We’re not going to lie to you—most of the staff here at Today’s Parent are hetero women. So finding our biggest dad crushes on Instagram was a super hard job that didn’t make our ovaries hurt at all. But we always want to put in the time in the trenches for you, dear readers. So whether you’re a mom or dad who sees flashes of their partner in these guys’ touching answers (no, you’re crying) or a dad who recognizes his own feelings about parenthood and his kids in these stories, this is for you.
Name: Dustin Coldicott, Prince Edward County, Ont.
Family: Wife Tania and kids Henri, 3, and Magnolia, 2
About this picture: We have a Saturday morning ritual and it’s, by far, our favourite time of the week: slow mornings where the kids spill into our bed and we’re able to spend time just enjoying one another’s company. We’ll grab a few of their most beloved books and read together. I love seeing their eyes light up at the turn of every page. These mornings are what I hope I remember when I look back.
What’s your favourite thing about being a dad? My favourite thing about being a dad is watching my kids grow and explore. It’s such a joy to introduce them to new experiences, new places and new ways of doing things. Seeing them navigate the unfamiliar with such enthusiasm reminds me how lucky I am to be by their side through it all.
What’s the thing about being a dad that has surprised you most? I’m most surprised at how much of a priority it has become for me to spend as much time with my kids as humanly possible. Since they were born, I’ve made sacrifices in every facet of my life to be able to be more hands-on in their day-to-day lives. They’re the difficult decisions I’m most proud of, as I now spend the majority of my days with my kids.
What’s your best piece of advice for new dads? Never let an opportunity to play with your kids pass you by. Do the skin-to-skin contact, change their diapers, see your toddler through a tantrum, take them to the park, kiss them every time they request one, look when they ask you to look, and don’t ever think it’s not your job because you’re the dad. The more they can count on you for the little, mundane things now, the more they’ll come to you for support with the big stuff later on.
Name: Clay Gunn, North San Diego, Calif.
Family: Wife Mary Lauren (I call her Lo) and son Ezra, 2
About this picture: This was taken on a Saturday morning when I promised Lo I would make her breakfast and let her sleep in. In our tiny house, this is nearly impossible, but she knows it’s the thought that counts.
What do you like about this picture? I love that Ezra is so serious about his mixing. He’s a very technical kid—everything he does is with complete concentration and seriousness. He’s my little sidekick who wants to “help, please!” with everything I’m doing.
What’s your favourite thing about being a dad? It has helped me see the bigger picture in life. Sometimes I get stressed out from being too focused on getting ahead in my career, but when I get home and see that kid so happy to see me, all that stress goes out the window. No matter what, as long as I have my wife and boy, life will be good.
What’s the thing about being a dad that has surprised you most? How smart these little people can be! Ezra tricks us into doing stuff all the time. The other day he said “wa-wa” (water), so I went to open up the fridge and he quickly grabbed and ate a handful of cake that was sitting on the bottom shelf. He never drank the water.
What’s your best piece of advice for new dads? I was so stressed when I first found out Lo was pregnant. But during the ups and downs of our first couple of years of being parents, I’ve seen that as long as you keep working hard and doing your best, everything will work out. When times get rough, just know in the back of your mind that it will all work out and be sure to enjoy those moments.
Anything else? All the dad and kid talk can’t be said without recognizing my wife. I definitely have a new level of respect and love for her since the day our little guy was born.
Name: Daniel Klenner, Vancouver, B.C.
Family: Wife Tegan and daughter Hazel, 1
About this picture: We woke up in a cozy bed in a hotel downtown, enjoying a little staycation and relaxation with the fam. Hazel is so much fun in the mornings. She’s a little cuddlebug—just like her dad.
What do you like about this picture? I love how I’m so sincere, but Hazel has a cheeky grin. I also love her little hand on my face.
What’s your favourite thing about being a dad? First, having a little human that loves you completely through and through—such a sincere love. Second, seeing how becoming a mother has turned my wife into a more confident and courageous woman. And, of course, morning snuggles.
What’s the thing about being a dad that has surprised you most? I thought being a dad would be fun, but I didn’t know it would be this much fun. Also, I cry in movies way more now.
What’s your best piece of advice for new dads? Do as much as you can to help your partner with everything—diapers, cleaning, cooking—especially during those first few weeks. As tired as you think you are, she is even more tired and deserves to wake up with a hot cup of coffee next to her pillow.
