My buddy just had his first child, a beautiful girl. I’m rarely one to give actual advice on parenting as it is hard enough not completely screwing up my own kids let alone thinking I can suggest how others can avoid doing so themselves. So, I’ll give advice to my younger self – a cocky young man, about eight years my junior.
Letter to My Younger Self – 7 Lessons Learned
Dear David, you handsome devil,
I’m you, in a reverse time capsule of sorts, sending you a note from the future. Don’t focus on that part – I have an important message for you. Your kids (yes, you did it again) are alive and well. You are a little worse for the wear, but any advice I’d give you there will be ignored. But I do have a little advice for you as you are about to have your first kid.
- It is hard to have kids, but even harder to screw it up. Seriously. Being present and active is 90% of the job. Anything else you do on top of that is bonus points. Unless you let your kid ride his bike into an icy pond. No bonus points for that.
- That is what their eyes, ears, and nose (and other body parts) are supposed to look like. You will spend the next few months deployed only seeing your kid on FaceTime. You merely think your kid’s eyes are abnormally gigantic and will be concerned. Don’t be.
- Kids are incredible, durable, and resilient. Kids can handle scrapes, cuts, and bruises. Perhaps with a ton of crying, but seriously, kids are resilient. That said, make sure that any mattress you playfully toss your kid onto in the middle of a party full of really smart diplomats is actually thick enough to break the fall. Helpful hint. Fortunately, your ego bruises far easier than a kid’s body.
- Kids love their toys, especially their stuffed animals. To us, these objects might be seen as something to always clean up, but to kids they are everything in their life that is important that isn’t named “mommy”. So, don’t put your kid’s favorite stuffed animal “Baby Acey” in the washer and dryer to clean it. I still don’t understand why exactly, I just know it will not produce the result you are going to be looking for. This stuffed animal is your kid’s best friend. Honestly, nothing is more important to your kid than this stuffed animal, just remember that.
- Parent’s are often more comfortable letting their second kid engage in riskier behaviors (like playing outside alone), perhaps because we know they will be just fine. We watch them a little less, enforce less safety rules, and generally are more comfortable with our own limits on oversight. However, you still may need to keep a closer eye on your second kid, particularly at birthday parties, bounce houses, bike riding, swimming pools, and basically any activity your second kid engages in. If tolerance of fear is an inheritable trait, your kids will get a double dose.
- From work to play and getting between each, life is exhausting in one way or another. Looking forward to things as small as a regular routine certainly helps and I’ve found that reading to your kids and putting them to bed at night is as much for your benefit as it is for the kids. Who knows, one day it might be useful to have overdeveloped Dr. Seuss memory skills!
- Never forget that having kids is like sports and life, if you are too careful your success will be limited. Let them play, let them get hurt, let them learn, let them grow. Let them be kids.
Despite this advice, your kids are turning out alright. Of course, I am still eagerly awaiting a letter from my (our) future self advising me on how to avoid missteps in the next eight years to ensure continued success, but something tells me we are going to survive. Maybe a few bumps, bruises, and blood – but we will be alright!
Oh, and before you eventually abandon your home and Embassy while evacuating the country as a revolution breaks out (oh, spoiler alert, sorry bud), make sure you grab your two boxes of really expensive Cuban cigars. It would be a real shame if you trust someone to grab them for you and they leave them behind leaving you with none to celebrate the eventual birth of your second kid. Just saying.
If you enjoyed this article, please check out Luigi’s “Rules for My Daughter” and Mike’s “6 Reasons I Have My Kids in Sports” for some more insightful thoughts on being a dad. Then follow us on Facebook and Instagram!