Lessons from the first year with my little girl

by W. Andrew Powell
My Star on the beach

Almost 12 months ago I became a dad. I even bought an appropriate domain (nothing fancy–it points to this part of my blog) in anticipation for the big day, but since my little girl was born, I haven’t blogged about her once. (Sorry, girlie!)

There have been lots and lots of updates on Facebook about her, mind you, and Instagram, but the amount of time I’ve made to sit and write down thoughts about her have been fairly limited. That’s my first mistake, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been keeping track of how she has grown and changed. I’m lucky enough to have a wife who has been documenting our little girl’s progress since the start, and I did keep a journal of the first two weeks, so we had it locked down on paper. I’ve also been taking an astounding number of photos and videos of her along the way too, of course.

At this point, I feel like I could write a book about being a dad, but most of it is speculative and emotional, rather than concrete. Certainly nothing as wise as “50 Rules for Dads of Daughters”–at least not yet–but I feel like I’m getting closer. I’m also happy to say that I feel like I’m a dad, and I think I can check off quite a few of those 50 rules already too.

What amazes me at this point, beyond how she changes almost each and every day, is the fact that even trying to be prepared before she was born, I don’t think we were even remotely ready for the days ahead.

So, in the interest of passing on some wisdom for would-be parents, here’s what I’ve learned so far, just to finally have it written somewhere.

There is no way to be prepared for being a parent.
My wife and I read books (she read way more than I did though), researched parenting topics online, went to a prenatal class for a few weeks, and talked about plans and goals a lot, and it has still been a tipsy-turvy adventure for almost all of the last 12 months, but especially the first one. It was tough, it was happy, and we never got enough sleep for weeks and weeks (we’re still a little sleep-deprived at times), and that’s maybe the best lesson I could tell anyone about becoming a parent: you should try to be prepared, and you need to plan lots of it ahead, but you never will really be prepared for everything.

You will love them more than anything else in the world.
This sounds like a no-brainer, but it still amazes me how much I love our little girl, and you can’t prepare for this either. I love my wife, I love my parents, and I love other family too, but I love my daughter in a completely different way than anyone else. I really can’t explain it, but it’s a mix of pride, hope, and a feeling like I have to be there to guide her through the world for as long as she’ll let me, or as long as she needs it.

Sleep any time you can.
My wife and I have tried, as often as possible, to nap when our daughter naps, but we have not always been very successful either because she doesn’t nap for long some times, or life gets in the way. But, the lesson we’ve learned is definitely to nap when we can because you never know when there will be a bad night, or a day where there are just not enough hours to make you feel awake.

Our daughter actually sleeps fairly well throughout the night, starting at around 8:00 PM these days until 6:00 AM or even 7:00 AM, but sometimes she wakes up and it takes us anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour to get her back to sleep. We take turns with her over night and in the mornings, but that means that one or both of us are tired throughout the day. Working from home most days means I can help out, but neither of us gets many chances to nap, and we’re the lucky ones since we’ve been home together for this first year. I would suggest to anyone that the sleep you can get is essential to your sanity, and to being able to enjoy your days with your little one.

Don’t rush it.
The old saying may be cheesy, but it’s true: time flies. One day you’re figuring out how to deal with dirty diapers for this tiny little human, and the next you’re figuring out how this little girl started walking and deciding if you’ve really baby-proofed the house enough.

Everyone says it, but one moment you’re looking down in the crib at a sleeping little doll, and the next she’s looking up at you smiling, laughing, and babbling away.

It’s a wonderful experience, and no matter how hard it is, it goes way, way too fast. In 17 years I’m sure I’ll say the same thing when she’s graduating, or whatever she’s doing, and it’s a great reminder to make every day count, and to cherish your life, your family, and the child that has flipped your life wonderfully upside down.

It’s tough, and like all difficult things, very rewarding.
You may cry from frustration, and you might feel like a failure even when you want to do your best for your child, but in the end there is nothing like being a parent and caring for your child. The rewards are everywhere: in the smiles, the baby steps, and throughout the whole experience you will take with them, but it still won’t always be easy.

My daughter thankfully teaches me new things each day, including patience, respect, and little dribbles of other wisdom, and I hope I’m doing the same for her. She makes me want to be a better person, and to me that’s maybe the best reward of all, even during the tough times–clambering around keeping her safe, making sure she’s eating enough, and just getting her to sleep.

If you can remember that, then even when you’re stressed out running around without enough sleep, you’ll still find a second or two to smile and keep on going.

You will need help–don’t be afraid to ask for it.
If I have learned one lesson as a parent it’s simply that there is no shame in getting help from your family. It will take time before you’re ready to have someone babysit your child, but once they’re old enough, date nights are a fantastic thing now and then.

It may even be less obvious, but having someone help around the house when things are getting too messy can even be a life saver. Or getting a friend to bring over a meal early on when you’re still just trying to cope with the weird hours, feedings, and randomness of being a new parent.

The best thing is that your friends and family will be all too happy to help you too. They will jump in if for no other reason than to see your little one.


Good luck to all the soon-to-be or new parents out there. I would love to hear what you think new parents should think about, so leave your comments below.

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