13 Dads Offer Wisdom On Raising Tiny Humans

In May 2016, I’ll become a dad.

Crazy, awesome, & exciting all seem like apt descriptors for something that is sure to be the ride of a lifetime. The news has certainly created a shift in me, & I figured that instead of wingin’ it, I might as well harvest some words of wisdom from fathers I admire.

The insights are fun, sincere and practical. Please feel free to share this with anyone who might enjoy a thoughtful glimpse into the world of fatherhood.

Ahead, I chat with artists, writers, yogis, educators, sales geniuses, media executives, and leaders from across the country about what it’s like to be a Dad.

I hope you enjoy it & I invite you to join me for other ideas, questions, words, and images via my blog & newsletter at EvanLaRuffa.com/subscribe.

Be well.

Abel Arciniega — Tequila Graphics

@tequilagraphics

How did your childhood shape the father you’ve become?

As a kid I was very to myself. My father was an undocumented worker so his pay was not the greatest. He compensated by working multiple jobs at times. As a father now, who runs his own business, I have made it a point to dedicate some “us” time with the kids. Things can get really hectic at times with work but you have to step back and realize that you are your children’s best friend.

What has being a dad taught you?

Patience. Patience and more patience. Kids ask a million questions a day, they really do, so I have to sometimes realize that they are seeing things around them for the first time and they are curious. Patience is key.

Do you have any traditions or fun rituals you and your kid(s) enjoy?

I am an artist and always will be. That’s all I have known since a kid so I try to instill that in my kids. We love to draw together and act out scenarios. I’ve collected many of my kids drawings so I can show them when they are older.

Who serves as an example of being an awesome dad and why are they that example to you?

Hands down, my father is my hero. He arrived to this country with nothing and worked his butt off to provide for my 2 siblings and myself. Although we did not have much we always had a place to stay and food. He was a huge supporter of my decision to go to art school and an insane, over the top soccer coach for many of my young years. He never missed one of my soccer games!

What advice do you have for new dads? Any tricks of the trade?

Listen to your kids. Too many times I see dads with their kids and they are buried in their phones. Sometimes a child has only you as their friend until they get older and meet kids at school. Enjoy those moments when all your kid wants to do is be with you, because one day they wont. The small things are the ones I will forever cherish from my kids.

Jonathan Fields — Good Life Project

@jonathanfields

How did your childhood shape the father you’ve become?
I had one parent who was artistic and spontaneous and another who was logic-driven and academic. I ended up an amalgam of woo-woo and science, hard and soft, intuitive and data, drive and surrender, love and snark. Maybe more important than any of that, I always felt loved, I always felt safe and I always felt accepted for who I was. Hard to beat that as a starting point.
What has being a dad taught you?
Life works better when you don’t come first. Love is everything. Now matters. Control is delusion. The feeling of my daughter’s hand in mine and my wife’s hand in the other is the best feeling on the planet.
Do you have any traditions or fun rituals you and your kid(s) enjoy?
Walking in the rain.
Who serves as an example of being an awesome dad and why are they that example to you?

I hesitate to peg any one person as an example. All I can see is what’s happening on the outside, I have no idea what reality on the ground might look like. I learned a long time ago, the moment I compare my insides to someone else’s outside, I pretty much always lose. Most every dad who is trying is my example. Nobody gives parents a manual. Every dad and mom are just out there doing the best they can, wildly imperfectly perfectly. We can all learn from each other.

What advice do you have for new dads? Any tricks of the trade?
There are no tricks of the trade. Love your way through it.

Sam Lewis — Elastic Arts

@samiam313

How did your childhood shape the father you’ve become?

My father was an alcoholic, so while my parents never divorced, my mom and I left him and moved out of state when I was three. In the years that followed, I would visit him when we returned to visit my mom’s family, but he was always drunk and sometimes the visit would take place in a bar near his home. However, instead of that experience making me angry with him, I wanted to save him from his self-destruction and reunite our family. I vowed around that time that if I ever had children, I would never leave them or do anything that would cause my wife to want to leave me.

What has being a dad taught you?

Being a dad has taught me the amount of things you can do with the time we have. When I was younger and without kids, I would think things like: “I only have an hour, I don’t have time to do…” I now know that you can do so much with an hour! Hell, even 10 minutes is a lot of time to get things done! I’ve also learned to truly be selfless, or rather, to expand my definition of what “myself” means.

