A Birthday Gift for Kanye West: What I wish I knew the day I became a father

Dear Kanye:

Happy Birthday! I hope today is filled with what you want from life. You have a healthy bank account… and while money won’t actually buy happiness, it does help pay for the search.

I’m sure you are receiving a variety of gifts today, but your real gift is but a few weeks away: The gift of fatherhood. I’d like to gift you with something unique; a gift only someone like me can provide: How to survive being the father of a baby girl. There’s not rulebook on parenting, and being the father of a girl comes with a variety of challenges: some good, others that make you want to bash your head into a wall.

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1.     Recognize that you’re not ready. I don’t care how much money you have in the bank… nothing in the world can prepare you for fatherhood—no teachings, no book, no discussions with other parents. All those things are valuable, but they won’t have answers… merely third-party perspective. Being a great parent isn’t a destination… it’s a journey you go through.

2.    Be involved and spend your time with her. You have cash and privilege, but 10 nannies will never substitute for a father by her side. She requires your attention; be there for her and stay involved. From the first diaper change, to her first steps, to her first day at school to her first training bra… be there for all of it. If you don’t, not only will you regret it, you risk showing her that men are vaporous, temporary fixtures in her life.

3.    It’s okay to make mistakes… and let her see it. 18 years ago, I was in your mental position: excited, nervous, paranoid, thoughtful… and admitting none of it. My job—as Dad—was to be strong; to be fearless; to be all-knowing. I didn’t feel that I had the luxury of showing weakness, as I needed to lead. What I’ve learned is that it’s okay to be human, and let your kids see it. The lesson to her is simple: Making mistakes is part of life… it’s how you handle them that defines you.

4.    Act like a fool. Your public persona is one of the well-dressed, successful-yet-controversial. But I would strongly encourage you to be a fool for her. Tea parties, characters, whatever. One of the funniest moments for me as a father was when my then-7-year-old daughter insisted on painting my toenails. I’ve never seen a child laugh so hard.

5.    Choose your battles. As a man, you are going to want to correct her, show her what’s she’s doing wrong as a way to help. Doing this all the time will just stifle her self-confidence, and in the long-term, it will create a disconnect between the two of you. My advice is two-fold: Don’t sweat the small things, and allow her to fail. Small stuff can be discussed lightly, not lectured upon. And by allowing her to fail, she gains experience and strength.

6.    As she grows up, ask… and listen. She wants to know that you think she’s beautiful, special, and adorable… but she also needs to know that you think she’s funny, important, valuable, and smart. Women face a world that relentless in bashing their self-esteems and self-images—whether it’s in advertising or in middle school (yes, even your celebrity status won’t protect her from the bullying hordes of junior high school).

7.    Protect her from your world. Your daughter is being born into a celebrity lifestyle, where the media is going to clamor for her latest picture. And while I don’t live in your world, observing the fallout from child stars who lived a life of privilege is readily available. Don’t let your little girl become the next unfortunate casualty of a life lived too fast and too rich.

8.     Love her mother. While there are no guarantees that you and Kim will be together forever, you can show her love, respect, kindness, and understanding for the rest of your time knowing her. How you treat Kim will reflect the type of relationship she will seek as she grows up. Show her that you love her mom, and don’t be afraid to show it in front of your kids.

In summary, be the man you would want your daughter to fall in love with, instead of the man her mother cries herself to sleep thinking about. Do that, and you’re golden… and she will be, too.

Wishing you and your new family the very best,