Name: Adam Lapienis, Brampton, Ont.
Family: Wife Chrisia and son Theo, 1
About this picture: I was assembling a bench, and Theo was very interested in everything I was doing. He wanted to play inside the boxes and would try to take the little pieces as I was arranging them. He wanted to have his little hand on the screwdriver. It slowed the whole process down, but I loved every minute of it.
What do you like about this picture? It captures Theo’s curiosity perfectly and reminds me of the times I would help my father fix things around the house. I’m excited to share those moments with my son now.
What’s your favourite thing about being a dad? Being able to watch my son grow and learn new things, holding him, tickling him and hearing his laugh and seeing his excitement when I return home from work.
What’s the thing about being a dad that has surprised you most? How fast time flies. He’s a year already, and it still feels like he was born last week. I’m always amazed at how quickly he learns something new. One week he’s wiggling on his belly, the next he’s jetting around the house on all fours.
Name: Mark Wright, Mississauga, Ont.
Family: Wife Kristy and daughter Kadence, 1½
What do you like about this picture? Kadence is a little performer, always so happy and full of life. I love how this photo captures her personality perfectly. I can sit there for hours watching her experience life, solving puzzles, laughing at a toy or trying something new for the first time.
What’s your favourite thing about being a dad? I finally get to appreciate my parents on a level they deserve. I know that everything they did for me, whether or not I agreed with it at the time, came from a good place. I know that their love for me was unconditional and that they pushed me, not to make my life difficult but to make me better. I now know that no matter what they said or did, they had the same feeling inside them that I now get to experience.
I’m still new to this dad thing, but I’m already thinking about the day that Kadence will have the same “aha” moment. I know it will be a long journey and we will have our differences, but I know that one day she’ll understand that what I have done as a father is truly because I want her to exceed anything I have ever accomplished.
What’s the thing about being a dad that has surprised you most? While I try to pass on all of my life’s lessons, my daughter is the one who is teaching me what life is all about. She has opened my eyes and my heart to a new world and a new way of thinking, and I love every part of it.
What’s your best piece of advice for new dads? You may be feeling overwhelmed and underprepared, but the reality is that, no matter how many books you read or how many people give you advice, you are still going to have your doubts—and rightly so, as you’re now responsible for a life! Parenthood will be the greatest change you’ll go through, full of sacrifices and figuring it out as you go. But the truth of the matter is, there is no one more capable of being a father to your baby than you.
Name: Rob Taylor, Suquamish, Wash.
Family: Husband Chris and sons Oliver, 5, and Elliott, 2
About this picture: One of our favorite local areas to visit is the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State. This is at Cape Flattery. We love to hike with the kids, and this spot was really great because we found a lighthouse at the end. Our kids are such troopers and love every minute we spend in nature.
What do you like about this picture? If you’ve ever tried to get a family photo with everyone smiling or looking at the camera, then you know it’s successful only one-quarter of the time. We are all smiling, all focused and, most importantly, all together for an awesome day of watching the waves crash against the cliffs.
What’s your favourite thing about being a dad? It’s selfish to say, but having little people who love you so much and fully trust and depend on you to help, guide and love them. It’s amazing!
What’s the thing about being a dad that has surprised you most? It’s always surprising to find out how the smallest things will make you tear up. On our most recent flight, our oldest used the airplane bathroom all by himself. That caused a bit of crying, seeing that he’s growing up.
What’s your best piece of advice for new dads? Be present. Take pictures with your phone, yes, but be present. You’ll have the energy you need if you stay up two minutes later to respond to a work email. Be present when your kids are awake and wanting to be with you.
Anything else? Never, ever say aloud if you think that the other parent is parenting wrong in front of your kids. If you need to realign your parenting practices, do it in a timely fashion and in a way that’s not going to make the other parent lose face in front of the littles.
Name: Joseph Morris, Fairbanks, Alaska
Family: Wife Allyssa Belle and daughter Betty Belle, 2½
About this picture: Weather in Alaska can be trying, so we take advantage of the sunlight and warm weather as much as possible.
What’s your favourite thing about being a dad? Just spending time with Betty. I know she won’t be my little girl forever, so I really want to take advantage of when I can still carry her on my shoulders and hold her hand without her being embarrassed. I loved spending time with my dad in the woods and I really cherish those memories.
