After my wife Kanae and I married, we had just a few months of learning to “become one” before we discovered we were about to become three.
It seemed we were newlyweds one minute and parents the next. We tried our best to prepare for the arrival of Kiyoshi, but like every other set of first-time parents, we soon discovered you are never fully prepared for the life-altering experience of having a baby in the house. All aspects of your life as an individual and as a couple are dramatically affected.
We’re still adjusting to being parents, but we thought it might be helpful to share some of the insights and tips we’ve figured out so far:
1. Lean Into Your Faith
Kanae and I realized early into our struggles with parenthood that our biggest asset was our shared faith. Probably the wisest and most helpful thing we have done is commit to reading Bible stories together soon as we wake up each morning, whenever it is possible. Kiyoshi often joins us in bed as we do this, so it has become a very sweet and spiritual bonding time as well.
Our morning sessions reading together seem to get our days off to a better start. We are often up before dawn with Kiyoshi, and reading the Bible together is so much better than getting on the laptop and reading work emails. When we’re all together like that, it’s a form of meditation. We’re putting God’s Word in our heart so we can apply it to our daily life. It helps us start the day with a thankful heart, because we’re reminded that we don’t have anything without Him.
2. Practice Gratitude
The thing about gratitude is that when you feel it, you should express it, whether you are grateful for something a person has done for you or you are just feeling blessed because of someone in your life. This is especially true of your wife and children.
With reciprocated love, you accept each other as you are, knowing that neither of you is perfect. We all need grace, and we all need to give grace to our partners through understanding, forgiveness and gratitude.
3. Reframe Frustrating Situations
One of the most difficult, yet most common, lessons that a new husband and father must learn is that he now must move at a much slower pace.
A week or so after I returned from the World Outreach Tour, we went to Sunday church services with Kiyoshi for the first time. We had to drop Kiyoshi off in the nursery and Kanae seemed to be taking a long time. I was anxious to get to our seats as the worship had already started. I was less than patient, and I hurt her feelings. What I failed to understand was that there was more going on in that moment than I realized. Kanae told me later that as we were handing our son to the nursery staff, it hit her that she’d never before left Kiyoshi with a stranger and she had a minor mother freak-out.
Kanae’s maternal instincts and her bond with our son are very strong. I’m grateful for that and I want to honor it. Instead of being impatient and thinking she was moving too slowly, I should have reframed this situation. Reframing really just involves a shift in perspective. Instead of looking at my wife as someone who wasn’t moving quickly enough, I should have looked at her as a loving mother who was reluctant to leave her son with the nursery worker because Kanae cares about him so much. I needed to keep that perspective in mind.
4. Understand That You Don’t Have to Fix Everything
I have a confession to make: I can’t handle it when our baby cries! It’s not something I’m proud of. Like most men, when there is a problem, I want to fix it.
We’ve learned that there are times when you should just let your child cry until he wears himself out and goes to sleep. For instance, when Kyoshi is supposed t one sleeping in his crib, he might cry in protest but we’ve been advised that as long as we’ve made sure he’s OK, we should leave him in the crib so he gets used to sleeping there.
Kanae can go to him and just lean over and talk to him soothingly while he cries. Sometimes that works for her. It never seems to work for me—I just want him to stop.
I’ve had to accept that when I can’t fix a situation with our son, I need to let his mother do what she does best. It’s been a humbling experience, but blessed are the humble, right?
5. Pray—A Lot
There are many times when I simply don’t know how to help Kanae with our son. In those moments when I can’t take him from her or feed him for her or change his diapers or bathe him to give her a break, I become frustrated and even angry. As a man, when my wife has a problem, I want to fix it. It hurts to face the fact that sometimes I simply can’t do that.
This is when I pray the most, but honestly, now I pray in steady streams all day long, no matter what I’m doing. I pray for wisdom, strength, patience and peace. I ask God to help me make the right decisions and to be a better husband and father. I pray so much because I need God for everything. You have to be humble enough to ask God for help, especially when you feel your emotions running away with you, old insecurities reigniting and hurtful words forming on your lips. God can go to your heart and put out those self-destructive fires.
Excerpted from Love Without Limits by Nick Vujicic Copyright © 2014 by Nick Vujicic. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.