This post is really just meant to be a quick little ditty :P. There are innumerable changes that occur when you release to the world that you are going to be a dad. One of the most intriguing of these for me is advice given by other dads. Being a man, I’m not 100% sure what this is like for women. But for men there seems to be this unwritten code of conduct that if they are a dad their experience is absolute.
What’s with Dad’s Giving Advice?
I get advice from other dads about what being a dad is like. And they speak as if their experience of being a dad is just the way that being a dad is. If they are miserable about a certain part of it, then they assume I will be (and every other dad ever for that matter). If they loved part of it they assume I will too. It’s like they’ve forgotten that this was their subjective experience (and their baby and child does not represent all babies and children). They often talk like it’s just the way things are! You’ll have dads say things like “when you’re a dad you’ll see…” Or “when you’re a dad you’re not going to be excited about this, this, and this.” It’s fascinating how they assume I am like them in my mind. In some respects it’s dangerous when we assume other people think like us. Sometimes they do, but most of the time they don’t.
One of my least favourite bits of advice is when a man tells me “you’re natural instincts will take over”. This is meant to imply, ‘oh you don’t need to read books and get prepared. You’re body knows what to do.’ Are you f@%^&! kidding me!? Obviously, if you think about it for 5 seconds, being a great dad isn’t simply programmed into every man. Men you wouldn’t expect can easily go down the path of anger or weakness. And more to the point there is a neverending journey of self development involved in being a dad, let alone preparing yourself for what’s ahead. By definition I will be experiencing a number of new tasks without my own experience to draw upon. Reading books is a way of cleansing that ignorance, and preparing me for things I don’t yet know. It’s a way of making me a better more prepared man.
This post is getting pretty serious, so let’s take a song break. In honour of using the word “neverending”:
Now, let’s get back to it. I know in some way they are trying to be helpful. Occasionally they are. But that’s not necessarily their only motivation. A part of it, is that desire to be heard and recognized and perhaps that good feeling we get from sharing something we think is right.
Another interesting change is that I’ve got a lot of advice from people who aren’t even dads (or mothers) themselves. I’m not saying that’s bad, or that they always give bad advice. It’s just that advice is a bit annoying. This is because it’s generally given without asking what the other person already knows. In other words it presupposes that you don’t know something that they know to be true. I think I just threw up a little bit in the back of my mouth because of that thought. Advice can be really condescending, even when it’s not meant to be.
So What Can We Do about This?
Let’s break the chain! When we talk to first time dads in the future why don’t we just talk with them? Let’s ask them questions, and engage in a dialogue. It’s important to remember that others think differently, and the magnitude of our ignorance will always dwarf our knowledge. In some years, when my baby is not a baby anymore, and I’ve changed enough diapers to earn the right to give out as much advice as I want, I hope I have the wisdom to not just dole out advice. I want to just talk with these men: asking questions and answering, discussing in a way that two adults should converse.
Looking on the Bright Side
We can take all of this knowledge brought out as advice and make something of it. There are some valuable ideas that are raised. It’s not that the advice givers don’t bring any value to the table. They do! The problem is really about the monologue/advice nature of it. So, let’s be grateful for what we can gleam from the words of these other men and women. Then let’s go out there and be amazing parents!