Well, I’m about three and a half months into this dad journey.
It seems like it just gets better every single day.
The joy, the pure joy of a child, it’s incredible.
However, it’s also already become very evident in these first few months that a lot is expected of a father—a lot is and will be expected of me.
Obviously I expected a new level of responsibility having another human rely on me, but it’s hard to fully gauge pre-fatherhood.
It’s starting to become clear now, I’m going to have to step up if I want to be considered a “great dad.”
On Father’s Day, I observed so many of my friends posting on social media about how great their dad is or how great their husband is with their kids.
Admittedly, now that I am a father, I noticed that I looked at these posts through a different lens.
It really got me thinking — what does that mean? What is being an awesome dad? What exactly earns you that “World’s Best Dad” mug?
I’m confident my interpretation of this is going to constantly be evolving throughout Elly’s life.
For now? Listed below are five expectations for myself less than four months into this lifelong dad journey.
5 expectations on how to reach the level of “great dad”
I don’t believe being a great father can be based solely on pure love of your child. For the most part, I assume every dad loves his son or daughter. I believe to be a great dad, it has to be more than that. Here are the five main things I expect of myself to hopefully reach ultimate great dad levels.
1) I need to be there. I need to put in the time.
This one is definitely going to be a challenge at times for me because of my deep commitment to career and business success.
I just have to continue to give effort to balancing time—figure out what can be cut out and what can’t.
It won’t be always be easy, but I believe I need to spend time with my daughter to build the relationship.
Reading that back it sounds so obvious, but it needs to be said.
I realize everyone’s situation is different, so maybe this isn’t plausible for some new dads for a variety of reasons (custody, military, etc), but whatever is possible is what I believe a father should strive for.
In the end, a few hours of quality time is better than no hours of quality time and it could make all the difference in my relationship with my daughter.
If she wants to dress me up as a princess and paint my nails, then that’s what we’ll do.
I need to find the time to make memories that will last a lifetime.
2) Offer advice, but lead by example
You know those three words: they’re always watching.
I’m not going to lie, this totally freaks me out.
I can give her all the advice in the world, but am I setting a good example?
Are my actions speaking louder than my words as a father?
I think the reason this is so scary is because immediately everything I do is now in question.
I must be a man of a character if I want my daughter to develop as a women with character.
As Aralyn has warned me, I need to eat my veggies if I expect Elly to do the same.
And speaking of Aralyn, I know my daughter will be watching how I treat her mother and will naturally set expectations for herself on how she feels she deserves to be treated in a relationship.
If my daughter is going to trust the words of advice I offer her, she needs to trust me.
That trust will be earned with my actions and the example I set.
3) Don’t miss too many of life’s big moments
Again, circumstances can dictate some challenges here, but I need to at least try and be there.
Graduations, milestones, holidays and birthdays — a few examples that spring to mind.
Making them all isn’t realistic in my opinion. I accept that and I believe that’s OK.
I think great dad status in this case really just comes down to effort, bottom line.
Maybe I miss some games or events during the season, but I need to cancel everything to be there for the big game or big show I know she’s super excited about.
If I want to be a great dad, I need to celebrate Elly’s big life moments right there by her side.
4) Find the balance between being a dad and being a friend
I’m nervous about this one.
I’m definitely a softy and Elly already has me under her daughterly spell at only three months old.
I already know this spell is going to become way stronger as she ages.
However, I have to find the courage to be dad when it’s needed.
She has to learn right and wrong.
She has to understand that life can be cruel and it won’t always be easy.
She has to know that you need to work for things you want in life.
She has to accept that I can’t always say ‘yes’.
I want to be the dad she can talk to about anything, but I also want to be a father she respects.
This will come from learning to say NO when that’s what needs to be said.
5) Make sure she trusts me
If my daughter can’t trust me, I believe I have failed at becoming a great father.
This means everything from being able to count on me, to being able to confide in me with confidence.
She needs to know and believe I will support her no matter what.
Even when I disagree with her decision, I want her to have zero doubt that I still believe in her as a person and have confidence in her abilities.
I want her to fully believe me when I tell her how smart or talented she is.
Her having question marks about dad are not something I want constantly crossing my daughters mind.
I want to instill confidence in Elly that there is nobody she can trust more than her daddy.
BONUS) Love her with everything I’ve got
While I began this section with a few words about how loving your daughter isn’t everything, it doesn’t mean for a second it’s not extremely important.
If I want to be a great dad, I need to love my daughter unconditionally.
She needs to know how important she is to me.
She needs to know I’ll be there, even if she messes up.
And she needs to know through thick and thin, I love her to the core.
A friend of mine, someone I respect both personally and professionally, said these words to me as we standing outside the ice rink, getting ready to skate out on the ice for a hockey game.
These are words I will never forget.
Elly wasn’t even alive yet, but these words struck me and briefly left me speechless as I pondered them.
Rich said this to me, passing along memorable advice he said he was given:
“Always remember this — the more love and attention your daughter gets from you growing up, the less attention she will need from other guys later in life.”
I had goosebumps after he said it.
You can bet Elly is going to receive a whole lot of love from this dad.
I am going to do everything I possibly can to achieve great father status.
I think it’s fair to expect it won’t always be perfectly smooth, but I have to at least give the effort.
My daughter is sixteen weeks old now.
She can’t walk yet and she can’t talk yet.
Her entire life is ahead of her, full of endless possibilities.
She deserves a fair a chance at whatever she wants her life to become.
She deserves a father that takes this whole dad job very seriously.
One day, many years from now, I hope to wake up and make myself a coffee.
As I go to pour in a little sugar, I’ll stop for a second to read the side of the mug.
It reads: “World’s Greatest Dad”
How will I know I did everything I could to give my daughter the best possible life?
I will read those words and I will genuinely believe they are true.