So far, I have seven children.
You read that right. And yes, I said so far.
Over the last fourteen years, I’ve learned quite a few things about being a dad, and since you’re about to join the brotherhood, I thought I’d share some of my wisdom with you so you’re not caught completely unawares.
#10 You don’t need to be worried or afraid.
Fear is your mind’s way of telling you you’re not ready for what’s about to happen or that you can’t handle it. You can handle it. At first, it’s a lot of holding them and rocking them and eventually handing them off. Easy stuff.
They sleep a lot, and when they’re awake, they’re generally eating or just happy to look at you. You’ll be happy to look at them.
Then, they start developing their little personalities. This is an awesome time to be a dad. You’ll play with them. They’ll slap you and laugh. Then you’ll laugh. There’s making fart noises on their bellies and making them giggle.
You already know how to do that, and it’s what you’ll spend the bulk of your time doing. So relax. You’ve got this. You’re the daddy, after all.
And then they become mobile. Now you worry. Review these baby-proofing basics to make sure your home is ready for a child under his own locomotion.
Don’t be afraid. You can do this. I know from experience.
#9 You are going to get hit in the “Mommy-Daddy button.” A lot.
There comes a point in a child’s life when his reach equals the exact height of the most painful part of your physiology. The child doesn’t realize this, or the pain he’s about to inflict on you, but he is going to inflict it on you.
Sometimes they bring the heat like a right fielder trying to make the throw to third, sometimes they are just trying to get your attention, but regardless, you are left in the fetal position choking back your tears and a stream of profanity.
It’s going to happen until you learn to keep your situational awareness on high alert. At that point, you don’t even think about it. Your mind unconsciously recognizes the approaching danger and your arms involuntarily move to intercept the oncoming attack.
You’ll learn to stop them 80-90 percent of the time. But then, there’s that 10 percent where you let your guard down.
Never even saw it coming. Rookie move.
#8 Never, never hold a baby over your face after she just ate.
When you finish feeding your baby, you might be tempted to play with her. That’s all well and good, but you should know that it’s probable she needs to burp. And when she burps, it probably won’t just be a little gas.
You’ll want to keep a towel with you to put over your shirt so when she does spit up, it falls on the towel and you’re not burning through a closet full of t-shirts.
You’ve been warned:
If you’re anything like me, it will take you a while to remember this.
#7 Learn to take your thumb off.
It’s a trick I do for all the kids at church that never fails to entertain. It’s very simple and takes no props.
Trust me. When you do this for the first time, you’ll get astonishment. When you keep doing it, you’ll earn admiration. And when the kids are old enough to spot the trick, you’ll get the pleasure of teaching it to them and watching them perform it for other kids.
And that’s really the best part of this tip. You’ll feel a sense of pride as you admire your children carrying on your tradition of tricking the young and easily fooled.
Brings a tear to my eye, now that I’m thinking about it.
#6 If you know they aren’t really hurt, but just scared, here’s what you do: Pretend to hurt yourself.
It’s a tense situation. Your child has hurt himself, or at least he believes he has. He needs a bandage, even though he isn’t bleeding and he Won’t. Stop. Crying.
Pretend you hit your head or stubbed your toe or smashed your finger. Exaggerate the pain and be clownish. Howl like you’re in a cartoon. He will giggle, guaranteed.
Build on that. Confront him comically and when he giggles again, hurt yourself again.
He will laugh harder. You are slowly making him forget about his fears and replacing those scary thoughts with humorous ones until finally, you turn the whole thing into a tickle fight, ending with your child laughing instead of crying.
Works like a charm, every time.
#5 Guys, don’t let your child be turned into a mobile teste targeting system.
I’m serious. You’re going to get hit in the stones more than you think. Sometimes, you can’t even see it coming.
One thing that children feed off of is the emotions of their parents. If your spouse thinks this is funny and tries to make a game of it, you need to nip that in the bud right away. I’ve seen kids who have been trained to hit the bullseye every time. They look to the parent to make sure she is watching, fire off a kill shot, and then swim in the approving laughter.
A thousand times NO.
All this is going to do is create animosity. You’d think I wouldn’t have to write this, but there are some women out there who think seeing their man curled up in a fetal position is the height of comedy. If you think I’m crazy, look at the gif again. What do the girls do after the jump? They look up for approval. From whom?
Personally, I’d be a little put out by my wife turning my child into a pain-inducing tool for her amusement.
Unless you agree, you need to make sure this stops when it starts.
#4 It’s just poop, and poop wipes off. It’s that simple.
You see dads who open a diaper and it’s like they are looking at their own innards.
Usually these are the same guys who just came in from the timber, having field-dressed a 12-point buck and smeared its blood on their faces after daring their hunting buddy to eat its heart raw.
Yeah, it smells like day-old death, but it’s not going to kill you. And once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to swap out a disposable diaper like a NASCAR pit crew swaps out tires.
You’re on your own with the diaper bag, though.
#3 Sleep when your baby sleeps, if you can.
It’s been a long day. Your baby is lying on your chest, squirming, until finally, he’s out.
You won’t be far behind. When your child falls asleep, you need to fall asleep. That’s the rule, because like it or not, he is going to wake up before you want him to and you’re going to wish you’d taken a nap.
Take it. You need it. Whatever you need to do can wait twenty minutes.
There have been times where I was home alone with my babies and I just could not get them to stop crying. Nothing I did worked. I tried laying them down. I tried picking them up. I tried sitting with them. I tried standing with them. I tried rocking them. I tried walking with them.
Nothing made them stop and I was getting frustrated. And then I was getting angry.
The first time this happened I was working with adjudicated youth and I thought, “I can see how a kid who knows zero impulse control or anger management could lash out at a baby and do something he’d regret for the rest of his life.”
It can be so intense. You just want them to stop crying.
#2 Lay them down. Walk away.
There’s nothing wrong with letting your baby cry while you cool down. Walk away, take a deep breath, get a drink of water and come back in a few minutes.
When you return, you’ll be in a better position to deal with your baby, and you won’t have done something you’ll regret for a lifetime.
Trust me on this one. I’ve been there many times.
I told my brother when it was getting to be time for his first child to be born that he was about to learn something.
“You think you know what love is,” I said. “You look at your wife and you think, ‘I love this woman with all my heart. I’d do anything for her.’ But then you hold your baby for the first time and this feeling washes over you. I mean, you feel it like a wave just washes over you. It’s a feeling of complete love like you’ve never felt before. And then you know what true, unbridled love is.”
#1 The feeling you have when you hold your child for the first time is incredible.
I love my wife. And I love my kids, all seven of them. The moment of your child’s birth is a moment of peace following a time of intense stress, and you feel nothing but love for this small little baby. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever felt.
And then, before you know it, they’re jumping off the ottoman in a Ninja Turtles costume, hitting you in the crotch with a wiffle ball bat and you’re wondering if anyone got it on video.
Welcome to the world of Dads. It’s about as awesome as it sounds.