More than 10 years have passed since I learned I would be a dad, but I will never forget the mix of joy, excitement and trepidation that came with the anticipation of becoming a father. It’s the cliched feeling we all have moments before the roller coaster crests that first hill.
Having grown up fatherless, I had no male role model to whom I could turn to look for advice and managed to muddle through by reading the books my wife was reading about pregnancy and doing what seemed right to me at the time.
But it would have been nice had John Fuller written “First-Time Dad” (Moody Publishers, 2011) a decade ago so I could have read a book directed to a first-time dad and written by a man who has six children.
Fuller, co-host of the Focus on the Family’s Daily Broadcast, wrote “First-Time Dad” with John Batura from a Christian perspective, but he offers sound advice for men of all faiths, or even none.
It carries future fathers from the beginning of the pregnancy (Chapter 1: Great Expectations) through the dawn of adulthood (Chapter 12: Blink).
Through stories of his own experiences in fatherhood and those of other fathers, Fuller speaks with the authority of a child psychologist who has enough initials after his name to fill a bowl of alphabet soup but the tenderness of a grandfather sitting on the porch sipping tea on a cool summer evening.
The book is organized well, and forecasts to future dads what each chapter contains, so if the topic doesn’t pertain to you, you know what you can skim over or skip all together.
For example, Chapter 4: Break the Chain tells the reader how the chapter will help future dads avoid the mistakes of their fathers (divorce or emotional distance, for example), which unfortunately is a must read for many men these days.
Chapter 8: Boys-n-Girls is one of the more poignant of the book. It explains key, natural differences between boys and girls and how men can adapt their fathering skills to each.
I see such differences between my 9-year-old daughter and a 6-year-old son. While Celeste would sit quietly on my lap when she was 3 months old and listen as I read a story to her, Gavin wanted little if anything to do with listening to stories until he was nearly 18 months old.
He simply wouldn’t sit still, and we didn’t push it until he was ready.
“First-Time Dad” confirmed that such an approach was correct given that “boys have less serotonin and less oxytocin, which makes them more impulsive and less likely to sit still to talk to someone” (page 94).
No point in fighting nature.
The book ends with a reminder to dads that children grow up fast, in the blink of an eye, so Fuller reminds us to spend quality time with our children. He offers a list of 31 activities that dads can do with their children (ride bikes, take a hike, color together, to name a few) to be an engaged father, something every child deserves to have.
Though I am not a first-time dad, I have plenty of firsts ahead of me and expect to keep “First-Time Dad” on my bookshelf.