You know how Michael Strahan cohosts "Live! With Kelly and Michael" and "Good Morning America" and won a Super Bowl ring and has the single-season sack record and basically is crushing it?
He also is a dad of four, including twin girls. Another twins dad? Nice. Basically, we're the same person.
At least, he and I were in the same place at the same time. He spoke at Dad 2.0 Summit, a massive get-together of dads like me who like talking about being a dad, and out of nowhere I found myself nodding along with everything he was saying.
For new dads and experienced dads alike, I think you'll take something out of three gems he dropped in during an on-stage conversation about fatherhood.
Be Who You Are (And Same for Your Kid)
Strahan has a gap in his front teeth. It's hard not to think of him, in fact, without thinking of that gap, like it's hard not to think of Abraham Lincoln without the chinstrap beard. You'd think, just based on norms, he'd want to get rid of it.
Why hasn't he? Because, as he said, he was comfortable with himself. He looked into getting it fixed early in his career but decided "that's not me."
"Obviously, I'm comfortable. You don't go walking around with a gap in your teeth if you're not comfortable." - Michael Strahan
- New Dad Takeaway: You're going to have so many things to get comfortable with. You need to be comfortable not always looking your best - showers/clean clothes/full sleep are not frequent enough. But if you can be comfortable knowing the reason you aren't looking sharp is because you are helping a tiny baby stay protected and healthy, and that's awesome. You have to be comfortable with the fact strangers will judge your parenting style. And they can go screw themselves, to be honest, because you only need to be confident that your kid is being cared for to the best of your abilities. Their opinion doesn't matter. Be comfortable with who you are now as a dad. And let that confidence pass down to your kid, because if you seem to always be insecure or worried what others think, you can be damn sure your kid will end up feeling the same about themselves.
Dads Need to Take Chances
"In my life, I take chances," Strahan said. You don't think about a guy on national television and with a Super Bowl ring having to really go out on a limb, but then he reminded us he tried acting in a sitcom, "Brothers" (which nobody watched, he joked). Was it a failure to take a risk? Strahan said it taught him he doesn't want to act, and that's a good thing. He added he decided to take a risk to accept an offer to be on "Good Morning America," because after initially hesitating, "I thought, am I saying no because I'm afraid, or because I can't do it?'
- New Dad Takeaway: There is no greater risk than being a new parent. It seems like every freaking day you are taking risks. What you can learn here, though, is that you can't be afraid to try something just because it might not work out. If you want to go do cloth diapers, do it! If you want to take the baby out on your own to the store, do it! If you want to wear a matching outfit with your kid every day ... well, that's kinda freaky but hell, do it! It's easy to assume something is going to go wrong. But why not assume it will work out? Isn't that just as possible?
Be a "When" Dad, Not an "If" Dad
- This was a favorite of mine. His dad, who was a paratrooper and is "really stubborn" also was a great motivator. The Strahans were stationed in Germany, and his dad was sending him his senior year of high school to Houston, where he could play organized football for the first time. Somehow, his dad knew good things were coming. He told him that "when" he played well he'd get a scholarship (and he did, to Texas Southern.) It was never a question in his dad's mind his son would succeed.
My dad has always been a 'when' instead of an 'if' guy. And that's made a huge difference. - Michael Strahan
- New Dad Takeaway: When my kids needs encouragement, I'd like to be the "when" dad. It's such a smart way to go about it; Strahan said "'If' adds a little doubt to the situation," and that's true. If I tell my daughter "if she aces her test, she may get a scholarship" versus "When you ace your test, you'll get a scholarship" gives it some certainty. I wouldn't be crazy unrealistic or do it in a way that adds pressure, but if they know they are loved no matter what and that I and my wife are confident in their abilities, that's the best possible scenario for them to succeed, right?
Usually taking parenting advice from an athlete seems like a dumb idea, but that's over-generalizing. He was genuine, articulate, and the guy seems like he's done OK for himself — the dumb idea would be assuming only certain people are able to give good insight about parenting. Now if I can just get him to let me borrow his Super Bowl ring...