Do you have any traditions or fun rituals you and your kid(s) enjoy?

I was born of the first day of Fall and my two boys ( I also have a wonderful daughter) were also born in Fall, so we call ourselves “The Legends of the Fall.” So, when the season comes we get extra hyped! It’s like a private club that we belong to! We even have a clubhouse in the basement where we gather to listen to music, watch old movies, like Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin…you know, classic slapstick!

Who serves as an example of being an awesome dad and why are they that example to you?

My friend, who has five kids and who lost his wife after the birth of his last kid is a awesome example of a dad to me! He has been the bravest, hardest working, most loving dad I’ve ever known! His handling of a horrible situation, has been a continued source of inspiration to me as a dad and a friend!

What advice do you have for new dads? Any tricks of the trade?

My advice would be to not try to be only your kids friend. You have to be their dad, which means that sometimes you have to do things that will totally make them hate you in that moment. You have to have the long-term vision that they will thank you for guiding them in the right direction in the years that follow.

Dan Moriarty — Hyatt Hotels

@iamdanmoriarty

How did your childhood shape the father you’ve become?

Honestly, at times I think I’m still in my childhood! Sometimes you need to be a grown up, but having a kid really allows you extend some of those childish tendencies. I love being on the floor & actively playing with him — building tracks, making up games, racing everywhere, reading silly books — it’s exhausting, but embracing your inner kid is a lot of fun!

What has being a dad taught you?

Wow, so much. I was asked something like this before and answered that it’s the easiest, yet the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I don’t think you really learn much about the act of being a dad, as so much of that comes naturally, but you learn a lot about who you are as a person. Having a kid puts a major time crunch on you as a human being, so you learn really quickly what’s important to you, because you make time for it.

Do you have any traditions or fun rituals you and your kid(s) enjoy?

Probably my favorite is our bed-time ritual — three books, two songs and a few minutes of quiet time before I say goodnight & leave. But rituals come into every part of your life when you have a kid — I can’t make coffee without letting him grind the beans, can’t open my door without letting him enter the key code, can’t change the temperature on the thermostat… you get the picture. :)

Who serves as an example of being an awesome dad and why are they that example to you?

It’s the obvious answer, but my own Dad. He had a hectic job when I was a kid, but I don’t remember him ever missing one of my football (soccer) games. He pushed me enough, but not too much. He enabled us to do things like travel at a young age and I know he’s always there if I need someone to fall back on. If I give Finn the same platform to build a life on as I was given, I’ll have done my job.

What advice do you have for new dads? Any tricks of the trade?

Chill out. Parenthood really does come rather naturally, mostly because kids are way tougher than most people realize. It’s hard to break them. Be you, don’t worry what other people expect of you. And never say no to help! (meals, cleaning, baby-sitting, whatever — say yes!)

Kristoffer “KC” Carter — Centro Media / This Epic Life

@thisepiclife

How did your childhood shape the father you’ve become?

My parents divorced when I was 5 and my Dad was always a traveling, corporate type. Much later I realized how much he sacrificed for us but my brother and I were mostly raised by our Mom.
My lack of a consistent, “hands-on” Dad probably made me want to create more stability in our home. My work includes travel like my Dad, but when I’m home I try to create mountains of memories.

What has being a dad taught you?

How to slow down and be more present. It’s a never-ending work in progress. My kids have taught me the need for self-compassion, due to face-palming fails and the cringe-worthy outbursts part of parenting. Each of our 3 births preceded some new existential freak out, followed by a major personal growth phase for me. So, each kid taught me something different. By our third I had embraced sobriety as a lifestyle, started marathoning, and became a pretty fierce meditation practicioner. They definitely refined the old man.
They teach me how to party harder and smarter than I ever did in my youth. We laugh a lot, and transfer our childlike energy to one another. We learn from each other in that way.

Do you have any traditions or fun rituals you and your kid(s) enjoy?

Sounds mundane, but Family Movie Night hits on all levels. Once per weekend we eat dinner early and watch a movie together. My wife makes some killer popcorn and we all eat like ravenous jackals. My wife looks at us as monsters.
Last month I took an entire month off for a family sabbatical. I got to experience juggling family while pursuing bliss in my meditation practice. We walked 7 miles a day together, made all our meals, and flew a kite almost daily. I hope to see many of those become rituals.

