Unapologetic Dadding

Pre-parenthood I would have made fun of people for talking about their kids all the time. Or made jokes about the goofy pictures parents posted on social media. And why not? It is pretty common in our culture to complain about social media posts with pictures of your food when you go out to eat with friends. Or pictures of your kids just doing whatever weird things kids do. And even our ridiculous pets.

What it does tell us about our culture is that these are the things that matter to us. The picture of that plate of food is expressing our natural human desire to share a meal with friends, because friends matter. Those pictures of our kids are an expression of our desire to be a part of a family, because families matter. And yes, our ridiculous pets matter!

I withdrew from social media in 2016. No more Facebook. No more Instagram. No more Snapchat and Twitter. I decided to go back to a time where the relationships I had with people happen in real time, unscripted, warts and all. I decided to let people see me as I really am, not how I wanted to be perceived. The unexpected consequence was that it forced me to actually act the way I wanted people to see me.

Just not right away.

Thankfully I had a little time to make improvements to myself before my daughter was born. I am tested often and sometimes I fail those tests, but I make it a point to learn from my mistakes. The things that matter to me today seemed unimportant years ago. I had grand ambitions that were primarily driven by selfish ideas and reinforced by the desire to have others think well of me.

Today I do not worry about what others think of me, and I will never need to worry as long as I know that I am doing the right thing. My grand ambitions now seem like tiny matters, but they are not. I desire to be a great husband. I desire to be a great father. I desire to be a great friend. And when I fall short of these things the people around me let me know because I have a great wife, a great daughter, and great friends. I’ve surround myself with great people, and they help me to be a better person.

Being a good dad is not easy. Being a good husband is not easy. But the things worth doing in life usually aren’t easy. If I make a mistake, I learn from it and try harder. Life takes practice. And if people make fun of me for getting all gooey eyed when I talk about my daughter and pull out my phone to show pictures of the cutest kid in the world I don’t worry about what they think about me. Why should you?

Don’t panic!

Not too long after we brought our daughter home I had a terrible scare. My wife and I were eating dinner and our daughter was fussy. I paused my meal and picked her up and put her on my chest to console her while my wife finished eating. She wiggled around for a little bit being the wiggle-worm that she is and settled into a spot near my armpit. Face down in my armpit she fell asleep and then I started to think about the ABC’s of safe sleep. I started to think about SID’s. And then I wondered, ‘Is she getting enough air lying like that?’

I went to adjust her position and she was limp as a doll. My experience to date was with a wiggle-worm. Always grunting. Always self-adjusting her position to find a more comfortable one. This was not the wiggle-worm I know.

I panicked and flipped her on to her stomach to pat her on the back like she was choking because I saw a friend do it with his son in a restaurant once when he started to choke. Never mind that this was not the appropriate response; I was sleep deprived.

She did not respond at all.

My wife seeing this and the panic on my face was now overcome with a panicked face of her own. We jumped up and my wife said let me see her. We were both looking for the same thing-our daughters face wasn’t blue, but she was still limp. I rushed over by the light to get a closer look and all I could think about was a cat that I had years ago…


The cat was in my care when my mom moved to Palm Springs and I wasn’t a very good care taker. I never paid much attention to it and when I noticed the cat wasn’t eating she was already very ill. I set out to call a vet but the cat went limp in my arms.

One minute she was here and the next she was gone.


…And while I was standing there holding my daughter with thoughts flashing by faster than I can process, my wife and I staring at our daughter trying to hear if she is breathing? She grinned!

I am about to have a heart attack and my daughter is in the deepest most pleasant state of slumber. I have since become familiar with this deepest of sleeps that often occur while she is comfortably in my arms. My wife is able to stay at home with our daughter and was already familiar with this deep sleep to which her reaction was very different from mine.

I still get anxious every time she falls asleep like that, but I’ve learned not to panic. I’ve learned to examine the facts before me and assess the current situation rather than react to memories from a long time ago. Just like anything else I want to well, parenting takes practice. But the thought of failure can be overwhelming.

Car Seat Safety Checks

Did you know the local fire station will check you car seat installation?

My wife and I first heard about fire stations offering free installation and inspection of car seats when we were going to parenting classes at the county health department while she was pregnant. Car seat inspection is one of many services fire departments offer besides fighting fires, checking smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors and more. Our daughter was still in the NICU when my wife had the car seat installed in Kansas City, Missouri. I was already back at work in Manhattan so I missed out.

We saved a bunch of money leading up to our daughters birth, and had some home improvements planned before she arrived, but I was scrambling to get things done when she arrived 11 weeks early. When I borrowed my wife’s car to pick up some kitchen cabinets in the back of her Honda Fit I removed the car seat to drop the seats and make room.

I was fairly confident in my ability to reinstall the car seat, but let’s be honest; being father-knows-best, it’s not like I pulled out the instructions and made sure I had the seat correctly installed.

