Not-so-humble brag alert: The other day, while we were grabbing a few drinks at a bar, a good, single friend of mine said, “You are probably the coolest dad that I know.” He seemed fascinated by my ability to maintain a fun social calendar while being a father to three kids.
I started thinking about that remark, and it pains me to say this, but I understand completely what he means. The reality is that many guys stop having any sort of fun once children come along. Hanging with friends and having a few drinks are a thing of the past, replaced with a night on the couch watching television (and I’m not talking Netflix and Chill if you know what I mean).
Being a cool dad takes effort, but I asked a few other kindred spirits, and here are five things that can make all difference.
The prevailing notion is that all social life ceases to exist when you have kids because there’s just no way that you can take your children anywhere, anytime. This common misconception is a major reason dads end up in purgatory for the next twenty years of their lives.
1. Start With a Cool Wife
To be a cool dad, you need to have a cool wife. I know this is kind of tricky, but if you can find a wife who understands you and is willing to put up with all of your shenanigans and, in some cases, be a part of them, your chances of being a cool dad go up exponentially. For example, I hosted a big party in suburban New Jersey on the opening Saturday of college football.
Knowing my love of college football and a good old backyard tailgate, my wife went right along with it. About 15 kids were running around my yard laughing and screaming while the parents ate, drank, and watched football on the patio by late afternoon. The whole thing could not have happened without my awesome wife playing along.
2. Take Your Kids Out Early and Often
The prevailing notion is that all social life ceases to exist when you have kids because there’s just no way that you can take your children anywhere, anytime. Kids cry, scream and make a scene, and who wants to deal with that? This common misconception is a major reason dads end up in purgatory for the next twenty years of their lives. Seriously, I have friends that I haven’t seen since they had their first kid… 10 years ago.
The key to keeping your social calendar when babies arrive is to continue to have one. Don’t be afraid to go out and take the children with you. Doing so will help them learn how to behave in public. Just be sure to make it fun for them too. Bring crayons and coloring books and definitely go to places that are enjoyable for all.
My girls love going to a local German Biergarten. It’s a wide-open feast hall, with plenty of space to dance around and be loud without drawing the evil eye from others. It also doesn’t seem to hurt when I order them a pretzel that is two times the size of their heads.
Some parents may worry that their children are not safe when they’re out in the world with all of its dangers, but there’s an app for that.
Family Orbit is a comprehensive parental control app for Android and iOS, made for parents to protect, monitor, and safeguard their kids in the digital age. With Family Orbit, parents can monitor their child’s phone activities such as call history, text messages, websites visited, applications installed, photos, and address book. With the GPS tracker feature of Family Orbit, parents can locate their kids at any time on a family map and also view a history of their location to know exactly where they were at any time of the day.
3. Get on Board With Babysitters
Being a cool dad is not just about going out as a family but also about you and your wife being able to unwind together away from the kids. This requires a babysitter, and some people are just not willing to use one. A friend recently told me he and his wife don’t go out because they are uncomfortable using babysitters… even their parents.
I found this shocking because my wife and I definitely need to refresh ourselves with a few hours away from the kids (usually when they are sleeping so they don’t miss us too much). I can understand not wanting to pay for one (the price combined with a night out can be steep) or even not wanting to trust someone you don’t fully know, but your parents? They raised you, didn’t they? If they are willing and able, go for it.
4. Remember That Kids Can Have Fun Almost Anywhere
Being a father is the biggest challenge that I face in life, so why make it harder by taking the children to places that others wouldn’t dream of? For shock and awe… duh. Seriously, go to places that your wife would never even consider. You will blow her mind and be surprised at how many compliments you get from others you come across along the way.
I recall the time when, away on a ski trip with friends who also have kids, the fathers and mothers agreed to split the weekend into two, and each watches the kids for a day. When it was the mothers’ turn, they stayed at the house while the kids played, and they put together a jigsaw puzzle. The fathers? Well, we decided to load the kids up in the four-wheel-drive sleigh and head over to a brewery. Our wives couldn’t believe it (or maybe they could), and we had a blast.
5. Do Stuff the Whole Family Can Enjoy
It all boils down to being part of your kids’ lives and having them be part of yours. There are plenty of activities the whole family can enjoy; it just takes a little work to find them. One such example is the Hops in the Hills festival that my wife and I took our kids to this summer at Okemo Mountain in Vermont.
This amazing event featured upwards of 80 breweries, cideries, and wineries… perfect for the adults. It also had food trucks and vendors and swag (my girls loved their free beach balls), a band the kids could dance to, and the Adventure Zone, Okemo’s very kid-friendly amusement area. All those things added up to a great day and one that solidified my standing, at least in the eyes of my girls, as a cool dad.
6. Always Be Prepared For The Next Adventure
Being a cool dad is all about the unexpected and the spontaneous… like when you see ice cream at Costco, and it’s buy one get one free, so you buy four; or when your daughter says she wants to go to New Hampshire for her birthday (even though you live in Vermont). You never know what adventure might be around the corner, but as a father, it’s your job to be ready and willing for anything.
I was able to handle that last challenge with my girl because we always have our laptops outfitted with movies and games that we can watch on long drives. We also take sunscreen, water bottles, snacks, and several changes of clothes along, just in case. These are just a few of the ways that being an involved dad can help you to be a cool one, but all it takes is a little effort and thought to get started.
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7 . Make A Routine (If Possible)
I know; you probably hate this word. But hear me out. At least for the morning hours, making a routine is one of the most important things I’ve done as a cool dad.
No matter what they would like to tell you, kids love structure and consistency. So create a little pocket of time that you can call your own each day. Maybe it’s just getting up an hour earlier with coffee or going for a run around the neighborhood before everyone else wakes up. Whatever it is, once kids see that something is important to them, they will go along with it down the line too.
8. Give Your Kids the Gift of Time
Kids are busy today, even more so than ever before. There’s schoolwork and after-school activities to worry about. Not to mention all the time that they have to spend staring at their phones or laptops, either talking to friends or playing video games.
As much as you might want the kids around every day, let them do what’s best for them at this age because really it’s not only good for them but also for you too. Like I said earlier, free time is something both parents and kids cherish now more than ever—especially if shared together!
9 . Don’t Be Afraid Of Making Big Parenting Decisions
On one particular occasion, I explained to my oldest daughter that in order to have enough time for both of our activities, we were going to skip her dance recital (which was at 6 p.m.). The look on her face told me that she wasn’t exactly happy with that decision, but it ultimately allowed us not only to get there on time but also get home early enough for everyone to relax before bed. And you know what? I think she ended up appreciating the extra alone time with her dad more than anything else out of the whole situation.
10 . Ignore Everyone Else’s Opinions About What You Should or Shouldn’t be Doing
People—especially other parents—will always give their opinion about how you should be parenting. And like I’ve stated before, if you follow everyone else’s advice, all you’re really doing is becoming a copycat of what they think is best… which means you probably won’t even notice because it will become so commonplace to you.
So do what feels right in your gut when making these types of decisions about how to be the cool dad. After all, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter much what anyone else thinks because the only opinion that’s important is each girl’s own!
Being a cool dad is all about the little things that you do to build your relationship with your kids. These can be big gestures, too—like attending a dance recital or traveling across the country for a family vacation—but often, it’s the smallest ones that mean the most.
Take time to listen and make them feel important by letting them teach you something new every now and again. If you show up for your kids in any way, shape, or form… I assure you they will become cool kids who will love their dads forever!