Who serves as an example of being an awesome dad and why are they that example to you?

I’ll give you a famous one, and a Legendary Unknown. Flea was always a hero as a bassist, but the guy has aged into this beacon of Love. He raised his daughter Clara mostly solo, and she tours with the Peppers as their photographer. I can only imagine the lessons and insane adventures they got to share together. You can tell he’s a phenomenal Dad.
My Legendary Unknown is a my friend Andy Wagner. His awesome Dad-ness just radiates through his photos with his kids. On the shoulders at Wrigley Field, matching jerseys, huge genuine grins… Those little things create lifelong memories. I’ve often asked him if he’d adopt me.
In retrospect, I have to honor my Dad and Stepdad, because they each did their part to help me become a capable man and Father.

What advice do you have for new dads? Any tricks of the trade?

Diaper Genies are total garbage. Invest in an airtight metal, pedal-operated garbage can for proper poo containment. Stroller pushing and harnesses can feel emasculating at times, but manhood for me never really began until I had kids. Laugh with your kids. Sit and stare at them and try to see the big, amazing world through their eyes. It’s their job to keep us young. We have to show them we’re following their example. If their underwear goes on their head during family dance-offs, you must do something crazier. Be an example of innovation.
Also, work hard to stay off your phone around them. This is a constant challenge. And never-ever disparage your partner in front of them. You must maintain a united front at all times, or the kids will go Lord of the Flies on you.

Mike Klein — University of St. Thomas

@Drmcklein

How did your childhood shape the father you’ve become?

My parents provided both creative freedom and supportive structure. I grew up in a lower-middle class neighborhood that seemed idyllic to me. I spent my younger years playing with my sister, brother, and neighborhood kids in suburban yards and streets. Fire hydrants defined our freedom on Thurber Road; I could only ride my bike from “fireplug-to-fireplug”. Curfews were lax as long as Dad knew where we were, or could hear us playing Kick the Can nearby. We were free within limits that were set to keep us safe. I’ve been trying to find that balance with my daughter since she was born.

What has being a dad taught you?

Being a Dad has taught me how to be a better human being. Through my daughter I’ve learned empathy, compassion, patience, joy, and love. Mikayla helps me remember to be present and mindful of our time together and of what is most important in life. She also helps me step outside of myself and get out of my head to see the world from her perspective. When it was time to look for an elementary school, my wife and I had plenty of ideas of what we wanted for our daughter. It took us awhile to realize we had to find a school for her, not for us. This was a radical form of empathy that not only put her needs first, but moved us to see the world from her perspective.

Do you have any traditions or fun rituals you and your kid(s) enjoy?

This is a big question for me because I study and write about ritual theory. Theologian Tom Driver says there are three social gifts of ritual: order, community, and transformation. And we all know rituals can be deadening if we adhere to tradition strictly without room for change. They can also be contrived if we try to hard to create new rituals from scratch. Instead, I think rituals need to evolve from patterns that are both intentional and organic. For example, I spent summers at home with my daughter because I worked a nine-month academic calendar. First out of necessity, then out of fun, we started making a list of potential summer activities. Most things on the list were cheap or free and local. Our goal was to make our way through the list without necessarily completing it. Throughout the summer it was a resource to draw from and a set of goals to accomplish. As “The List” became a ritual, we would add to it throughout the year in anticipation of summertime fun. I couldn’t have forced this ritual. It evolved out of my need, my daughter’s interests, and our growing sense of fun and anticipation.

Who serves as an example of being an awesome dad and why are they that example to you?

My Dad was awesome. He was a kid at heart, always in the middle of playing with his kids, nieces, and nephews. He was a Scout leader during the years I spent in Cub Scouts, Webelos, and Boy Scouts, always with me at meetings, campouts, and backpacking trips in the mountains. He was present at every school activity and performance. He stood by me when I became an Eagle Scout, a high school and college graduate, and a husband. He worked too much and too hard, but when he was with me, he was profoundly present. When I became a Dad, he was the kind of Dad I wanted to be. When my daughter — his first grandchild — was little, he was always down on his knees playing with her, or out on the dock teaching her to fish. She was only four when he died. I miss him deeply, and I miss the chance to know him as a grandfather, but I feel his presence when I am most present as a Dad.

