EDMOND — Michael Mitchell showed up for his wife’s prenatal ultrasound dressed in a pink shirt, excited and full of love for the baby girl he sensed would arrive soon to rock his world.
“I just knew it was going to be a girl,” he said, smiling as he recalled the months that he and his wife, Annaleise, prepared for their first child’s arrival.
Mitchell, 32, said by the time baby Isabella made her debut in September 2010, he had thought of many experiences he hoped to share with her.
After her birth, he was inspired to create a blog where he expounded on many of his ideas, dreams and wishes for daddy-daughter time.
“I was smitten with the kid from the moment she came out into this world. I was head over heels in love,” Mitchell said. “I thought ‘this changes everything.’”
His blog, called “Life to Her Years: Dad’s Tips for Adding Life to a Daughter’s Years (LifeToHerYears.com)” became enormously popular with men and women who loved his creativity, thoughtfulness and obvious love for his little girl.
Mitchell, of Edmond, said the blog inspired his new book “Life Lessons for Dad: Tea Parties, Tutus & All Things Pink (Broadman Holman Publishing, $14.99).”
Tips featured in the book are concise and they range from the practical — “Teach her to change a flat. A tire without air need not be a major panic-inducing event in her life. She’ll still call you crying the first time it happens” — to the charming and sentimental — “Take lots of pictures together. You never know when one of you won’t be around to smile for the camera anymore” — to the wonderfully whimsical — “Make time to play with blocks together. You stack ’em up. She’ll knock ’em down.”
Mitchell, admissions director at Oklahoma Christian University, said his first thought about the book was that it would be a great gift to give to his daughter.
He said he didn’t realize that his inspirational words in the blog and book would reach far beyond his own family to inspire many others.
“I started doing it for me and I had no idea that it would take off,” he said. “I still get excited when people say this has touched them in some way.”
Mitchell said he initially sat down to create postings for his blog about seven months after his daughter’s birth.
He said he wanted to create short, pithy postings that would be interesting to people but not too lengthy since he was quickly learning that lots of parents don’t have a lot of time to read a long blog posting or anything else.
He said he was surprised when he came up with a list of 100 postings in just a few hours.
“I had all this stuff rattling around in my head about the kind of dad I wanted to be and what I wanted her childhood to be like,” Mitchell said.
He said he unveiled the blog in July 2011 and told some family and friends about it. Then, his guest post on the “From Dates to Diapers” blog created by blogger Christine Young propelled his name and his blog forward more than he ever dreamed.
Mitchell said the guest post, called “50 Rules for Dads of Daughters” captured people’s attention and got 250,000 “likes” on Facebook in two weeks.
He said he started receiving email from people all over the country who told him that they were inspired by his post. Fathers wrote him to say that they were inspired to be better dads after reading his post. Women wrote him saying that the post reminded them of how great their fathers were over the years. Other people wrote to say they were going to share his post with other fathers and mothers.
He said some fathers wrote him asking for advice but he told them that his daughter is still very young and just the fact that they were asking questions meant they were on the right track.
Mitchell said occasionally, his wife who is a marriage and family therapist, helped him answer some of those queries.
Eventually, some friends suggested that he write a book featuring his blog musings and just as he was considering self-publishing, an editor with a book publishing company who had seen his “50 Rules” posting contacted him and offered him a book contract.
Show her she’s valuable
Mitchell said he is still getting correspondence from people who like his writing and his ideas about caring for daughters.
He said he’s glad he realized early on how important fathers are to their daughters.
“I think a young girl’s relationship with her dad is the basis for every relationship she’ll have with a man,” he said.
He said he hopes his book conveys the message that fathers should — in ways big and small — show their daughters how valuable they truly are.
“My daughter just wants me to watch her — ‘Daddy, watch this!’ It doesn’t matter what she’s doing but when I give her my attention, it sends her a message that she’s valuable and she’s got worth and that’s just an invaluable thing for her to carry into adulthood.”
These days, Mitchell said he doesn’t have as much time to blog as he did in those first months after his daughter’s birth.
He said now he and his wife are also parents to a son, Benjamin, 14 months, and their little boy and his sister, now 3, keep them very busy.
Mitchell said some people have asked if he is going to write a similar book for his boy.
With little Benjamin starting to walk and Isabella as adventurous as ever, the busy dad said he’s not sure if he’ll have the time for it — he may be too busy parenting.