make you smile until they kick into the bad ones and you get frustrated in your efforts to save them from the same lessons you had to learn (see #2 below).

But as much as they are just like you, this “thing” has another side to it and thats the fact that:

Your kids aren’t anything like you.

I know, I know, you probably think I’m one of those guys who can’t see a plot twist in a movie coming a mile away because of my less than mind blowing statements here in #1, but it’s true once again.

It Takes Two

There is another person in the mix when it comes to your kids, and they are just like your spouse sometimes, just like they can be like you. In addition to that, the mix creates some unique traits as well, so you can both stare in amazement as you wonder if this kid belongs to either of you.

But as much as I wish I knew these things to the full extent I understand them now, its pretty fun and amazing if you don’t try wearing yourself out in an effort to control them. (Once again, see #2 below.)

Enjoy the Show

So enjoy seeing you in them, enjoy seeing your spouse in them and enjoy seeing the unique mixture that the two of you created at times as well. Celebrate it!

You can even have fun seeing how they frustrate your spouse when they are acting like them and how they frustrate you when they are acting like you and how they frustrate you both when they aren’t acting like either of you.

So just remember, no matter what: They are going to be just like you and they are going to be nothing like you.

You’ve been warned.

HappyDad and Shaw#2 Your kids are actual human beings.

I’m not redeeming myself here any with this one I know. But here’s the key.

Your kids are more important than what you think others think of you.

They are kids, but that doesn’t make them any less human. I think as parents we can forget that. In our efforts to rule our universes and portray our parent intelligence through the showcasing of our perfect little offspring we treat them as less than human.

That’s crap. Don’t do it. This is totally easier said than done and I fail all the time at it.

What If You Talked to Your Friends Like That

I often wonder what our lives would be like if we talked to and treated our friends and co-workers like we talk to and treat our children. CRAZY. That’s what it would be.

“Bill, how many times do I have to tell you to fill out your expense report right away? I’m going to count to three and I better see you filling out that expense report. One… Two… Don’t make me count to three. You don’t want me to get to three.”

Yeah, not cool at all. Don’t think I’m advocating complete chaos in the home either. I’m not. I’m simply saying that we are raising adults not children. So we need to structure our words and actions accordingly.

Practicing for Responsibility

Depending on age there will be some things that need to be done or said that you probably would never do or say to a friend or co-worker. I’m guessing you aren’t setting their bed time, but if you manage people at work, you are setting their work hours, and really bed time is just practice for that.

This brings us to the bonus item of #2:

Your kids are best led and not controlled.

By leading your kids, you are teaching them that the only person that controls them is them. It’s simply called self-control. It’s not crazy, it’s character. If your kids will only do something because you’ve bullied and badgered them into doing it you’re accomplishing three terrible things:

1) They’ll think they can bully and badger others into doing things.

2) They’ll think other people can control them even though it was still them that made the choice to do what you wanted.

3) They’ll become one of those people mentioned here:

“There are two kinds of people who never amount to much: those who cannot do what they are told, and those who can do nothing else.” – Cyrus Curtis, 1850 – 1933

More to Learn

If you want to learn more about this you should pick up the book Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline: The 7 Basic Skills for Turning Conflict into Cooperation it goes into a lot more on this topic and it is one of the most challenging parenting books I’ve read because I had to rethink a lot of what I had believed about parents and kids.

This brings us to the final thing.

HappyDad and Ava#3 Your kids will teach you things better than anyone else.

I can’t even begin to tell you the things I have learned from being a father and I think this learning is in two key ways.

The first is that your kids will see the world in ways you never imagined. Remember the second part of #1 above?

A Whole New World

I’m amazed at how my kids see and interact with the world and even more so how they each uniquely interact with and see it. So much fun, and so cool to get to experience this as their dad.

My youngest daughter is especially perceptive to things that I never thought anyone her age would be able to recognize and relate to and it stokes the fires of excitement I have for fatherhood everyday.

She’s told us she wants to be a coffee maker, travel the world with her cousin and tell people about Jesus, but that they will start in our state because there are people here that need to know too. She’s 6 at the time of this writing.

I was thinking about candy and G.I. Joe’s when I was 6.

The other kids are just as unique and amazing (and frustrating as well) in their interactions with others.

Cute Little Lessons in Kid Form

The second way that my kids teach me is in their interaction with me as I interact with them as their dad. If I’m not being dense and I’m open to learning, in their response to me I see how I interact with my wife, my friends, my co-workers, my boss and as a follower of Jesus how I interact with and see God.

Our youngest son is hand picked.

Hand Picked and Home Grown

I met this inspiring family that had adopted a baby with what some would call special needs and he was very close to the age of a little girl they had. I asked if they were twins and I was told that in fact they weren’t, but that the girl was home grown and that the boy was hand picked.

I loved it, and I loved their hearts for both of those children. It’s people like that that inspire me to be a better HappyDad.

Gold Medal Whining

So back to our little hand picked boy who I say is an Olympic caliber whiner (He’s also a world class snuggler and kisser too, so don’t think I’m not thankful.) But this boy has taken whining to levels the rest of us didn’t even know existed, and at times if I’m being honest it can get super frustrating

Of course it’s usually when I’m trying to control instead of lead, so yeah, I’m not helping any, but in these moments of frustration I think, “Boy, don’t you understand that we picked you and loved you and made you our own and gave you everything that is ours and you are going to whine about this stupid little thing?”

And… before I could even finish thinking the thought, it smacked me right upside the head with, “Yep that’s how I treat God, who I say is my Father.”

If I truly believe He adopted me into His family and gave me His Son (everything) to make that happen, then why am I whining about the fact that I couldn’t find a parking spot up front at Target and now I have to walk. Bam!

That little boy who was frustrating me, suddenly just taught me that once again, he’s just like me and now I have to decide, am I going to stay frustrated or am I going to be love to him like my heavenly Papa was and is to me.

Which brings us to the bonus section of #3:

My dad always told me, “God gives us children so that we can grow up.”

Whether you believe in God or Jesus or not, the fact remains that children help us grow up. They help us see ourselves and challenge us to stop being adult sized toddlers and start growing up, but hopefully never old.

So in your efforts to instill the things you think your kids need to know in order to succeed in this life, don’t forget that you are just as much a student as they are.

HappyDad and JamesIn Summary

Your kids are an amazing gift if you choose to see them that way, or if you want, they can be a burden if you choose to see them that way, its up to you.

They’ll be days I choose both, and then I realize I’m not being the HappyDad they, my spouse or I need, and I apologize to them and try again.

They are just like you and nothing like you, they are actual human beings who are best led and not controlled and they will teach you amazing things about this world, people, yourself and God, if you let them.

So enjoy it. Celebrate it and them. Fall down, apologize, and get back up again. Enjoy them and every moment you have together, because no amount of money or fame will buy you back a day with your 4 year old when they are 30.

Enjoy the day!

Joe Jestus

Got questions or comments? Let me know on Facebook or Twitter.

HappyDad and 4 KidsJoe Jestus is a #PeopleHelper, but more importantly he’s the incredibly lucky husband of Julie and the completely unprepared #HappyDad of 4 unbelievably adorable and intelligent #HappyKids.

He loves spending every moment he can playing with his family by going on adventures, exercising their imaginations and unleashing their curiosity.

When he’s not doing that, he can’t think of anything more fun than helping dads (and moms) connect with their kids through play in order to build better relationships.

He can usually be found in the Tulsa, OK area throughout the cold months of the year and anywhere in MN in the warmer months.

You can find him on Twitter @HappyDadAndKids, Instagram @HappyDadAndKids or Facebook @HappyDadAndKids