I am the father of two daughters—a 20-month old and an almost 3-month old. The last twenty months have been the longest of my life. Nothing can prepare you for parenthood. If you feel prepared before the little one is born, you’ll change your mind pretty quickly. Here are seven things I wish my younger self knew:
- Everything takes time. The quick trip to the grocery store will take an hour. If you intend to leave at 10:30 a.m., you have to start leaving at 10:15 a.m. (at the very latest) to actually make it to the car by 10:30 a.m.
- Always assume there will be a major diaper change. Anytime you’re pressed for time and need to take the kids somewhere, both of them will need a diaper. Of course, it won’t be just a quick-change diaper, but a full-mobilization critical diaper change.
- Schedules are extremely important. In addition to the typical calendar items, such as medical appointments, the mundane events of life must be planned out. Monday is laundry day. A haircut must happen this day. Dinner must be picked up at this time. This weekend is project X because next weekend is this, next weekend is that and the one after that is both this and that. Just in terms of getting the kids to bed, the nighttime schedule between bathing and putting to sleep two girls under two requires a 25-page operations plan.
- Time-killers will kill more than the original wasted time. Having a certain television show that you like to watch every week is one thing, but watching something you don’t care about for an hour just because the TV was on will be felt for sometime. You’ll lose the hour watching television, then you realize you’ve been wasting time and have XYZ to do. You’ll rush to try to get it all done, not be able to finish and have to call it a night early. The next day, you’ll behind already. The plan for the day is too exact to accept this additional work, so the next day is impacted and so on.
- Family calendars are vital. In addition to a schedule, a family calendar is key. Between visitors, doctor appointments, play dates, work engagements, and holidays, you must have a central point of reference. My preference would it to be online (more on this in a planned future post), but a paper calendar on the wall is absolutely better than nothing. With medical appointments alone, we have O’s primary, MC’s primary, V’s OB/GYN, O’s allergist, O’s dermatologist, O’s dentist, my dentist, my ortho, This is ignoring the once-a-year visits to my optometrist, V’s optometrist, V’s dentist, V’s dermatologist, my dermatologist and either V or my primary care.
- Priority does matter. Before fatherhood, priority really didn’t matter. If there was something that we wanted to do or needed to be done, typically, we would just figure out how to do it. We’d do it all, or realize in the midst of the day we’re way overbooked and either push ourselves too far or skip out on the last thing during the day when we would have rather skipped the second. Now, you simply can’t do everything. Between naps, kid’s tolerance and your own energy, I just have to accept that we can’t do everything. While everything we want to do is worth our time and we’ve done them all in years past, now, simply stated, we only have time to do that things that truly matter. If something doesn’t truly matter to us, there are better things for us to be doing.
- Bedtimes aren’t just for the kids. I feel like I’m 10 again sometimes. We must have a bedtime in La Casa de Kraft. I can function on little sleep, so staying up until 2 a.m. on a random night used to not be a problem. With two under two, however, the night you stay up until 2 a.m. will be the night that neither child sleeps through the night and we’ll be up every 30-45 minutes between one kid or the other waking up. Staying up past our bedtime, under ideal circumstances, would slow us down the next day, but under the more realistic scenarios, you’ll set yourself up for failure during the next day.
Parents, what have I missed out there? What have you learned in your little one’s first few years of life about time that you wished you knew before?