Three Virtues for Practicing Dads (and Reconnecting with Play)

It often feels like raising a happy, healthy child requires superhuman abilities, and that's because it actually does. I would consider being a dad the second hardest job in the world—I'm not sure of the first, but I assume it's motherhood.

As a dad of two, I've discovered that through practicing just three virtues, Gratitude, Observation, and Adaptability, I’m much more mindful of the challenges that arise through parenthood and, therefore, more open to improving who I am as a father and all that goes with this incredible responsibility. They have helped me re-center and move forward in times of distress and get back to play.

These virtues have also been beneficial in dealing with stressors that come with family, personal well-being, and work, so I trust that even if you are not a dad, you will find them helpful.

1. Gratitude

Taking a few minutes each day to acknowledge who and what I’m grateful for is a beautiful defense against negativity. And because fatherhood is such a test of patience, this has been essential.

You can make this a routine by hanging a note someplace you find yourself every day. For example, if you make coffee every morning as I do, put a note near your coffee pot about it. Or use a marker to write a note on your bathroom mirror.

2. Observation

When being patient is too much to sustain, and I start to feel aggravated, I try to transition my experience to a place of observation. This change allows me to remain calm and present to what's happening.

When mindful, we are better equipped to make rational decisions. This can be difficult to do, so having a partner to nudge you gently in this direction is extremely helpful.

3. Adaptability

Besides physically planning for the inevitable, I mentally prepare for the unexpected. Surprises become opportunities (i.e., when it rains, we go outside and jump in puddles).

When the unexpected does arise, try to welcome it with optimism by reminding yourself of all you're grateful for. Rarely do we adapt right away, and that's okay. Remember to also be patient with yourself.

Being grateful, observant, and adaptable is challenging, and I often fail in one or the other or all of them. But no sooner than I find myself down, my kids make me laugh, and my troubles become insignificant. That is the power of reconnecting with play.

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