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  • Writer's pictureMatt Keyser

The best advice my dad has given me on fatherhood

My dad has offered up a lot of advice over the years. Word hard. Don’t be a dumbass. You’re flat at the top of your golf swing. But there’s one piece of advice that sticks out more than most. It was a late December night in 2016 and we were sitting on his back porch along with the singing crickets and cool winter air. He was sharing stories about when I was a boy, then asked if I was ready to join the ranks of parenthood. My wife, Elissa, and I had recently announced that we were expected our first baby—a girl—in April. I was still wrapping my mind around the fact that I was going to be a father. Of course not, I told him, I’m not ready to give up my freedom. I still want to jump in my car whenever I wanted and go on a spontaneous road trip. I want to close the bar out with friends when the night called for it. I don’t want to lose any of that, I said. That’s when Dad told me something that will stick with me for the rest of my life: don’t be scared to lose that freedom; rather, embrace that you have a child who you can share life’s joys with. I felt like he had hit me across the head with a two-by-four. It all made sense. I thought back to all the family trips we went on through the years: the drives to Oklahoma to visit family and friends, our annual river trip, the wet weekends in Galveston to fish and camp on the beach. We still share stories from all those trips. The time Ethan, my brother, got stuck on a rock in rapids in the middle of the river. The time in Galveston when Debbie, my stepmom, yelled at Ethan and me to not “be getting all sandy” as we played on the beach. The awkward 4 a.m. night when Dad, after a few drinks, gave his drunken version of the bird and the bees speech as I lay on a lawn chair hoping like hell to fall asleep. It’s those lifelong memories I hold close and selfishly wanted to create with Elissa. A baby, I thought then, would hinder those moments. I was so wrong. Though I was still scared of joining parenthood—of losing my freedom—the moment Emery joined our family. But when I held her for the first time in the hospital in April, I wanted nothing more than to share every moment with her: the road trips across Texas, the floats on the river—making our own family memories that I hope she, too, will cherish forever. In the seven months since Emery has joined our family, there’s been less spontaneity and we’ve had to plan ahead more, but having her around makes life and those memories all the more memorable: Like our first road trip to Dallas when she was shocked to see a large beaver mascot at Buc-ees. Or our trip to a pumpkin patch just before Halloween when she tried to put all the pumpkins in her mouth. She’s still so young and there are so many more memories to be had. I’m so excited to bring her along for the ride.

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