My wife and I recently adopted our first child — a daughter.
After a year of waiting and one failed match, we found out about our baby just in time to pack, get three hours of sleep, and catch a 5:30 a.m. flight to go meet her.
Obviously, my life has changed a lot since becoming a dad. Here are 5 life lessons I’ve picked up along the way that apply to parents and non-parents alike.
1. Happiness is simpler than we think.
My baby can’t walk yet. She can’t talk either. She’s never been to Paris, and she doesn’t drive a fancy car. But WOW is she happy. She has the biggest smile I’ve ever seen, and she experiences a greater sense of wonder staring at our ceiling fan than I did at Cirque Du Soleil.
After 27 years of living, it makes sense that I’m no longer impressed by ceiling fans, but watching my baby love life has reminded me that , even though I don’t have all the things I want, I can find happiness in little moments and in simply being alive.
2. Every season of life offers reasons to be thankful.
When we were waiting to be matched with a baby, my wife and I spent countless weekends wishing we could just be parents already. Now, I cry myself to sleep at night wishing I could still go to movies and play golf (kidding — mostly).
No matter where you are in life, chances are there’s something about your situation you’ll miss later. Be intentional about enjoying the time before it’s gone.
3. We’re stronger than we realize.
It’s amazing what humans can figure out with a little motivation. In the last three months, I’ve learned how to feed a baby, change diapers, stick to a schedule, suck boogers (gross, right?), live on less sleep, and so much more.
We all go through seasons of change in life, and change can be scary. But you are more adaptable than you think. You’re tougher than you realize. You can thrive in new circumstances — just give yourself time to learn and grow.
4. One way to love others is by letting them love us.
As humans, we aren’t very good at receiving love. Maybe we don’t feel worthy of it or maybe the attention just makes us feel awkward. Either way, babies don’t have that problem. Babies will let you hug them, kiss them, and tell them how much you love them all day long.
It makes me so happy to love on my baby. And it’s inspired me to become better at receiving love from other people. I don’t know exactly what that looks like yet, but it’s something I’m thinking about.
5. There are some changes you’re never fully “ready” for until you experience them.
I dragged my feet when my wife and I were deciding when to start the adoption process because I just didn’t feel ready. But parents I respected kept telling me, “You never really do.” Just get “ready enough,” they’d say, and trust that the rest of you will catch up after it happens.
That actually worked for me. Every day I fall more in love with my daughter. Middle of the night feedings are a great example. As someone who values sleep, at first, I was annoyed to be waking up at 2am to make a bottle. Three months later, I don’t mind at all. I wake up excited about holding her and spending that time together.
I am not trying to convince you to have a baby. That would be extremely irresponsible since I don’t know you or your situation. I’m pointing to a more universal truth. If there are changes you’ve been procrastinating on or dreams you’ve been postponing because you don’t feel ready, spend some time thinking about what it will take to actually get you there. You might find your next step in getting ready is to just do it.
Featured image by Kyle Austin Young.