So during our trip to Kansas City for Thanksgiving and upon my wife realizing I had removed and reinstalled the carseat my wife was distraught. As new parents any little concern about the safety of our daughter can become an overwhelming worry. And any little criticism of dad by his partner can feel like a gut punch to the ego. Certainly, I am competent enough to install a car seat. Right?

However, putting ego aside, lets look at the facts:

I wasn’t there for the installation.
I never read the manual.

Now this post is not to provide you step by step instructions on how to properly install your baby’s car seat. I recommend you stop by your local fire station and find out. The fire fighter inspecting your car seat took several days of classes to get his certification. If anything, this is post on how to win at dadding and be a good partner.

So before we could get in the car and head home, Dad had to make a trip to the local Fire Station. And I am glad I did.

Driving to the fire station I wondered if I did indeed have the car seat properly installed. And if I did would I point it out to my wife and say, ‘Look everything was fine.’

Nope. That’s not the kind of father and husband I want to be.

The visit to the fire station was more than just a check-up. In about 15 minutes the fire fighter explained to me everything I needed to know about my car seat and keeping my daughter safe, including what I need to look for to ensure that not only is the seat installed correctly, but that my daughter is strapped in right. Turns out there are two ways to install my car seat, either with just the seat belt, or with hooks and one of them is more secure than the other. He also instructed me on how to handle situations that never occured to me to think about. My car seat carrier can also strap into a car without the base if for some reason we needed to ride with someone else or take an Uber. And of course he inspected the car seat to see if it was properly installed.

By the Grace of God it was.

And that had nothing to do with how great of a dad I am. It was just luck. And I am grateful that I put my ego aside to make sure.

Good vs. Bad

For most of my life I sorted everything into two categories. Good and Bad. There is a varying degree-really bad, very great, the best, the worst-but everything fit somewhere on that spectrum. There is of course, okay and neutral, but who fondly looks back on the neutral old days or fears an okay situation?

I should be afraid, or maybe feel this is the greatest time of my life. I do and I don’t.

A few years back when I was trying to figure out why I was such a catastrophe in my own life and the lives of those around me I turned to faith and spirituality in a desperate attempt to alleviate the suffering for both myself and the suffering I caused others. I read this story and suddenly life made sense.

Once upon a time there was an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.
“Maybe,” the farmer replied.
The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.
“Maybe,” replied the old man.
The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.
“Maybe,” answered the farmer.
The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.
“Maybe,” said the farmer.

And such is life. This is the Tao.

Life is full of good things and bad things, when life is looked at in isolated events. Taken as a whole it becomes more difficult to see what is good and bad. One way I have applied this in my life is that the things I have typically categorized as ‘bad’ are challenges. I should not miss the point that challenges are meant to be overcome. When I overcome a challenge I see growth and that is typically categorized as ‘good.’

The conclusion becomes obvious that one situation cannot occur without the other. Gradually I learned to face my fears and accept life’s challenges. And the greatest time of my life is every day I get to live on this earth.

Back to Winning at Dadding

Newborns and Stress

No matter what the status is of your relationship with your partner you have the responsibility of being the best you in that relationship. Especially during the newborn phase of your child’s life.

During the first few weeks of pregnancy your partner is vulnerable to PPD (Postpartum Depression) a condition that affects more than three million new mothers every year. It is a mood disorder that where a new mom can feel hopeless, anxious, and overwhelmed. You might see unusual crying and anger. She might have a persistent doubt that she can take care of the baby and in very serious cases may have thoughts of harming herself or the baby.

The most important thing you can do as a new dad is to listen to her and be supportive. Supportive also means listening. If she tells you she is feeling this way, do not get angry at her. And most importantly, don’t try and diagnose her. You learned about this on the internet, you are not a doctor now. Only a doctor can diagnose her and only a doctor can fix her. Your role is to change diapers, feed your baby, and keep them safe. And be supportive of your partner.

Dad’s can get PPD, too. So be mindful of your own thoughts and feelings. If you feel like your adjustment to fatherhood is not going well reach out for help. Talk to your friends, especially friends that have kids. Talk to your parents, your siblings. If you are going through this adjustment alone then reach out to someone. And if you think you are showing signs of PPD then reach out for professional help.

There is also just the run of the mill stress that comes with being a new parent and that’s the experience I can share with you. No matter how much you prepare for a new baby, you will never be fully prepared. Preparation will make life easier, but this is my first kid and sometimes I feel like I only have one shot to get it right. There are many things I have learned to do over the years. At first they are difficult but with practice and repetition I usually get the hang of it and life’s a breeze. Deciding to be a parent is deciding to tackle one new challenge after another.

Sometimes knowing the magnitude of responsibility I undertook can be overwhelming, but I started reaching out early to friends and family. I listen to them share their experiences and add their insights to my repertoire. A lot of things in life are trial and error, and the fear of failure can be great at times. But I have to remind myself that I am not incompetent, I can figure things out and I can ask for help from other people who have been through this before.