What’s your best piece of advice for new dads? Take it slow, breathe and give whatever you can to support your children and especially your partner.
Name: Josh Willink, Fountain Hills, Ariz.
Family: Wife Carrie and daughter Remy, 1½
About this picture: My wife and I made a commitment to each other to never stop travelling—it’s tattooed on our ankles. In Remy’s first year of life, we travelled as much as we could: She flew 14 times and visited 11 different states, and we spent our weekends hiking as many trails with her as possible. In this particular image, we had just finished a long weekend road-tripping through Utah, hiking some of the big national parks out there. Remy loved every minute of it!
What do you like about this picture? I think it shows our personalities. I like to stop and look around every once in a while, just to take it all in. This world is a beautiful place, and it’s easy to go through life and never really appreciate the beauty that surrounds you. Remy’s face is saying “OK, let’s keep moving, we have more places to go!”
What’s your favourite thing about being a dad? She’s the light of my world. She is a gift. Remy was a surprise, so I wasn’t planning it and I had no idea what to expect. I read all sorts of articles, blogs and books on how to take care of a baby human. I even watched an instructional YouTube video on how to change a diaper—I had no idea. One of my favourite things about being a dad is taking her out and spending some one-on-one time with her. We’ll go to the park or to the store for a doughnut and we laugh and giggle and have the best time. I want her to know that I will always be there for her—I’ll always protect her and look out for her. In a world where men are often considered flaky or unreliable, I want to be her rock.
What’s the thing about being a dad that has surprised you most? How hard it is to swaddle a baby! There are so many different ways to do it. Do you swaddle with the arms in or out? Is it tight enough that they can’t wiggle out but not so tight that it’s cutting off circulation? It’s really intense.
What’s your best piece of advice for new dads? Stay positive and keep going! Babies seem to go through a lot of phases. If your baby isn’t sleeping well, has an annoying habit (Remy was making this screeching noise for a while that made fingernails on a chalkboard sound like an angel strumming a harp) or is sick or crying all the time, know that it’s probably just a phase and that it’s only a matter of time before she grows out of it.
Also, it’s OK to listen to people’s advice. There are a lot of good ideas out there, but in the end do what works best for you. Everyone has an opinion, and everyone heard something from somewhere that this is the new best thing for your kid. Ultimately, only you know what’s best for your kid.
Name: Geoffrey Mboce Kimani, Kelowna, B.C.
Family: Wife Norah and sons Luca, 6, and Nico, 1½
About this picture: I like this photo because it shows how Nico loves to snuggle up with me. He loves to read books and listen to my stories about my upbringing in Kenya, particularly the wildlife stories.
What’s the thing about being a dad that has surprised you most? How open-minded it has made me.
What’s your best piece of advice for new dads? Take it easy—you’ll learn as your journey of fatherhood unfolds. Making mistakes is part of it and helps show your kids that you’re only human.
Name: Jason Oranzo, New York, N.Y.
Family: Husband David, daughter Scout, 10, and son Gus, 10 (yes, they’re twins!)
About this picture: We shot this photo of our own accord—for a cause—to spread awareness that many LGBTI people have to live in shame and hiding around our globe. We did it to promote equality and show our support for those who have to live in hiding, in some cases fearing for their lives. What I also love about this photo is that our children participated in it because they’re aware of the cause and understood at an early age what it was like for their parents growing up in a world that wasn’t so supportive. It makes us happy to know that they already have a firm grasp on diversity and will grow with full understanding of all the differences in the world.
What’s your favourite thing about being a dad? Being a dad gave me a sense of responsibility. It taught me what it really means to be selfless. And the hugs at the end of the day are one of my favourite perks.
What’s the thing about being a dad that has surprised you most? The biggest surprise was that I was more than capable of this—that my instincts immediately led the way, from a newborn to a 10-year-old.
What’s your best piece of advice for new dads? Maintain balance—something that I truly believe benefits both us and the kids. We find time for ourselves, our careers and our social lives. We maintain a balance that, in turn, allows us to be better, stronger parents.
Name: Kupa Mutungu, Surrey, B.C.
Family: Wife Tina and son Ezra, 1½
About this picture: Ezra has always liked music. Before he was born, Tina would sit beside the piano and I would play and we would both sing to him. He’d kick up a storm inside there. After he was born, if we’d start a familiar song, he would pause and kind of squint a little, like he was recalling some distant memory.
