I had previously made my own list of the 10 things I thought good dads do. (Aren't you glad I only asked you for 3?) After sifting your responses, only 3 of my original one-word verbs remained. Some of you gave me verbs similar to some I had chosen, but your's were more powerful so I adopted them. Some of you provided verbs I never considered, but loved, so I gave a couple of my verbs the boot. In the end, my list of 10 became our list of 10, which simply means I'm brilliant for seeking your help.
So what now? I have this list of 10 things that good dads do, at least according to a loosely defined, somewhat scientific survey of my Facebook friends. But what do I do with it? That's easy, I do what everyone else does who suddenly believes they possess information or a story the rest of the world just has to hear, often ignoring indications the world really hasn't the time or interest to hear it: I write a book. The Book of Dadverbs.
Several months ago I was sitting in a leadership conference with friends from my church. One of the speakers referenced the biblical book of Proverbs, generally considered a book of wisdom and instruction. I don't remember the exact nature of the speaker's reference, but it prompted me to text my wife Katie and ask her to check the availability of websites pertaining to the word Dadverbs all the while thinking - wisdom for dads. I know, Dadverbs is a non-word with a definition I created in the middle of a text message, but who knows, maybe one day both will find a home in a dictionary.
At that moment, though, a fictitious word sounded like a real answer to a real dream. For the past several years I've been searching for a path that would merge 3 of my passions - being a dad, writer, and an influence. Just like that I had it. One moment. One speaker. One text message.
On being a dad. Most of my friends and family who know me best know I was once against me having children. After 7 years of marriage with my wonderful wife, Katie, my opposition was unwavering. Then one day Katie shared a conversation with me she'd had with God. He wanted us to have children. You could say I was skeptical. Less than a year later,though, I was a much less skeptical 42 year old dad.
Many folks ask me, "is it hard being an "older" dad?" No. Turns out only after 42 years had I collected nearly enough wisdom to tackle being a dad, although many days it feels like not nearly enough. More than knowing how to be a good dad, though, I've discovered over the past 7 years how much I love being a dad. Those are two very different things, mind you, but absolutely connected.
The birth of my first son, Elliott, came with complications. He spent the first week of his life in a neonatal intensive care unit. To help keep concerned friends and family informed about his condition, I began writing updates on a hospital website. After we brought Elliott home, the health scare behind us, enough people had expressed how much they enjoyed the updates that I just kept writing them. Today I have a 7-year collection of a stream of thoughts and emotions that predominantly flows from my life as a dad. They are the life and breath of my A Life of Gratitude blog.
Over the years I've had several people tell me they enjoy reading my blog and that I should consider being a writer. I've found this feedback amusing since it always comes in response to, well, my writing. What most people actually mean, I guess, is that I should write a book. After all, how can you possibly be considered a writer if your name isn't staring out at visitors from the shelves that line the aisles of your local Barnes and Noble or public library?
So I started writing a book. In fact I started writing a bunch of them. I'd get anywhere from a few pages to a few chapters into them, though, and I'd quit. Sometimes because I didn't have the stamina to keep going, but mostly because at some point in the project I'd invariably ask myself: how are these words going to influence anyone. The answer was always not at all, assigning one more meaningless word document to gobble up space on my hard drive.
In the end, I found it pointless to continue trying to collect several thousand words in a book solely to have more people recognize me as a writer. Each additional wadded up first draft made it more clear that for me to find the words that belonged between once upon a time and the end, I was going to have to find words that influenced the world in some positive direction. And I knew that influence would be rooted in passion.
So let's circle back to me the dad. I love being a dad. From that love, I am driven to be a good dad. Many days I'm sure I get it right. Others, I'm much less sure. But I believe as long as I love being a dad the balance of those days will work out in my favor. More importantly, they will work in favor of our two sons. Over the last twenty years, both in my work and in my life as a dad, I've discovered there are not enough dads who love being a dad. Some because it's just not their thing, others simply because they don't know how. Either way, nothing in this life pains me more than a child hurting from the absence of a father's love in their life.
So today I begin a journey to influence that - even if just the slightest. I'm going to write a book about something I'm passionate about: being a dad who loves being a dad, and defining the ways that love can be transferred to children.
The 10 actions many of you helped me identify that good dads do, I now call them Dadverbs. Over the next year, I will use this blog to write the rough, rough draft of my Book of Dadverbs. As I do, I hope we can have a conversation about each of them. One of the first things I confess about writing this book is when it comes to knowing the things good dads do, I don't have a complete understanding. No one does. But together I believe we can present a pretty good idea. More importantly, I believe we can do it in a way that will encourage more dads to embrace the opportunity they have to inspire their children and shape the future of our world.
Through the month of March, I will begin posting my thoughts on the first dadverb. It is the first one intentionally; I believe all the others flow from it. The first thing a good dad has to commit to do is stay. Over the course of the next year I will be reaching out to many of you in various ways to have conversations about these Dadverbs. I'm excited to get started with the first Dadverb.