The Upside of the NICU

My daughter was born eleven weeks early. My wife was diagnosed with preeclampsia and it escalated quickly. We did everything we could to prepare for our babies birth – classes at the county health center, saved every extra penny, read books, listened to podcasts. Then all our expectations or preperation for her arrival felt useless. We had to take everything one day at a time and adjust to life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Everyone is healthy now and are happy to be home but I do miss the support of the nurses and doctors to explain what was normal and what was not. I think the positive side of my daughter being born premature was that the transition from life without a baby to life with a baby came with tons of support.

NICU

By the grace of God our little angel got to come home, and as tiny as she may be, she’s the biggest thing in my life.

And that’s the point. I don’t want a t-shirt that says World’s Greatest Dad. Rather I want to share with the world what it is like to be a grateful dad.

Had the experience of bringing a newborn home been something like coming home three or four days after she was born and walking around the house wondering, “Now what do I do?” I think psychologically the situation would be more difficult. As scary as it was to be in the situation we were in I could at least talk to someone about what was going on, what was ‘normal’ and what to expect. If the nurses and doctors weren’t panicking then I probably had no reason to panic.

And now that we’re home, changing diapers, feeding her every two hours, listening to her cry… I feel calm. I have faith that everything is going to be okay. And I am grateful that I get to change diapers. I get to give her a bottle. I get to listen to her cry. And I get to lose sleep. Because none of these things were guaranteed. And they never will be.

So remember to be grateful for every moment, as difficult as that may be when feeling tired and overwhelmed.

Every day is a gift.

The Basics: How the Economy Works and What is Your Part

This is probably the best summary I have seen on understanding the economy. Knowing how the economy works on the macro will help you make better decisions on the micro by knowing how you fit into the bigger picture. If you haven’t seen the video before check it out and then read on to see how these rules can help you excel in times of economic boom and bust.

Ray Dalio’s 3 Rules of Thumb from How the Economic Machine Works and How you can apply them in your life

Rule One: Don’t Have Debt Rise Faster Than Income

Spending and Debt are the same thing. Spending means what was once your money is now someone else’s money, it’s gone forever. And when you spend the money you do not have, that is future income that is gone forever. Seeing how this can spiral out of control is not difficult. To keep up you will have to increase your income in the future and there is no guarantee that will happen.

Sit down and sketch out a plan determining how hard you want to work today and how much harder you want to work tomorrow to make up for the lost productivity of today and think of debt as lost productivity. To me it makes more sense to work harder today so I can enjoy tomorrow. Achieving that goal comes down to spending.

Prioritize what you spend your money on with three simple categories and be honest with yourself.

This is something I need. Whether you like it or not you have to pay the rent-gas-electric-water-whatever.

This is something I enjoy, a want in other words. If you don’t buy it you won’t die. Try it sometime.

This is unnecessary. It is the mindless, thoughtless, not-even-sure-why-I-bought-it things that we buy. Never spend your money on those things.

Take Away: Take control of your Spending.

Rule Two: Don’t Have Income Rise Faster Than Productivity

This one is more difficult to think about on the personal level, but here’s how I am applying it. Let’s say I land a high paying job, or finally get that promotion and my income suddenly becomes greater than my current standard of living. Assuming I am following rule one I won’t have a problem with lifestyle creep and increase my spending. However,what might happen is that I decide to rest on my laurels. Suddenly feeling like I have arrived might lead me to believe there is nowhere else to go. Hence, I acquire an attitude of thinking I know it all and miss the opportunity to learn new things increasing breadth of knowledge or depth of skills. Over confidence in myself leads me to believe that no one else can do what I do.

Opportunities are missed. I fail to adapt.

Someone hungrier than me comes along with new ideas. Better ideas. Innovation swoops in for the win and disruption happens again. Stay humble, my friend. Learn something new everyday.

Take Away: Don’t become Complacent

Rule Three: Do all that you can to increase your productivity


In economics the rule of productivity is that what you do not produce today cannot be made up tomorrow is difficult to recognize in our personal finances. Think of it this way: If I produce 100 units of something today when I could have produced 200, producing 300 units tomorrow does not make up for lost productivity. It means that I missed the opportunity to produce 500 units.

Inevitably, many of us learn how to increase our productivity because we failed at Rule One. Our productivity rises because we are playing catch-up! Now we have a mountain of debt we’re trying to get out from under. The thought of climbing to new heights does not even sound like an option anymore.

Getting spending under control and taking advantage of every opportunity to grow will put you at an advantage. Since many of us are starting at the cavern beneath the mountain rather than at the base it can seem like an impossible task.

I used to feel that way too and I can assure you it is not. Getting today done right will free up the ability to take advantage of tomorrow’s opportunities. And I mean literally today and tomorrow. Thinking about five, ten, and fifteen years from now will do nothing but discourage you in the beginning. That’s like thinking you can leap to the top of the mountain.

Put one foot in front of the other. Tackle one thing at a time. Every step is one step further from where you started and one step closer to where you want to be.

Take Away: Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today!

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