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Fatherhood Taught Me How to Be a Better Failure

Becoming a dad was really the moment that officially started my second life. And it taught me a lot about failing correctly.

My life didn’t change after I watched Back To The Future. It wasn’t ‘shattered’ when Kanye dropped “Graduation.” I didn’t freak out after I streamed the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack for the first time. Actually — I did. James Gunn nailed that soundtrack. But in all honesty, I didn’t realize how much my life would actually change after becoming a father. People told me it would, but I didn’t get it. How could I? I’d never kept another human alive before. Nurturing a person from infancy to adulthood is hard to simply describe to someone else.

While my wife was pregnant with our first child, we “acted” as though we were already parents (we even celebrated Mother’s and Father’s Day like a bunch of losers)…but it wasn’t until Emma arrived on the scene that we fully understood what parenthood feels like. Hint: it feels like a cyclical failure. Lean startup methodology on steroids.

Pets don’t count. I don’t care how often you post about being a “cat mom”. Pet ownership does not prepare you at all for guiding and directing the life of a young human being. Cats are basically fully independent moments after they open their adorable little cat eyes for the first time. We were “prepared” physically (loads of diapers, newborn clothing, a crib), but not “prepared” mentally. Parenthood is like a punch in the face — if that punch was both adorable and life-affirming. It comes at you fast, hits you hard, and changes how you view pretty much everything moving forward.

stressed parents and crying baby

But outside of all that, an even bigger truth became evident. Something I still haven’t been able to shake, 6 years after my objectively adorable daughter was born. It’s like an itch that I can never seem to scratch, and it keeps me on my toes. Every. Single. Day.

I realized how much of what you say, how you act, and who you truly are — behind the scenes — plays a vital part in the development of your child and your development as a parent/human. Does that scare the crap out of you? Me too. Does it make you question everything you say, how you act, how you respond, etc? You betcha.

When we’re alone, who we truly are bubbles to the surface, like for me — I want to be very comfortable as soon as I walk into my house. Belt? Gone. Pants? Tossed on a couch somewhere. Shirt? What shirt? I go from fully dressed to nearly naked in like 15 seconds. Like that scene in Bruce Almighty. You know the one. When we’re at home, in our safe space, it feels like no ones watching. But rest assured, our children are glued to our every move. They’re little culture sponges, soaking up massive amounts of data about you and their little slice of planet Earth. All the time. How do you think they learned how to talk? Or respond to conflict? Or quote Game Of Thrones? You got a mirror around? Go look in it.

They see us in our most vulnerable state, and their impression of us is built on their time spent with mom and dad. Not the version of us that our friends see, or our family, or our co-workers. They see you. Just you, with everything else stripped away (like most of my clothes when I step through the threshold).

But it’s more than that. We don’t just impress on them who we are. Our attitudes influence their attitudes. Who we are influences who they become.

What we say, how we respond to difficulty and failure, and how we act (even in the mundane) defines the trajectory of a child’s personality, and how they see the world. No pressure, right? It doesn’t mean we should be fake around our children — quite the opposite — we should be as real as possible, but it requires us, as parents, to take some time to self-reflect. We must make sure we are the people we want them to become. I’m still working on it. I kinda suck at it, actually. But I’m doing my best.

That’s what parenthood, or for me specifically, fatherhood, means: it’s the awesome responsibility of passing down who we are, for better or worse. If you’d like to know my goal as a father — it’s pretty simple: To help my children understand that failure is vital, no one is perfect, and the world should be looked at through a lens of love.

The moment I held my daughter in my arms for the first time, my life changed forever. On that day I gave up my life, and it’s temporal goals. They were instantly replaced with something far less selfish. Since that day, my life changed. For real this time. I’m now focused on being the best version of myself I can be, and it means constantly failing and picking myself back up, better than I was before. For my wife, my children, and our legacy as a family.

This article was syndicated from Medium. Frank Danna is an award-winning creative, the Content Director for Softway (a creative Agency in Houston), and the co-founder of GhostCodes, a discovery app for Snapchat. His work has been enjoyed by over 65 million people across Vine (RIP), Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat (FrankEDanna).