What do you like about this picture? Ezra very much wants to be with his mama, but he wants to do whatever he sees me doing. This picture kind of foreshadows that. Now if he hears the piano cover open, he’ll come toddling over, demand to be picked up and take the lead rocking out.
What’s your favourite thing about being a dad? Being a dad gives me all these amazing opportunities to encounter the world for the first time vicariously through my son. So many things are surprising and new to him. Yesterday, Ezra and I went on an awkward toddling walk to pick up the mail from our box a block away. We paused to investigate every mystical object glistening in every window we passed and then we spent about five minutes tracing our fingers over every groove, corner and lock of the mailbox—like we’d just arrived to deactivate the planet and were trying to find the “off” button. I like being able to appreciate the strangeness of the world we live in through Ezra’s curiosity and reactions in moments like these.
What’s the thing about being a dad that has surprised you most? How seamless the switch to this completely new identity has been for me. From the moment I saw the blue lines on the pregnancy test, I felt like a dad. I wept like a shipwrecked sailor when I heard his little heartbeat on the machine at seven weeks. In a very personal and intimate way, I just know I’m Ezra’s dad—it’s just who I am.
What’s your best piece of advice for new dads? A lot of my dad friends are focused on being “providers” for their families. I think new dads should resist this way of thinking. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a spouse who takes care of your family right alongside you. This person has gone through the tough, heroic work of carrying and delivering or adopting a child. Respecting and honouring the ways they provide the context and capacity for your child’s life are as important as striving to provide this context and capacity yourself.
Parenting requires us to strike some relational balance between “doing for” and “being with.” Many fathers tend to think the former is their job and the latter is their partner’s job, so we tend to spend a lot of time doing unseen things for our families instead of being with them. I think you miss a lot of opportunities for love, beauty and self-knowledge when we tip the balance too far one way or the other.
Name: Ben Sze, Melbourne, Australia
Family: Wife Heidi and daughter Joan, 10 months
About this picture: This was taken when Joan was less than three months old. Looking back on this photo, it’s so amazing to see how small Joan was. I can’t believe this tiny nugget of gold could have so much power to melt our hearts and change our lives for the better!
What’s your favourite thing about being a dad? Seeing her grow, learn and change every day. Plus, seeing how much she loves her mama and daddy.
What’s the thing about being a dad that has surprised you most? It’s sappy, but I’m still blown away every day by how much I love Joan.
What’s your best piece of advice for new dads? Take as much time off from work as possible in the early days to not only support your partner but also get to know your child. The “important” stuff can wait.
Name: John Laskowski, Bay City, Mich.
Family: Wife Kelsey and son Finn, 1
About this picture: It was a Sunday afternoon and we were all still in our pyjamas. My wife, the house “mamarazzi,” had her camera in hand as usual and was snapping Finn as he hung around my feet. Ever since he’s been mobile, he’s been a leg clinger. Anyway, his leg clinging usually leads to him looking up at me with his arms reached out and some sort of goofy, questioning look on his face, like “You gonna pick me up or what, Dad?”
What’s your favourite thing about being a dad? Being a dad gives me a sense of pride that’s beyond belief. It’s crazy to think that life isn’t just about you anymore; it’s about you and this little person you created, and I love that. Plus, now I can officially say I have a “dad bod.”
What’s the thing about being a dad that has surprised you most? I spent my whole life terrified of becoming a dad until I was one. The naturalness and the ease of it surprised me most.
What’s your best piece of advice for new dads? Stay calm and enjoy every phase because each new phase goes by quicker than the last.
Name: Wilson Chung, Markham, Ont.
Family: Wife Claudia and twins Parker and Cooper, 2½ years old
About this picture: After breakfast, we were all hanging out on the main floor and sometimes I like to bust out my ukulele to practise and play some tunes for the boys. Of course, as soon as I took it out, they wanted to play on the strings.
What do you like about this picture? To me, this photo represents the meaning of family and spending time together—we are all just sitting around the living room on a sunny morning, just doing what we enjoy and relaxing together. My wife and I both had our coffees, I was trying to play the uke and making my wife sing to it and the boys were running around singing or roaring like dinosaurs, climbing on top of me to play the uke or breaking out in dance on the coffee table. It was one of those memorable family moments.
What’s the thing about being a dad that has surprised you most? I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to show tough love. Oftentimes I’m tempted to take the easier way out and let them have their way, tantrums and all—often I do! But I find that, especially at this age, they constantly try to push the boundaries.
