Portrait of a Young Dad

A photo of a young dad and his daughter.Twenty years ago, I became a father for the first time. I was 24.

It was a terrifying time in my life.

How terrifying? Well the first night of my daughter's life, I woke up in the middle of the night pushing against the wall to keep the building from collapsing on me.

That terrifying.

While I was technically an adult, I still felt like a kid. I had just finished university with a pretty useless general arts degree. I was renting a one bedroom apartment with my common law partner. I was attending night school in hopes of getting a good job. I made minimum wage working retail at a photo development store. I was 24. I should have been drinking beer with my buddies and not warming up baby bottles.

I wasn't ready to be a father.

I had no clue what I was doing. While there were a lot of people having kids at my age and younger, I had no connection to them. Facebook had yet to be invented. Had it been, I would have been able to connect with my many school friends who were in the same situation. We would have bonded and shared our fears. It would have helped.

YouTube didn’t exist. There were no videos for changing diapers, proper bathing techniques and even viral videos of singing ducks to distract the baby at my fingertips.

Parenting Blogs didn’t exist. I didn’t know that I could find humor in exploding diapers and sleep deprivation. I didn’t know that thinking that my colicky 3 month old daughter was an asshole wasn’t a horrible thought to pass through my mind.

All of those things would have been a godsend.

Instead, my main source of knowledge was the parental wisdom of so-called grown ups in my life. Experts who had lots of advice to share. And while some of it was good a lot of it was incredibly bad. How bad you ask? Here is some of the advice I was given during the first few months of being a parent:

  • You should keep your baby tightly swaddled at all times.
  • Cats will smother babies in their cribs.
  • Breastfeeding is dirty and not as good as formula.
  • Men should never change diapers.
  • If you sleep in the same bed with your baby they will die.
  • If you don’t have a jolly jumper, walker, playpen, wind up swing, you are a terrible parent.

Grown ups, who I trusted, told me these things. And because I was an insecure and scared 24 year old who could barely take care of himself let alone a helpless baby, I believed them.

And then one day I started to believe in myself. I put stock in the fact that I was the only father that my daughter had and that she desperately needed me to be there for her. She relied on me and put all of her faith in me.

I was ready to be a father.

I had no choice.

When I look back on those days, I marvel at how we made it through. I shake my head at the lack of money. I laugh at the bad advice. I am now so self assured in my ability to parent that I only smile politely when I am told how to parent.

And while I would never advise anyone to consider being a parent in their 20's I acknowledge that it happens. So if you are a young parent or an uncertain dad, all that I can say is this:

It is scary. It is fun. You'll find your own path. You'll be fine.

Here's to the next 20 years.

 

 

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Picture of Mark Medland

Author: Mark Medland

Mark Medland is a 40 something father of five who lives in Mississauga, Ontario. When he is not working at one of the big Canadian banks or raising his kids, he likes to cheer for the Habs and eat amazing food with his wife Vanessa.

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