My son Hunter was born when I was deployed to Afghanistan in 2001. I came home to a red-headed little baby boy, and it was one of the best moments of my life, and also the scariest. What to do? I had no clue.

I remember how my wife was afraid to go to the store because I didn’t know how to take care of an infant! She, like most exhausted and caffeine-starved moms, got over that real fast and I learned as I went, as all parents do.

Then my daughter. She showed up fast! My wife woke up one morning and said that she was on her way. Since this was the first time I was home for an actual birth I had no idea what this meant. I said, “Ok, I’ll get ready,” and started making coffee in the kitchen. Bad idea. “WTF are you doing!” she said. “Get the car ready.” We almost had Olivia in the Volvo.

As soon as we got into the birth center she was out within minutes! We were back home in an hour with her and our family. Proof that natural childbirth can be very rewarding. I should also mention that my kids’ mom had all three births naturally. She also naturally had two more beautiful little girls with her new husband. I’m still impressed by this.

Our third kid was born at Balboa naval hospital. Grayson came out swinging and at that point the car was full, no room left! I was done.

What lessons have I learned as a dad of over 18 years, a former Navy SEAL sniper, and an entrepreneur? Lots but let’s focus on what I think are the top three that helped me.

1. Put the kids first

My wife and I would go on to get a divorce like many parents (I’ll write more on this later). We got along through the process but it was still extremely rough. But, the one thing we did right was put ourselves and our emotions aside for the betterment of the kids. This is lesson one.

It was tough to go from little league coach and drop off the kids at school daily dad, to divorced part-time dad. After all, I left the Navy SEALs early to spend more time with my kids. But I would go on to adapt. We all did. Getting along with their mom post-divorce was challenging (for both of us) but when we always defaulted to putting “us” aside for “them,” we sorted our issues out and our kids started to thrive.