By: Chris Millett of West Yarmouth
My favorite part of the week is when my Healthy Families home visitor asks me the question I’ve been preparing for: describe my daughter in three words. Today, the answer is “perfect, thinking, and rambunctious.” It might seem like a basic question, but it has transformed my relationship with my daughter.
My daughter, Mahalia, was born the day after the Covid-19 state of emergency was announced. I was a young father and now I was going to have to raise my baby in isolation. I couldn’t even be in the delivery room when she was born. I didn’t know how to be a dad and I definitely didn’t know how to do it alone. Thankfully, I was connected with Healthy Families, a Children’s Trust program that connects young, first time parents with home visitors who help moms and dads learn how to be good parents. I am 25 years old so normally I would be too old for the program, but I live in West Yarmouth which is part of SAFE Child, a Children’s Trust initiative that makes sure parents have access to a wide variety of programs that help them create healthy, nurturing homes for their kids. Kathleen, my home visitor, was there to support me from day one, even if we couldn’t be in the same room.
Kathleen helped me persevere as a father. She instilled in me the importance of showing my daughter love and providing for her. She showed me how to change Mahalia properly and how to feed her. She coached me on how to stay calm in difficult situations. But most importantly, she taught me how to connect with my daughter and how to nurture her.
Asking me each week to describe her in three words has helped me learn the importance of observing and understanding her. I notice her range of emotions, just like we experience as adults. When she is upset, I try different ways of calming her down and I have become more attuned to understanding what she needs. As she grows, and her emotions and behaviors continue to change, I will be better able to give her the love and support that she needs through every stage of her life because of the strong bond we have formed this year. I wouldn’t have that kind of connection with my daughter without Healthy Families.
Seeing my daughter happy and growing is how I know I’m a good dad. When I see that smile on her face and I know she has everything she needs, and that I’m providing unconditional love, that is how I find joy. Every morning when we wake up, I say good morning and she gives me the biggest smile. Nothing makes me happier than waking up to seeing her happy. This year has been challenging, but I am grateful to have spent it bonding with my beautiful baby girl.