What advice do you have for new dads? Any tricks of the trade?

Your life is about to change in ways no one should try to explain to you. You need to live the new perspectives, the intense joy, and worry too. It’s cliché to say it all goes by too fast, but I’ll say it to you as the father of a first year college student. Eighteen years went by in a blink, and I miss those times already. But like my Dad, I was present for the important events and many of the daily moments that matter even more. I have a wealth of memories to treasure. And I hope I’ve provided freedom and structure, empathy and fun, a presence that she’ll know as a Dad’s love. You’ll do the same Evan, and I can’t wait to see you as a Dad.

Mario Vela — Northwestern University / Amanecer Tacos

@MarioV_Kellogg

How did your childhood shape the father you’ve become?

Not having a traditional father figure, I’ve continuously looked to model myself after the values of people I respect and admire.

What has being a dad taught you?

I feel a renewed sense of perception and understanding with Mariana. I also feel more comfortable with who I am. I’ve been unfair questioning myself, wondering if I could be a father, before Mariana was born. Being a father is a deep commitment to the relationship you have with your child.

Do you have any traditions or fun rituals you and your kid(s) enjoy?

We’re creating some morning routines now that she is a year old with our breakfast before I go to work. I will let her lead the way in what traditions we create in the future, as I want her to use her imagination to build traditions that are meaningful to our family.

Who serves as an example of being an awesome dad and why are they that example to you?

My uncles have always been important to how I understood fatherhood. They always have tried to demonstrate the importance of being involved with their children.

What advice do you have for new dads? Any tricks of the trade?

As children develop, understand that their behaviors come from growth. Frustration or anger they exhibit should be interpreted as a way to communicate.

Doug Levy — Univision

@unichicago

How did your childhood shape the father you’ve become?

My father was a devoted family man who regularly made his children his priority. He attended our sports events, coached a team or two, participated in Indian Guides, attended school plays, and was totally present. He was a perfect explample of how to be a great father and he served as my role model of how I choose to parent my children.

What has being a dad taught you?

Being a father has taught me to be more patient and less selfish. I have learned that by giving of myself to my children, I reap many rewards.

Do you have any traditions or fun rituals you and your kid(s) enjoy?

We spent years collecting video of the kids as they were growing up. I have boxes of video tapes with tons of great memories. Every year, we dig into that box on the night before Thanksgiving and watch some of the moments captured on tape. It is amazing to look back at how young we all were. It seems like so long ago, but it was just a few years. Time flies.

Who serves as an example of being an awesome dad and why are they that example to you?

My father was simply the best Dad any kid could ever hope to have. His greatest gift was how much he loved our Mom. Through their love, we were shown how to love another person and how to be selfless.

What advice do you have for new dads? Any tricks of the trade?

Don’t be afraid to let your kids experience disappointment. Don’t think it is your job to protect them from pain. They need to know what it is like to experience the full range of emotions; good and bad, in order to become good adults. A father’s job is not only to protect and nurture; a father’s job is to produce adults who can take care of themselves and contribute something to the world.

Josh Hoekwater — Genuine

@digitalhoek

How did your childhood shape the father you’ve become?

My folks grew up in a relatively small, insular community in West Michigan, but, despite (or perhaps because of) that, they were always very intentional about exposing my sisters and I to as much diversity in people and experience as possible. We hosted exchange students — meeting people from all over the world and all walks of life. We took music lessons, played sports, went to summer camp and traveled by car across the country. We also spent a ton of time playing — in our sandbox, with legos, in the woods behind our house, on the fields at the college across the street. We were by no means wealthy, but my childhood was very rich in experience and that diversity of experience absolutely was key to how I’ve approached fatherhood. My wife and I aim to do the same for our kids — balancing a richness of experience with lots of time for our kids to just be kids.

What has being a dad taught you?

I’m a pretty Type-A personality. I tend to like things done a certain way, and I am usually inclined to just do things myself, rather than risk someone doing it the “wrong” way. But parenting (way more than marriage), especially parenting a very sweet, but strong-willed and very sensitive “threenager” teaches you pretty quickly that you need to let a lot of things slide and roll with the punches in a way that would have been very hard for me to do before I had kids. This is even more true now that we have two and their personalities are already so different. I’ve definitely gotten better at this, but I am still learning how and when to choose my battles, as well as what concessions I’m willing to make when tantrums inevitably ensue.

