One strange trick to make fatherhood easier
When the last time you heard it like this?
The New Fatherhood is a newsletter from Kevin Maguire exploring the changing nature of being a father today. With tools, tips and hacks to help you become a better dad, and a community of forward-thinking parents who are looking to do the same. Here's a bit more information if you're new here. My aim is to make this one of the best emails that you get each week. You are one of the 1,200 dads (and curious mums) who have already signed up. If you've been forwarded this by someone else, get your own one here.
I've been using the Waking Up app for the last 15 months, and I’ve finally formed a daily meditation habit. It's become a huge part of my "mental health toolkit" during 2020, enabling me to deal with the many mental overloads that fatherhood puts on my plate each week.
I wanted to share one parenting hack I picked up through the app. It's from a series called "The Stoic Path", by William B Irvine. He suggests reframing things you're not enjoying with "The Last Time Meditation". And honestly, it couldn't be easier:
"When you’re doing something, you should reflect on the possibility that this might be the last time you do it. Again, you don’t dwell on this possibility, it’s just a flickering thought. Doing this can dramatically change your perspective on the events of your daily life. Mowing my lawn can be a burden, particularly on a hot day, but I can lighten that burden by remembering that there will be a last time that I am physically able to mow a lawn, and that after that time has passed, I will likely look back on these as the good old days."
This works. I promise you. I did it last night. I was drying my daughter's hair. It's long. Very long. She's almost 7 and it's never seen a pair of scissors (apart from the few times that she's gotten a bobble / hair tie caught in it). She hates getting it dried—and I hate drying it too, because she complains, won't sit still, and gets frustrated with me as I attempt to comb out all the knots. We both end up annoyed with each other.
But last night? I stopped, and thought about the last time meditation. I realised that, very soon, she's going to be drying her own hair. And you know what? I'm really going to miss doing this.
In an instant, it changed my whole perspective on the situation.
I've done it a few times over the last month and it's been such a great exercise. Cycling back from school in the rain? I imagined it was the last time I'd feel raindrops hitting my face. Changing the nappy of my son? I realised (thankfully) that I won’t be doing this for much longer and, one day, I'll probably miss it.
I've even tried it when he wakes up at 4am in the morning—to see if it helps me feel happier about that.
But "The Last Time Meditation" isn't that good. Nothing is.
(BTW, I'm not at all involved in the app, and this isn't an ad. Just something I've found helpful, and I thought you might too. Here's a link for a free month if you're interested in trying it out. I don't get anything if you sign up, apart from the satisfaction of maybe helping you out!)
3 things to read this week
David Brooks goes long in The Atlantic on how "The Nuclear Family was a Mistake", and looks into better ways for families to live together: "When we discuss the problems confronting the country, we don’t talk about family enough. It feels too judgmental. Too uncomfortable. Maybe even too religious. But the blunt fact is that the nuclear family has been crumbling in slow motion for decades, and many of our other problems—with education, mental health, addiction, the quality of the labor force—stem from that crumbling."
One of the unfortunate side-effects of parenting during a pandemic is "decision fatigue"—the idea that after making many decisions, a person’s ability to make additional decisions becomes worse. "It’s different from ordinary physical fatigue—you’re not consciously aware of being tired—but you’re low on mental energy. The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain, and eventually it looks for shortcuts."
This Big List of Podcasts for Bigger Kids contains 30 podcasts for kids between 6-10 years old. So much gold in here, split out into fiction, news, education and more.
One thing to watch with the kids this week
City of Ghosts on Netflix is a must watch. It's like a super-kawaii remake of The X-Files. Four kids learn the rich, multicultural history of LA by interviewing the friendly spirits who have always lived there. The animation is gorgeous, it explores interesting themes around gentrification and diversity, and has a total vibe that's exactly what you, and your kids, need right now.
Spending hours finding the best parenting stuff on TikTok, so you don't have to.
Laughing at your kid is wrong. Apart from this time. When you buy something baby-proof that clearly isn't. The best possible use for a fitted sheet. Microwaves are the new sea shanties. When you're rolling to school and your jam drops. If Rock, Paper, Scissors with your kid was directed by Chris Nolan. Is there anything more adorable than this kid's reaction to being given an empty plate? How mornings with two kids feels. Damn, they grow up so fast. And, to finish, a very accurate representation of a dad sneezing.
Previously on The New Fatherhood
"I really can’t wait to travel again—not to see the world but to see friends and family and to finally introduce all of them to my (currently 13 days old) son. Standing in the kitchen, prepping food together. Sitting around a table with all of them, chatting, laughing, eating. And now with a new addition to the family. And, something quite specific connected to that: there’s something so satisfying in the sound of a car door falling shut just before you head off to a little road trip: I can’t wait to hear that deep muffled thump of anticipation again." Maximilian
"High on my list is to go camping with the family to enjoy simple things: bikes, dams building and tree climbing. My kids are at that magic age where all of the above beats a trip to Disneyland." Graham
Short and sweet this week. If you're down here and have a few seconds to spare, hit reply and tell me what you did / didn't like about this week's issue. Do you prefer longer essays? Shorter ones with tips and tricks? Why do you open this every week? As always, thank you for reading, and consider sharing with other dads you know.