I’ll never forget it.
My wife had an emergency c-section and I was sitting in a room off to the side of the operating room, nervously waiting while the doctors cut open my wife and “airlifted” my baby daughter.
I was 25 years old.
When I finally heard her yelping from the other room, I stood up and a nurse escorted me into the brightly-lit, sterile operating room. Like a dream, my life had changed in an instant. My life-focus instantly shifted from thinking about myself to thinking about this little, blotchy red person screaming before me.
In our young life, the thought of children may be far, far away, and even if you’re still in college or single, there are things you can do right now which will prepare you to handle children. In one sense, they’re also the marks of maturity, but not all parents become mature people and not all mature people become parents. Even if you never have kids, you might find these points useful.
1. Put down the iPhone and play.
One of the hardest parts of being a human in the digital age is our complete saturation into our phones and other devices. There’s all sorts of distractions that will constantly pop up and when you have children, where you put your focus will speak volumes about your love towards them and towards others. If your focus is on your phone, computer or other entertainment device with very little time left for your children, the child will come to think of that thing as being more important than they are.
I’m preaching to myself as well when I say this: put down the phone for a while.
2. Build up patience and even if you already have some, build some more.
I always felt like I was a naturally patient person before having kids. When I’d have to wait in long lines at the DMV, I would just smile and twiddle my thumbs. When someone would cut me off in traffic, I was pretty stoic. “I’m not in a rush,” I would say.
But when I had kids, the game changed. Think of it as if adults are on normal playback speed while children (especially preschoolers) are on ultra fast-forward or on super slow-motion. Also, surprisingly, they don’t just do what you ask them to immediately. You have to learn to train your children with a patient attitude. I had to learn that even when I thought I was most patient, I had to gain more because children don’t clock out at 5 p.m. The training never ends.
3. Enjoy your alone time now.
From high school to college and into the workforce, many young people put themselves on a trajectory of constant busyness. There’s so much to get done and to do, but it’s also good to take time for quiet and solitude.
When you have children, these moments will come but there will be far less time for it. Take time out for yourself and no one else now, so that when you do have children, you’ll appreciate it all the more!
4. Hang around some married people with kids.
Sometimes hanging around married couples with children might feel awkward for single people. Maybe the single person doesn’t have any family with kids, but if you go to a church or small group with many families, you can get used to having little kids around. It can help you learn to communicate on a child’s level. It also helps you to see how the parents might handle certain situations with their children.
Plus, some younger couples may just be learning how to wrangle their children, so give grace and love to them. Let them know that their efforts are not in vain. Be a blessing.
5. Enjoy sleep now.
This applies more to when you have little children, but if you are a night-owl, that may either be to your advantage or to your doom. Children need 13 or more hours of sleep a night, and they usually get sleepy early in the evening. That means that if you put them to sleep at 7, they’ll most likely be awake and ready to go at 8 or sometimes earlier.
If you’re not an early riser, it might help to try and become one, but also just enjoy the time you have to sleep now. You’re going to need it.
6. Be ready for the unexpected.
If you’re the kind of person who when life gives you lemons, you throw the lemons back and start weeping while in a fetal position in a corner, you might not be ready for children.
Plans will change when you have kids, and it’s always good to be prepared. The same can be applied to many other situations in life. It’s part of growing up and maturing as a person.
So learn to evaluate the situation and adjust your expectations accordingly. Be ready for when things may change, because they are most assured to with children.
7. Learn to give affection as well as receive affection.
One thing I’ve learned as a parent is how to give good hugs. Children see physical affection as their primary language of love, so hugs and kisses are a huge part of providing a safe environment for kids.
Maybe you didn’t receive much affection as a kid or just were never one for much physical affection. Maybe you suffered physical abuse as a child. These are understandable reasons to shirk affection, but I would encourage you to seek healing now. It’s never too late to learn to give affection as well as receive affection.
In conclusion, start now with making each day count towards your future. Not just your financial future, but the well-being of your possibly eventual family and for yourself.
Freelance writer, blogger, full-time husband and father of three. Zach is also co-founder of Theologues.com, a website for Christians to grow in learning about their faith. You can find him on Twitter or his blog.