Do you have any traditions or fun rituals you and your kid(s) enjoy?

Since my son’s been about 6 months old, he and I have been going out to breakfast nearly every Saturday morning. It started out as a way to let my wife catch up on her sleep a bit, but has become something that both he and I look forward to. Right now, we mostly do a coloring activity on the kids menu or look out the window and count taxi cabs while we wait for our food. But as he gets older, I expect it to be an opportunity to ensure that we connect, just the two of us, at least once a week.

Who serves as an example of being an awesome dad and why are they that example to you?

As cliche as it sounds, my dad probably serves as the best example of an awesome dad. He is the hardest working guy I know, which, in itself is not necessarily unique. Despite having to take over the family excavating business when my grandfather had a stroke at a young age while also putting himself through college and, eventually, seminary, he found a way to be present and connect with us in meaningful ways. I’m sure he missed the occasional tee ball game and I’m sure he dosed off during a band concert or piano recital, but that doesn’t stand out to me… Perhaps, it’s because he always found ways to involve me in his work and engage with me, making me feel important while also teaching me skills. But what he taught me and what I see him instilling in my own kids, as well as the kids he encounters in his community work, is a sense of purpose and value, that despite they’re size or age, they’re important.

What advice do you have for new dads? Any tricks of the trade?

First, remove all expectations — whether it’s about how/when/how often he should sleep, or when he should be achieving certain milestones. Your kid is not a robot and, despite what some pediatricians and “parenting experts” may claim, there’s no universal formula for getting him to sleep, eat, walk, crawl, roll over, say thank you, potty train, or achieve any other “critical” milestone. The second, which really goes hand-in-hand, is to trust your instincts and don’t let any one book, mother-in-law, co-worker, hairdresser, etc. tell you what your kid should or shouldn’t be doing. More importantly, continue to work to refine those instincts by connecting and engaging with your kid. It may not be macho, and it may not fit with the stereotypical bumbling dad image perpetuated in pop culture, but I’ve found that the more you hold, wear, coo and cuddle with your kid(s), the more in tune I feel with who they are and what they need. There will almost certainly be times where you are fried, at the end of your rope, and out of ideas. And I’m not advocating you tune out every suggestion or alternative approach. Sometimes you need it. But if you work at fostering connections and honing your parenting instincts, you will absolutely know your own kid better than anyone (except maybe their mom ;).

Mike Fiascone — Docusign

DocuSign

How did your childhood shape the father you’ve become?

My dad was supportive and loving growing up. Service and faith in God were core values he instilled in all of us. Being the youngest of 6, I was given more freedom than my siblings. This freedom allowed me to sharpen my skills at making choices that followed my heart. It also fueled a hunger for travel, fun, adventure, and the art of the possible. This is a sharp contrast to my conservative dad who thought the key to life was to develop safe routines, work hard, minimize risk and be thrifty with money. I had a paper route at age 9, worked 2 jobs in high school, and have worked ever since. Even though my dad could have paid for my college, he made me pay for some of the tuition so that I would take my school work seriously. My childhood taught me how to blend being a free spirit with hard work and discipline.
Now that I am a father, I strive to create a fun, loving, supportive, and compassionate environment for my son to grow up in. I want him to trust his heart, make conscious choices and understand that there are consequences for every choice. I also want him to have a strong work ethic, be grateful for all his blessings, have a giving heart, and trust in a higher power.

What has being a dad taught you?

I now realize my heart can expand with love to new levels. When I see my son sleeping for example, the love is so intense that it literally hurts in my chest. It’s an incredible feeling and a clear indication that a soul contract was made between us. I am honored to have the opportunity to learn from such a great life experience.
Being a dad helps me be aware of areas in life I need to improve on. My son reminds me when my work/home life is out of balance, he teaches me that it’s easy to eat healthy when you are open minded and you listen to your body, how to take action despite not knowing how to do something, how to authentically express feelings, and that it is possible to read a couple books in a day. If my son is in a bad mood or being reactive, I often notice that I am usually feeling anxious in some way and he is just picking up on my vibes. The more work I do on myself, the more I notice a change in my son’s behavior. He’s a great mirror for me. We are so connected and he is truly one of my greatest teachers.
I am also more compassionate and accepting of others. I have a greater understanding that everyone enters the world as a sweet innocent baby — a being a pure love, full of authentic joy.
But over time, a child is influenced by family and culture through a complex programming process. Beliefs are taught and the child starts to develop subconscious fears that they carry with them into adulthood. People are like software programs: some are developed by very good programmers with high quality code and a great user interface. Others have lower quality programmers and their systems run inefficiently — riddled with bugs. It’s nobody’s fault, everyone is doing their best with the knowledge they have. As an adult, it’s our own responsibility to be aware of what we like about ourselves and recognize that some areas of our internal software program needs to be upgraded. No judgment, it’s just part of the human experience. Raising a child shows firsthand how this process works. It’s very enlightening.

