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ZERO TO THREE Dads Reflect on Fatherhood
Here’s to Dads, and all of the unsung heroes who fill that role—grandpas, stepdads, uncles, neighbors, and friends. May your day be blessed with bouncing babies, backyard BBQs, or whatever floats your boat.
We asked a few of our favorite ZERO TO THREE dads to tell us what fatherhood is like. Here’s what they said. (Note: we have many more favorite dads than we could feature. Check back next year for more!)
What’s your favorite part about/memory of being a dad?
“I think my first memory, and probably the one I treasure the most, is when my first daughter was born. So right after the delivery and the pediatrician checking her and performing some routine tests, she was handed to me all wrapped up in cloth. I took the first real look at [my daughter], all red, swollen, and crying, and the only thing I could say was - ‘Hola Priscila!’ She immediately stopped crying, opened her eyes as wide as she could, probably trying to find where my voice was coming from. That was my realization that she actually could recognize my voice, and for some reason, in that moment I fully realized that I had become a dad.”
- Jeremias Lopez, Junior Systems Administrator
“My son was two years old. We had just come back from a lovely, pre-nap walk. He could not drift to sleep without hearing a story. I started to tell him a story about gnats. I stood up and started to swat the air and telling him why I could not stand gnats! They get in your eyes, do not respect personal boundaries, and just get in the way of fine, summer eve walks. My son interrupted me mid-rant and said: 'But Boba, maybe they just want to be friends with you.’ I looked at him and started to tear up. I realized at the moment; he has no bias, no hate. He just is. And it was a perfect summer night; my son, his old man, and my new friends.”
-Daoud Emam, Multimedia Specialist
“So far, my favorite part about being a dad is watching the bond between my [9-month-old twin] boys grow. It’s such a special relationship - they have a partner and a best friend to go through life with. I often hear: ‘uh oh twins, double the trouble!’ and that can be true, but it’s also double the love.”
-Michael Pahl, Client Relations Manager
“Any moment I get to spend one-on-one with my daughter is the best part of my day! Last summer, I was able to take a day off, keep her home from child care, and spend the whole day with her. We went to the National Building Museum, had lunch together (since she only had formula, she was a cheap date), visited her mom at her office, and went for a long walk through the city. Getting that time with just the two of us was so incredibly special, and thinking about it still brings a smile to my face.”
-Max Samis, Communications Manager, Media and Public Relations
“The physicality of the relationship between you and your baby and, in time, your young child. The cradling, the holding of hands, the myriad of touchpoints. Physical touch strengthens the emotional bond with your child. It is a special connection.”
-Matthew Melmed, Executive Director
What surprised you most about becoming a dad?
“It’s an intense type of love I’ve never experienced before. I felt a greater sense of self and spending time with him seemed effortlessly intentional. A true gift.”
“I think that what surprised me most was how fast babies grow and develop. It was something new every day, learning alongside them! With my second daughter it also surprised me how different babies can be. They developed different ideas, tastes and personalities, even though we basically raised them the same. Oh, and how unprepared I was to face midnight bursts of crying!” -Jeremias
“They never run out of energy! From the moment our toddler wakes up to the second she goes to bed, that girl is going 100 miles per hour. Even the 'quiet moments’ can turn into running screaming through the halls at a moment’s notice.”
“I think what surprised me most was how many diapers I’d have to change and bottles I’d have to clean. Of course, it’s double of those things with twins, but even for one of them it’s a lot!”
“How it was both joyful and scary at the same time. You have this wave of love and connection flow through you and at the same time this awesome responsibility you have never had before.”
What advice to you have for other dads?
“Take a deep breath. Ease up and enjoy. There is no one right way to parent. Watch your child and wonder what they are trying to communicate to you. Reflect on the awesome power you have and how you want to use it to support your child to create their path in life. And have fun!” -Matthew
“Remember to step back and appreciate every stage no matter how sleep deprived and exhausted you may be at times. Babies really do change and develop at an incredible rate, and you will even miss the newborn stage down the line! I would also say that you have to remember to take care of yourself as well. Especially in the early months, be sure to make time for yourself, even if it’s just taking a walk, and be sure your partner is able to do the same.” -Michael
“Be prepared to be surprised. Be ready to understand that they will develop their own ways, and that sometimes what we, as parents, assume as the best, may not be the best for them. Be ready to be a guide, to correct them when necessary, but also to let them make their own mistakes so they can learn from them. Spend quality time with them! The bond created during the first stage of their lives will last forever, and will definitely shape who they will become.” -Jeremias
“Remember that (if you have someone you’re parenting with) you and your partner are a team, and at the end of the day, you want the same thing – to provide a strong, safe childhood for your baby. Lean on your family, your friends, that guy who walks his baby through the park at the same time as you every day, because we aren’t meant to raise babies by ourselves, and the more support you have, the easier it’ll be on everyone.” -Max
“Please take the time to document moments, throughout. Especially in the early years, regardless of how tired or exhausted you may be. Take the time to jot down moments, you’ll be surprised how many wonderful memories drift to the subconscious never to appear again.” -Daoud
About Baby Steps
This article was featured in Baby Steps, a ZERO TO THREE newsletter for parents and caregivers. Each issue offers science-based information on a topic of interest to parents and caregivers of young children—from sleep to challenging behaviors, and everything in between.