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Dads share advice
Patience, time essential
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Forsyth County News

For new fathers, it’s difficult enough changing a diaper for the first time, or learning how to swaddle a newborn.

But what about the challenges of raising a child who doesn’t come with backup instructions?

"You should love unconditionally and have unending patience," said Jon Heard, father of two daughters.

The rest, said Heard and other Forsyth County dads as Father’s Day neared, is about trial and error, making time and letting children do some of the teaching.

"Thinking about my girls, sometimes you’ve got to slow down and take time to get down on their level, maybe that’s picking flowers or looking at bugs," said Heard, Cumming’s director of utilities.

He also said having a relationship with God and passing that along to his daughters has been "vitally important."

That’s a lesson Pastor Bob Jolly imparts to his two children, as well as his congregation at First Baptist Cumming. Successful fatherhood is also about the intangibles.

"Many fathers try to give their children all the things they never had as a child," Jolly said.

"In their efforts to provide more stuff, they forget to provide what they were given as a child — work ethic, patience, love, moral compass and a foundation of faith."

It’s also about making time, said local attorney Kevin Tallant.

Between court dates and client meetings, Tallant said he still finds plenty of time for his children.

"You get up early enough every day so that you can make breakfast and actually eat breakfast with them," he said. "And you do your best to get home whenever you can to have dinner with them.

"On the weekends, if I’m doing something I absolutely have to get done, I let the kids do it with me."

His son Dalton is just 3, but when Tallant works on his lawn over the weekend, his son "will stand back with his toy weedeater 30 to 40 feet away and he’ll watch me and he’ll pretend he’s weedeating the grass."

The same goes for his garden, where his 6-year-old daughter Madeleine will join with Dalton and their mother, Heather, and help plant the garden.

"They have a blast," he said.

With 11 kids between biological and those he and his wife adopted, Steve Miller has learned a few tricks.

Like Tallant, Miller said family always comes first, even if that means scheduling them in like he does at his job as principal at Otwell Middle School.

"Every waking minute that I’m not at work, I find the time to be with the kids," he said. "[Do] not let a moment go to waste and relish every moment."

By now, he’s become an old pro at being a father, but looking back Miller said he wishes someone told him to slow down.

"I remember when my oldest biological girl, who’s now driving and has a job, was younger, I always wanted her to be at the next stage," he said.

"They’re only little once … and if I could go back and change anything, that’s probably the one thing I’d change is to let them be little and don’t rush to have them grow up so fast."

Being a father is also about being supportive and being a team player, Tallant said.

Especially with stay-at-home moms like his wife, they are mothers all day long. They don’t get to call in sick, he said.

"The biggest thing that the other parent can do is support that primary caregiver," he said.

"They’ve got to give that unconditional support to the primary caregiver … because then your kids ... see the parents as a team, and that goes a long way.

His kids jokingly chant "Team Tallant," he said, because they see their parents working so well together.

Heard said being a good father takes patience and restraint. It’s about letting the small things go and focusing on the big picture and being dedicated.

"Be prepared for the greatest challenge and the greatest blessing of your life," Heard said.