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Your first Father’s Day

Tips for new dads from a fellow traveler

By George P. Wood

I became a dad on Sunday, Oct. 26, 2008, when my wife, Tiffany, gave birth to our son, Reese. With only eight months’ experience, I’m no expert on fatherhood. But I’ve learned a few lessons I’d like to share with you.

1. Love your wife!

Childbirth is a traumatic experience for her. Hormone changes, weight gain, physical discomfort and stretch marks make her feel self-conscious and insecure.

Loving your wife verbally and physically is your spiritual calling as a husband (Ephesians 5:25-32). Say, “I love you,” regularly. Compliment her looks. Encourage her when she feels down. Hold her hand and kiss her. Take her on date nights whenever you can.

A loved wife is a happy wife, and a happy wife is a happy life.

2. Help her!

One afternoon at Starbucks, Tiffany and I struck up a conversation with a dad who was watching his son for the day.

He said to me, “Man, we have it easy. I don’t know how our wives cope with watching kids all day.”

I don’t either.

After a long day at work, you’ll come home and want to relax. Resist the temptation! If your wife stays home with your child, she has also been “at work” all day. If she works outside the home, she’s had a long day too. Either way, she needs your help. Take your turn to feed and change your baby. Clean the dishes, the clothes, or the house.

Be a helpful dad!

3. Embrace the mess!

Childbirth is a messy process. So is child-rearing. Dirty diapers, drool-soaked bibs, leaky bottles, baby cereal spewed all over the high chair — what a mess! From what I hear, the mess doesn’t go away until the kid goes away to college.

On top of the physical mess, there’s the havoc babies wreak with your routine. Forget weekend softball league, guys’ night out, and sleeping through the night — at least for a while! It’s a fact of life that your kid will mess with your schedule.

Don’t resent the mess, embrace it! Be active in your baby’s early months! When they smile and coo at you, fall asleep in your arms, roll over the first time, take their first step, or say “Dada,” you’ll know the mess was worth it.

The kid is your mess, so be proud!

4. Pass the baby around!

Raising a child can be exhausting. That’s why God created grandmas and grandpas, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, friends and neighbors. They’re your divinely created support team. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and always remember to say thanks when it’s given you.

Those people are also your child’s coaches. Tiffany and I want Reese to be sociable. From an early age, we’ve passed him around to any adult we know who wants to hold him. He gets his primary love and affection from us. But he’s also learning to interact happily with others. It’s never too early to teach your child to love their neighbors (Matthew 22:39).

5. Be the man!

Newborns don’t do much. Basically, they sleep, eat, poop and cry. Oh, one more thing: They watch you. Long before they understand what you’re saying to them, kids learn by observing what you do. So start thinking what kind of example you want to set for them from the moment they come home from the hospital.

Be the man you want your son to become! Be the man you want your daughter to marry! And most of all, be the man you promised your wife you’d be at your wedding. One of the best things you can do for your children is to love their mother. How you relate to her will shape your children’s life in profound ways.

6. Go to church!

The first and greatest commandment Jesus taught is to love God with everything you’ve got (Matthew 22:38). Going to church regularly reinforces this value in you and your family’s life. And it connects you with a social network of people who value God, marriage and family like you do.

7. Trust God!

I’m a worst-case-scenario thinker. I worry a lot. If the news is to be believed, I have a lot to be worried about. It’s a dangerous world out there.

Being a father is teaching me to trust God. I don’t know what Reese’s future holds, but I do know who holds his future. I’m trusting God to make Reese’s paths straight — and mine and Tiffany’s too (Proverbs 3:5,6).

GEORGE P. WOOD is senior pastor of Living Faith Center (AG) in Santa Barbara, Calif.

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