What’s your best piece of advice for new dads? A few things I try to remind myself is to be able to let go of things, as nothing can be perfect, and to continually try to enjoy each stage and the experiences and memories that come with it. They grow up quickly, so cherish every moment.
Name: Emmanuel Villamor, Mississauga, Ont.
Family: Wife Noelle and daughters Emma, 7, Alexandra, 3, and Samantha, 1
About this picture: Working hard to provide for my family is an easy trade-off. Taking those few minutes after a long day’s work is much needed, especially since I’ll have to wind back up for daddy duty shortly after.
What do you like about this picture? I love when my kids rest their heads on my chest. I really have to cherish those moments because they’re short-lived. Before I know it, they’re squirming away or jumping on me.
What’s your favourite thing about being a dad? Being able to watch and play baseball together, having lightsaber and Nerf battles and riding our bikes outside are memories that will stay with me forever. Of course, the compromise is playing with dolls, watching the same Disney movies over and over and mastering the fishtail and French braids.
What’s the thing about being a dad that has surprised you most? They poop so much—way more than I expected.
What’s your best piece of advice for new dads? As important as it is to pitch in as best as you can with little things like diapers, feedings and household chores, my best piece of advice is to remember to maintain your love with your spouse. You’re still in a relationship together, so remember to go out on dates together and give her the night out once in a while to get out of the house and have time for herself.
Name: Caleb Burkleo, Albany, N.Y.
Family: Wife Danielle and sons Brody, 8, Foster, 6, and Abram, 2, and daughters Story, 4, and Lula, 10 months
About this picture: My daughter was about to have surgery to have a mass removed from her side. The doctors were unsure of what it was and everyone was scared, especially Story. She has always felt so much comfort having me by her side, so we sat there and I held her hand as we waited for hours. This picture was taken last year. We were so blessed to find out that the mass they removed was benign.
What do you like about this picture? I love how this pretty much captures what happens at bedtime every night.
What’s your favourite thing about being a dad? Being a part of the craziness and everyday lives of my kids and all they do.
What’s the thing about being a dad that has surprised you most? How proud I can actually be. I have never been as proud of anything before in my life as I am of what my kids have done.
What’s your best piece of advice for new dads? Get ready for no sleep, selflessness and true happiness.
Name: Alan Delides, Toronto, Ont.
Family: Wife Lydia and son Hoxton, 2½
About this picture: We went to a local indoor obstacle course. We had just jumped into the ball pit and sunk further than we anticipated. What seemed scary at first turned to laughter. Hoxton likes the thrill!
What do you like about this picture? I love that you can see pure joy on his face.
What’s your favourite thing about being a dad? Him telling me that I am his “best friend” is high in my mind right now. But it’s hard to pick just one favourite thing. He is just the best part of my every day.
What’s the thing about being a dad that has surprised you most? Surprisingly, it gets easier. That first moment, we all feel blindfolded in a room full of expensive china. Then you quickly get the hang of it and every day is a better experience than the last.
What’s your best piece of advice for new dads? Take in every moment. Don’t wish the time away. As parents, we always look forward to what they will do at the next stage, but my advice is to savour the moments you’re in because they grow up so fast.
Anything else? I can’t wait for our next little one to come so I can start this all over again! It’s a very exciting time.
Name: Raphael Panais, Halifax, N.S.
Family: Wife Fiona and daughter Sophia, 2
About this picture: Sophia is really into regal things right now, like tea parties and ballroom dancing. I had told her we would have a tea party that morning and she was waiting for me downstairs while I got dressed. She had it all planned out.
What do you like about this picture? I love that it perfectly captures that moment when our eyes meet—like we’re sharing a secret. I also love that her feet aren’t touching the ground. She is getting more independent and mature every day, but I find those little dangling feet really sweet and innocent.
What’s your favourite thing about being a dad? I love watching her grow. I love thinking about what she’s thinking about and watching her learn new things. I also love her random little hugs and kisses.
What’s the thing about being a dad that has surprised you most? How much I love it—and I’m actually a person who went into this parenthood journey thinking I would love it. While it’s not easy, it has exceeded my expectations. We’re expecting baby number two this summer. I’m so excited for Sophia to meet her new sibling and watch her grow into her new role as big sister and for our adventures as a family of four.