Do you have any traditions or fun rituals you and your kid(s) enjoy?

Christmas is a big holiday for us. I’ve been called Clark W Griswold by our neighbors before. We have fun putting up all the decorations. I sometimes write little love notes and put them on my son’s lunchbox. We write down places we want to travel to and we make family vision boards showcasing our goals and aspirations. We love to eat at fine dining restaurants and make a point to explore a variety of cuisine. At night we say our prayers and tell God what we are thankful for.

Who serves as an example of being an awesome dad and why are they that example to you?

I can’t pick one dad to represent the model example of the father archetype. However, I am impressed with dads who live an active yet balanced life.
There are many dads that exemplify balance in different aspects of their life. Their family’s usually have similar characteristics of joy, laughter, fun, playfulness, creativity, and a dash of mischief. Those are the type of people I like to hang with :)

What advice do you have for new dads? Any tricks of the trade?

Allow your kids to be their most authentic self. Don’t be afraid of expressing your own feelings and encouraging your child to do the same. It’s so healthy to have the tools to process emotions instead of stuffing them. If they aren’t felt in the moment, they will eventually come back to the surface as physical or emotional stress.
Have your child get into the practice of setting their intention on a daily basis. I often ask my son before going to school to tell me his intention for the day. He will tell me something like “I am amazing, feeling happy” and then I have him visualize what the day would look like with that intention. It sets the tone for the rest of the day and develops a habit of living life in an intentional way instead of reacting.
Start feeding your child healthy food from the beginning and don’t fall into the cheese pizza, butter noodle, chicken finger trap. It’s a cultural spell that says kids can’t eat nutritious whole foods. Just look at a kid’s menu in any restaurant to show you how society views what children are “supposed” to eat. It’s simply not true. Kids will eat (and enjoy) healthy food when you involve them in the food prep process and educate them on how healthy food affects their body, mind, and spirit. Developing healthy eating habits will improve every aspect of your child’s life. It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give your child.
Go on 1 on 1 dates with your child to spend some good quality time together. They don’t have to be elaborate excursions. A simple trip to Target can be a fun field trip or even a walk around the block. It’s just great to break routines and be present with your child. Sometimes, when the day is hectic and we are all running around, I will grab my son and say “5-second 1 on 1 time”. We look into each others eyes, I tell him I love him, rub his shoulders a little, we chat for a bit, hug, and then he runs off. Those micro moments are very special and powerful, and they only take 5 seconds so you can do them anytime, anywhere.

Jeffrey Davis-Tracking Wonder

@Jeffrey Davis

How did your childhood shape the father you’ve become?
Hmm. Let’s start with the deep stuff, why don’t we? My father did the best he could given his culture and in part the fact that his father died when he was 14. In other words, without much guidance in fatherhood or self-awareness, my father showed up for me as the agent of playing games, playing with words, and playing with life. That sounds fun on the face of it, but for my first 14 years it left me without a heart connection to him. When I was a teenager, he wanted to be my best friend, which was not what I wanted, yet I recognize in retrospect I was profoundly fortunate to have a father who really did love me — and who told me so. Often. We connected heart-to-heart much more when I was in my 20s. He was actually a highly emotional, sensitive man in a very insensitive testosterone-centric culture. And now that he is dead, I think of him and hear the best in him almost every day.
I didn’t think I could or would become a father until I met my wife and realized I could father differently. I still very much have my father’s playful side and emotional side, but I also have my mother’s principled, disciplined, aesthetically attuned, and emotionally available side. I hope in my humble ways I show up with the best of both of my parents in me.
And I still climb trees. Lots of trees. I want both of my girls to climb trees.
Does that count?

