Ever since my first son was born I have noticed how people seem to focus on the negatives when talking to other parents. Specifically, when someone had an older child that had already been through the age or stage that my son was in. Generally, the conversation would start off with me either discussing something fun and exciting my son was doing or mentioning how we are struggling with a specific stage. Either way, the response tended to be "oh just wait!". They would either mention the next age or stage that is even more difficult and how that will be worse than the stage he is was currently in. Like "oh just wait until he is a teenager!" or "oh just wait until you have two running around!". The main one my wife and I would hear is, "Your child sleeps well? Oh just wait, that means your next one is going to be an all nighter!".
How, at all, is this ok? Especially as a young parent hearing this, sometimes in moments of struggle and exhaustion, this can be detrimental. Sure, every parent knows there are difficult stages that children go through, and of course some are more taxing than others. Young parents are not naïve to this. So why add to the stress? I can understand sharing a story about your child going through a similar phase in order to show empathy or understanding. But most of the time it simply turns into a one-upping bout of the frustrating and challenging moments as a parent.
Instead, why not build up and encourage one another? Why not reinforce the positives instead of only highlighting the negatives? While there are many struggles raising children, there are also abundant joys!
So let's change the narrative. When you encounter someone going through a rough stage, or simply a rough morning, say, "that’s rough, but just wait…it gets so much better!" Remind them of the joy of hearing your children say "I love you" for the first time. Or how much fun it will be once the weekend comes around. Or when your child was in that stage, how there were moments of pure laughter because they said something so unexpected. There are so many wonderful moments throughout fatherhood, why not use them instead to lift up and encourage one another.
Imagine if you steered the conversation in that direction. Imagine, instead of trumping struggle with struggle you stimulated with joy and fulfilment. Not only could that brighten the struggling father's day, but that could change and improve the way he engages with his child.
Seeing the light of potential gratification helps to positively shape the current phase.
Being a father is not an easy job. Don't make it harder. Reinforce the positives.
Be Present. Be Intentional