Name: Tim Brooks, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Family: Wife Nikki and sons Ryder, 4, and Brooklyn, 1
About this picture: It was Australia Day, so we spent the morning swimming. We were all obviously a little tired afterward. The boys are really cute when they sleep—I love having them in our bed.
What’s your favourite thing about being a dad? There’s always something to look forward to coming home to.
What’s the thing about being a dad that has surprised you most? It’s definitely harder than I expected. And even though they’re tiny, they make a lot of mess.
What’s your best piece of advice for new dads? Don’t waste time stressing out over the little things. Just cuddle them while they’re little because before you know it, they’d rather wrestle!
Name: James Tobin, Toronto, Ont.
Family: Partner Rachel and son Oliver, 1
About this picture: We were having brunch for Rachel’s birthday and I was employing every trick I know to stave off a hunger-and-boredom-induced baby meltdown.
What do you like about this picture? That it captures Oli laughing. He has an entire catalogue of adorable sounds, but none is better than his laugh. It’s not just that his laugh is cute; it’s an indicator that, if only for this moment, all is right with our world.
What’s the thing about being a dad that has surprised you most? It’s harder than I ever imagined but not in the ways I imagined. Contrary to my expectations, a baby isn’t necessarily a complicated thing to care for, nor is it as fragile or delicate as I thought, but it’s wildly involved—and that isn’t changing. First, he just slept all day. Then, when he started being more alert, playing with him meant dangling stuff in front of his face while he lay on his back. Once he could sit up, we had to keep rotating toys to keep him occupied. Now that he can crawl, it seems like he’s only interested in imperilling himself.
What’s your best piece of advice for new dads? Decide what personal activities you’re not willing to part with before the baby is born. You’ll have to give up a lot and almost everything for the first month or so, but I think it’s important—for your sanity, for your ability to parent, for your relationship—to not sacrifice everything. Dedicating a few hours a week to yourself is important. Ditto for mom. Encourage her to take time for herself as soon as she can.
Name: Patricio Miguel Ulloa, Mississauga, Ont.
Family: Wife Robin and daughter Ramona, 1
About this picture: This was Halloween, and we were dressed as Max and Carol from Where the Wild Things Are. I was one of the only adults in costume, but I didn’t mind. Ramona’s suit is actually a bear suit and not a wolf, like in the book. She wore that bear suit all winter.
What do you like about this picture? I like that it’s a picture of me holding my daughter. I usually don’t like photos of myself, but if she’s in it, that saves it.
What’s your favourite thing about being a dad? Everything. Watching someone grow and learn and having all the best parts of my wife and myself together in one person is incredible.
What’s the thing about being a dad that has surprised you most? I guess how emotional I am about it. I knew I would be emotional, but I’ve become really soft.
What’s your best piece of advice for new dads? Have patience. It’s easy to become frustrated when you have a screaming baby in your arms at 3 a.m. Help your wife as much as possible—she just carried a baby around for nine months and then had to somehow get it out of her body, so let her relax a bit. And don’t get tied to gender roles: You’re not any less of a man if you cook dinner or change a diaper.
Name: Mark Douglass, College Station, Texas
Family: Wife Bethany and sons Liam, 12, Burke, 11, and daughters Blythe, 9, and Olive, 7
About this picture: This scene captures a common Saturday morning activity in the Douglass house. Though we aren’t Jewish, we observe a Sabbath day as a cure for our busy, digital modern lives. I try to include a game of chess with each of the kids.
What do you like about this picture? It captures the quiet contemplation of our Saturday mornings and “freezes” my youngest daughter in a stationary moment—she is a frenetic spirit of unceasing motion. Photos are the only places I see her completely still—this never happens in real life.
What’s your favourite thing about being a dad? I enjoy the humbling task of moulding lives while quaking at the uncertainty of the outcome. The unknowns and the complexities really makes this entire project (a multi-decade project) an exciting, twist-filled adventure.
What’s the thing about being a dad that has surprised you most? I am surprised by how much happens by instinct. I don’t read about fathering or ask for outside advice often enough—I really should do more of that. Even so, those “go with your gut” moments have worked out better than I would have guessed they would. I am pleasantly surprised so far, but I acknowledge that we are rapidly approaching the “teenage wasteland” on our horizon. My palms are sweating. God help us!