What has being a dad taught you?

My girls call me out to be my best. They remind me every day of my mortality and of how dear every single day is. I really do aim not to take a single day for granted. It has taught me of my fears and that having certain fears can channel your best mammalian instincts — like to protect, to serve, to keep safe, to sacrifice.
When our first girl was born, I suddenly wanted to buy a baseball bat and rifle. For now, I have diverted those urges.
You know I’m a wonder-tracker, and you might know (or not) that when my first girl was just a few months old I vowed to her to wonder for her, to be the kind of grown up that would excite her to grow up rather than to cling to her childhood.
I think a great disservice I could do to my girls is to so relish childhood that I diminish the wonders of being a mortality-minded grown-up — which is, I think, more deeply wondrous than the innocent flavor my girls’ experience.
So, being a papa has reminded me what an honor it is to be a grown up who still tastes wonder.
They also reflect back to me when I am diverting to much energy and attention to work. #1 used to come into my studio at 6 pm each night and plead with me to stop working. She also used to make fun of how both her parents “work, work, work.” I love my work, but I want her to see a more full picture of being a grown-up.
They humble me, surprise me, delight me every single day. And I am grateful and often astonished at the abiding and quiet joy they bring me.

Do you have any traditions of fun rituals you and your kid(s) enjoy?

When our first girl was 2, I knew she needed rhythms more than rituals. So do I. So, I spontaneously invented The Breakfast Song and the Dinner Song. Around the same time, I also invented the Sail Away to Dreamland Song for bedtime. No matter what’s going on in the morning or evening, we still sing those songs. And even though she’s 6 now, she still loves for me to sing the Dreamland Song.
She and I also meditate together on some evenings. Jonathan Fields (see above) inspired me to share his version of a kindness meditation with her, and now we read a Peaceful Piggie Meditation book at night and practice. It’s good for her (and me).
Every Christmas Eve, she and I watch E.T. together. I don’t know why. I usually cry more than she.

Who serves as an example of being an awesome dad and why are they that example to you?

I watch a lot of father friends from afar. Years before I ever imagined being a father, I admired the figure of Atticus Finch from the novel To Kill a Mockingbird. I admired him in part because he didn’t seek to be chummy or a “guy” or cool. He sought to be respected, respectful, to do the right thing, and to teach his kids matters of decency and empathy. And he was an older papa. I didn’t know at the time I would be a father, let alone an “older papa.” (And it’s too bad that the sequel to Mockingbird does not paint Atticus so fondly.)
Otherwise, other than watching a few friends, I don’t follow many models for fatherhood. Early on, I did read a few books in psychology and emotional intelligence for parenting — even though one of my parent friends said, “Don’t trust any books!” (this to an author and book guy). I found certain books and studies about building resilience and emotional self-awareness profoundly helpful with out first girl (very sensitive).
I’m also interested in being the kind of father who’s attuned to and observant of each girl’s innate character and helping that character emerge — without my imposing (too much) what I want each girl to be. Each girl is notably different in character. #1 is sensitive, reticent, artful, creative. #2 is sure-footed, gregarious, tough-as-nails, willful. They’re both astounding human beings.
That’s not the answer you’re looking for, but it’s a window into me that I don’t really seek to fit a typical picture of “the awesome dad” — but I love seeing some awesome dads post their pics on Facebook (and I am heartened that more of my friends relish their roles as dads). For now I’m more interested in doing the right things for my girls in establishing a safe space for them where they can explore, study, create, and flourish as much as possible. And being present.

What advice do you have for new dads? Any tricks of the trade?

Be present. Learn to attune emotionally. Observe your child with openness and curiosity. Encourage her or his own curiosities and put the best resources in front of him or her to pursue them. Create rhythms for the day. Limit choices. Define flexible boundaries. Establish patterns for being part of the family. Early.
Let yourself be unraveled. Humbled. Astonished. Every day.
When a baby cries a lot: Invent a song. And another one. Learn the deep-breathing shussssh swaddle trick. Get ear plugs.
Love your partner. Oh my god, love your partner inside and out. You might love your baby in ways you never thought possible, but at the end of the day the person who will stand with you through it all is your partner. Watch your projection crap. Watch your temper. Watch your provider crap. Because, daddy, the first few years will challenge the strongest of unions. So you two had better talk on a regular basis.
Hillary and I maintained our mutual in-house creative retreats for each other. Each parent needs “time off” — and you two will need “time off” in whatever way is possible.
And, finally, don’t listen to most advice from other opinionated parents (like me). Really, this is stuff I figured out works for us.

