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The Magazine: figuring out fatherhood

The Magazine: figuring out fatherhood

by Ryan Waller

Learning to be a new parent can be a steep learning curve, like climbing Mt. Everest steep.   Here are seven lessons from one new father.


It’s OK to be scared.

I was terrified when my son was born. Overjoyed? You bet. But also terrified. I was thirty, in a loving, stable marriage, employed, and scared out of my bloody mind. Who’s actually ready to be a father? Nobody. But I stood up, took a deep breath, and got ready to become the man I’d always hoped I could be. I wasn’t ready. I did it anyway.


Change every diaper. 

Yes, it’s gross. Yes, it’s hard in the dark. Yes, I was terrible at it. I did it anyway. Wiping a baby forever changed the way I experience love. Something magical happens when we use our hands to love. I can’t explain it. We just have to do it. You won’t regret it.  Well, actually, you might regret some of them. Let’s do it anyway.


Spy on baby at night. 

My wife routinely threatened bodily harm if I woke the baby. And sometimes, I did. I did it anyway. There is no view on earth like the one from above the crib at night. If you want a sneak peak of the Good Lord’s shore this side of a heart attack, watch your baby sleep. Then slip your finger in his hand, and try not to lose it when the warmth of his palm becomes the only thing in the world.


Take charge of bath time. 

My wife will always do more than me. Always. No matter how hard I try, she’ll have me beat. More diapers, more feedings, more everything. She’ll forget more things she’s done for the baby than I’ll actually do. So in the evenings, I pour her wine, kiss her, and order her to the couch. I got bath time. My back will kill and my knees will ache. I do it anyway. Often, it’s the best part of my whole day.


Go to dinner, sans baby.

I love my kid. I also love my sanity. But I love my wife’s sanity even more. Because, as they says, if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. I am not rich, but I pay for a babysitter at least once a month. I can’t afford it. I do it anyway.


Kiss your baby. 

He or she will grow up. Kissing that baby face is a limited edition kind of deal. I don’t want to miss out. We live in a hard world. My baby’s fat face is an oasis of innocence that restores my soul on the toughest of days. So I cup it in my hands and kiss it madly. And sometimes this makes me weep. I do it anyway.


Don’t use one of those baby slings. 

I’m a dude. I carry my baby in my arms like my father did. I’m six feet tall and barely weigh a hundred and forty pounds. I can’t do ten consecutive pushups. But I can hold my baby. I am usually miserable walking around the mall. I do it anyway. When I can’t take it anymore, I do the smartest thing I know. I ask my wife for help.


Ryan Waller is Young Adults minister at Church of the Incarnation in Dallas Texas


image: “Nuevas aficiones (7984692236)” by Andrés Nieto Porras from Palma de Mallorca, España – Nuevas aficionesUploaded by russavia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons –


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Barbara Snyder

Lovely article; so nice to read about how people experience everyday life.

How about one of those backpacks? Do they still have those? When we were older, my Dad used to carry us on his shoulders; kind of the same thing, there….

Adam Wood

I use a baby sling. Love it.

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