No Internships for Fatherhood

Written by: Christopher Sell

Primary Source: The Wednesday Wake Up


The other day my daughter got a cold.

Her third cold in the last two months.

We kept wondering…is this normal?

She had a runny nose and an uncontrollable cough that seemed to worsen at night. It got so bad one evening, after hours of persistent coughing that kept her from sleeping comfortably, that we simply gave up. We put our little girl, limp from exhaustion, in her car seat and drove around the neighborhood at 3 in the morning hoping that the upright position provided by the car seat would allow her to breathe better and finally let her sleep.

The joys of parenthood.

Her mom and I were really concerned. I hear this phenomenon – getting many colds during winter – is common for kids her age. I’m glad I’ve got other experienced parents around us to tell us about these things, because I’m new at this whole parenthood thing.

As a first-time dad to our daughter, I don’t have a wealth of previous experience to fall back on. Sometimes I wish I could have had an internship in parenting before I took on the role of “Dad” full-time. Don’t you?

I currently serve as an Internship Coordinator for 4,000+ science students at Michigan State University, and before that I served as a career advisor at Western Michigan University for approximately 2,500 engineering students, so I know the value of an internship first-hand.

Internships are critical for a variety of reasons, none more important than the opportunity they provide students to “try out” a career before they make the plunge into the “real world” full-time. Seems to make sense that a 10-week trial run at being “Dad” would help out quite a bit for men preparing to accept the role of father figure. But that’s not reality for first timers like me. Instead, we’re left to rely on our parenting peers and our own instincts. On occasion, we’re left wondering how we’re performing.

As first-time fathers, we constantly walk a tight rope of tension, never knowing if we are truly getting it right. We want to give our kids the best gifts ever, yet we want to teach them humility and the value of a hard-earned dollar. We strive to simultaneously challenge and support them. We are our harshest critics, yet the rest of the world doesn’t hesitate to pass judgment on the style in which we parent our kids.

This plays out at our household all the time.

Should we give our daughter organic food? How many carbohydrates per day is too much? When does this cough persist to the point that she needs to go to the doctor? Should she get immunizations? If so, when? Are we reading enough books to her? Is it okay to have the TV on while she’s sitting on my lap?

Parenting for the first time sometimes feels like walking through street traffic blindfolded. It’s hard to know whether we’re strolling correctly within the confines of the sidewalk or veering off into the streets in front of a speeding minivan. (Note: I referenced a minivan instead of a typical sports car or slick SUV because I’m a dad, and we only think in terms of maximum efficiency with children. Hence, the fabled minivan.)

What I’ve been learning along the way is that maybe we don’t give ourselves enough credit. Maybe we’re too hard on ourselves. With or without an internship in fatherhood, it turns out we’re quite capable of being competent and caring when it comes to being a parent.

Children survived for centuries without an exclusive organic diet – they’ll likely survive without one in the future, too.

Occasional viewing of ESPN’s Sportscenter while sitting on Daddy’s lap won’t rot my daughter’s mind.

Whatever dilemma we encounter as first-time parents will undoubtedly have its consequences. For Dads of daughters, the challenge can often feel unique. But as long as we love our daughters unconditionally, and we make sure they know how much we love them, the rest will take care of itself.

I once read somewhere that parenting was a lot like giving a hug: It’s all about love and pressure and there is no one way to do it.

Sounds about right to me.

Besides, we don’t need internships to teach us that.

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My name is Christopher Sell and I'm an educator in higher education. At my core, I'm passionate about creating synergy and connecting people to opportunity. I place tremendous focus on collaboration, strategic planning, forward-thinking, and teamwork in any professional environment. As an alumnus of Western Michigan University (WMU) and Michigan State University (MSU), I'm equally committed to leveraging relationships with industry and students/graduates to retain & attract talent in the state of Michigan and contribute to the economic revitalization of the "Mitten State" that I love so much. Needless to say, I'm a big fan of the Pure Michigan campaign.

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