Anwar Khuri — Popskull

@Anwar Khuri

How did your childhood shape the father you’ve become?
A few years ago, I asked my father if he was as involved in my life when I was young as I’m expected to be in my son’s life now. He told me ‘not at all’. When I was born, he patted me on the head and went back to work. That was the expectation of a man in the 1970s. Men worked. Women did the child rearing.

What has being a dad taught you?

Being a dad has taught me that words have meaning and that your feelings should be yours to own. It’s such an easy thing to snap at ill-behaved children. It’s also easy to see the affects of your ill-chosen words play across their faces. When I’m not taking responsibility for my emotions and I unload on one of my kids, I can see my son shut down and ride out the storm or my daughter internalize the drama. It’s clear to see when you witness the affect of those same words playing out from their little mouths as they unload their emotions on someone else. That’s why the converse is just as important.
When I’m full of praise, love and support, I see it reflected in my kids.
There’s power in that.

Do you have any traditions or fun rituals you and your kid(s) enjoy?

Anytime we’re on a road trip, right as we get out of the city, we yell out “One, two, three! And away we go!” It’s what my dad used to do.

Who serves as an example of being an awesome dad and why are they that example to you?

I don’t have any one example of an awesome dad that inspires me. I take little bits and pieces from all different dads both real and fictional. The two traits of a father that do inspire me are the dad that is involved and the dad that respects the mom. Those are the two things that will shape how your child engages with others and the type of partners they seek out.

What advice do you have for new dads? Any tricks of the trade?

The best advice I have for new dads is to bend like the reed and redirect the energy your child is throwing at you. If you try to hit an irrational force head on, something will break. But if you can guide that force into a different direction, you’re going to win every time.

John Brophy — City Colleges of Chicago

@riotbike

How did your childhood shape the father you’ve become?
I grew up in a pretty large family and I had a great deal of love and support. Being 7 of 8 kids I am realizing now how much space I had when I wanted it. There are more than a few pictures when I was growing up where I’m walking around doing my own thing. As I woke up to the world I learned more about myself and my parents, I feel like I’ve been able to carve my own path a bit. I hope that I can pass along some of the freedom that comes with hard work and curiosity. Seems like a balance.
In terms of how I parent based on my own youth, I don’t know yet. At this point I’m doing my best to keep him alive and get home as quickly as possible from work. I’m sure there are situations that will come up as he gets older that will be tests, and thats life, but for now it’s pretty simple.
Try to be present and put down the damn phone.

What has being a dad taught you?

The joys of waking up early everyday (even though my saintly wife without fail wakes up earlier than I do). I cannot imagine life without him. He also helps me to better manage my own emotions/outbursts because I know he is going to learn from me how to do that. Also, he’s pretty funny.
The internet is your best friend and worst enemy when playing armchair pediatrician.

Do you have any traditions or fun rituals you and your kid(s) enjoy?

My son and I usually get an hour in the morning to hang out before I need to head to work. We like to mix it up, but generally there is a snack and playing with trains. Also, we like to roughhouse a bit and try to keep it mostly on a bed or couch, something soft. It makes me wonder why beds are elevated and surrounded by sharp corners, not really convenient.

Who serves as an example of being an awesome dad and why are they that example to you?

My brother Pat. His family has had a few curve balls that he and his wife and kids have handled tremendously. He is also a great listener and manages to give advice only when asked, something I have no idea how to do.

What advice do you have for new dads? Any tricks of the trade?

Enjoy your sleep now, cause its gone. And generally speaking, for babies at least, either the child is hungry, needs to go to the bathroom, needs to burp, or has a stuffy nose. Good luck!

It’s amazing to me how much love, knowledge, and perspective these gentlemen offered.

I’d like to extend a massive thank you to the dudes that participated in this interview compilation. It’s been an incredible way to pause, reflect, and set a few intentions about who I want to be as a father, while learning from some men who inspire me to be a great dad too.

I wish us ALL the best.

Ideas, questions, words, and images …

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