What’s your best piece of advice for new dads? It all goes by faster than you think. Every phase has its whiz-bang wonder and elements that threaten to utterly crush you. I’ve walked a screaming two-year-old wrapped in my jacket through the bitter 2 a.m. cold because he wouldn’t sleep. I’ve howled in agony as a teething child chomped down on my inner thigh. I’ve repainted rooms that children have decorated in their own impressionist fits of inspiration. We’ve fled dinner parties with vomiting children in a march of indignity. And it has all been completely worth it!
Anything else? Do it, man! Go all in. Really be a father. Don’t be that awkward, reluctant caricature of a father we see in films and sitcoms—the one who shies away from engagement or awkwardly initiates conversation because the nagging wife browbeat him into it. That is so lame—almost as lame as the pushover “I just want to be your buddy” dad. Your family doesn’t need that guy—you can be more than that. Be epic. Fight to know your kids, and help them give language to who they are and what they feel. Act like a pioneering expert of life, even when you don’t feel like one. Show them how to fight for your relationship and how to fail and keep going. Remember this: You are raising your future best friends! The opposite is also true: If you aren’t in a deep relationship, if they don’t know you or if you don’t like them, those are going to be some terrible holiday weekends. I hope you got really good at your golf game on all those Saturdays you spent alone because it’ll just be you and the fairways until the end.
Name: Simon Ward, Lindsay, Ont.
Family: Wife Amelia, son Theo, 5, and daughter Frances, 2
About this picture: This photo is very special to me. Last year I had to be on the road for Halloween and it broke my heart because I really enjoy taking my kids trick-or-treating. My wife organized our neighbourhood to help us celebrate Halloween before I left, so our family went trick-or-treating together a week early! It was one of the warmest feelings I’ve ever had.
What’s your favourite thing about being a dad? Getting to share my life with people I truly love more than anything—they are my whole world! I also like that I get to relive the amazing memories I have from childhood with my kids. I think I get just as excited about opening the kids’ stockings on Christmas as they do!
What’s the thing about being a dad that has surprised you most? How much work it is. Kids are the best thing ever, but let’s call a spade a spade.
Names: Marcin and Ryan Zielinski, Houston, Texas
Family: Son Liam Cash Zielinski, 1
About this picture Marcin: Bath time! We have a very set schedule for Liam and always start bath time at 6:30 p.m. He is in his own crib sleeping by 7 p.m. and has slept from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. every night since he was six weeks old (we’ve been told we’re very lucky!). We give Liam a bath in front of a mirror and he loves smiling or waving at himself in the mirror or clapping while we sing “If You’re Happy and You Know It.” In this photo, Liam is smiling up at me while I sing to him.
What do you like about this picture? Ryan: I love the smile on Liam’s face. He has always been a happy baby, and his smile is absolutely contagious.
What’s your favourite thing about being a dad? Marcin: The greatest thing about being a dad is the sound of Liam laughing. His laugh can completely change your mood after a long day and make everything better. Sometimes when Ryan comes home from work, all he can hear when he walks in the door is a big adult laugh and a little baby laugh coming from the nursery. Ryan: I love when Liam snuggles up against my neck and falls asleep on my chest. Feeling his little heart beating and knowing that he feels safe and secure is one of the very best feelings.
What’s the thing about being a dad that has surprised you most? Marcin: Perhaps the most surprising is how long it takes to get out of the house! We used to be able to just go, but now we have to get the bottles, diapers, baby wipes, food and diaper bag. What used to take us a few seconds now takes 10 to 15 minutes! Another thing that has taken me by surprise is how many things a baby accumulates. We have toys, books, walkers, jumpers, diapers and stuffed animals all over our house. For a neat freak like Ryan, this took some adjustment, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.
What’s your best piece of advice for new dads? Marcin: Being a parent is hard work, but it’s the most rewarding thing you’ll ever do. Having your baby smile up at you after an especially difficult day melts away all of the tiredness and stress and leaves you feeling this indescribable, deep love that only a parent can know.
Anything else? Ryan: We started our family through open adoption. It was a long, emotional process that left us feeling vulnerable, anxious and even scared. We dealt with scammers and failed matches, but I knew that one day we’d have a baby in our arms. When Liam’s birth mother found us through our Facebook page, there was an instant connection and we knew she was someone special who would change our lives forever. We still stay in regular contact with her, and Liam will always know the amazing act of love she showed for him when she placed him in our arms.
This article was originally published online in May 2016.