When I found out Emily was pregnant, I was overwhelmed with several emotions. Joy was the initial wave, followed almost immediately by a heavy sense of anxiety. I'm not an anxious person, but the task of raising a child created a newfound sense of responsibility that I hadn't experienced before. Some quick background: I'm an only child, raised by divorced parents, was a latch-key kid from the age of 10 and because of this upbringing I became a fiercely independent person. I'd been responsible for my own well-being for longer than I can remember and never considered what it would take to raise a child, let alone a daughter. Like a lot of men, I take a pragmatic approach to challenges, identifying the issue and developing the quickest solution. This works great for most problems, but it often neglects a crucial element in relationship building: the emotional input. I know it's going to take a combination of both logic and love to be a responsible father and here are some general lessons I hope to pass along.
1. You're not defined by your gender, but by your actions. This may not be something she's going to experience for a number of years, but I want to instill the sense that she can do or be whatever she wants, as long as she works hard to accomplish her goals. Far too often women are viewed in a slightly negative light when they aggressively pursue a goal, whereas men are praised for their tenacity. As long as she treats herself and others with respect, she should feel confident in tackling any challenge.
2. Be compassionate. I want our daughter to take other people's feelings into consideration, rather than solely focusing on her own well being. She should be caring and honest with her friends, family and herself. I want to her to know she's a small part of a larger society and her attitude and actions towards those in need will improve her own sense of self.
3. Don't take yourself too seriously. It's ok to make mistakes and laugh at yourself, as long as you learn from those mistakes.
4. Learn to be self-sufficient. While we will always support our daughter, it's important for her to develop a sense of independence. I want to encourage her to seek out answers on her own, rather than relying on others to provide help. She'll know how to change a tire, fix a leaky faucet and manage her finances. Even if those skills rarely come into play, it's comforting to know she'll be capable of taking care of things on her own.
5. Love is complex and you'll experience the highs and lows. This is one of those lessons that will be painful to watch, but also incredibly important for her to understand. While the love I'll give to her will be unconditional, it's not always easy to comprehend that depth of emotion until you've experienced the opposite. You never want to see a loved one go through a painful experience, but inevitably all emotional relationships help to build you into a more well rounded person.
6. Beauty is defined by more than appearance. This could be an add on to "be compassionate" but considering how the media often defines female beauty, I want her to know that being "beautiful" is not simply how she looks, but how she treats others. People come in different shapes, sizes, colors and hold different beliefs. Appreciating that diversity, while being confident in her own skin, will help her create her own definition of beauty.
7. Be well read. This might sound old or trite, but I've noticed a shift in how information is being shared and digested over the past few years. A person will read a headline on Twitter and create an opinion, without seeing more then 140 characters. I want our daughter to dig deeper, read for pleasure, read for knowledge, but ultimately, read to appreciate the work that great writers contribute to everyone. I want her to have informed opinions, but also know how to differentiate opinion from fact, which is a whole other topic.
8. Let yourself daydream. I want our daughter's mind to wander, without barriers or limits on what she should focus on. As she grows, her views of things will narrow into her own beliefs, but I want to encourage her to let go every now and then and simply let her thoughts flow from the absurd to the practical, and everything in between.