Four of my friends need my help. Two just became dads. One will become a dad in a couple months. And I think one is becoming a dad right now. (Go Matt…actually, go Sarah!)
Becoming a dad is no small thing. Just before Phoebe was born, I asked a friend if he was ready before his son was born. “No one is ever ready,” he said. In this picture of Phoebe and me, you can see I was trying to be like, “I’ve got this,” but I was actually like, “This is terrifying.”
But you can at least prepare. And it’s a lot easier to prepare before you’re running on four hours of fitful sleep and all kinds of anxiety about screwing up this brand new person.
I am an authority on becoming a dad. I’ve done it twice. But only the first one counts. Any subsequent births are kind of like sequels—never quite as noteworthy as the original. (And don’t get me started about prequels.) (I love you, Zeke.)
Seriously, people comment all the time, “You kids are so quiet/cute/obedient/smart/fun/well-behaved/polite/kind/awesome!” Rarely do people add, “just like you.” But I know that’s what they’re thinking.
Obviously, I didn’t screw up my kids too bad to have strangers in libraries need to be hushed as they raved about their excellent character and perfect posture. My friends should heed this advice, or their children will likely grow up to be Lindsey Lohan or telemarketers (Lord, have mercy). And you must share this with your friends, or you will be held responsible for how many terrible tabloids and inconvenient no-call lists we have in 2040.
Here’s what my friends, your friends, and new dads everywhere need to hear:
- Marry an amazing woman. This makes being a great dad much easier.
- Sleep with your running shoes on. I did this for the first few weeks of Zeke’s life. He would start to wake up, and at the first precious little, “Oink,” I’d spring up, grab him, re-swaddle him, and head outside. We would walk for an hour in the 2am quiet, with him staring at the streetlights in wonder, and me staring at him in wonder. (And trying not to trip.)
- Use cloth diapers. This will enable you to endure long stretches of caring for your child, cleaning the house, and giving your wife back massages, as you won’t have to leave to use the bathroom.
- Put cloth diapers on your kid, too. Feel free to use disposables at first, as newborns poop an average of 75 times/day. But once that’s down to under 30 times/day, you should use cloth, because over the next three years, you’ll save a few thousand dollars. If you invest in that immediately, by the time you retire, it’ll be worth a few thousand and fifteen dollars. (The economy isn’t what it used to be.) Alternatively, if your kid ends up needing diapers for more than three years (let’s say…30), you could come out way ahead. So buy them big.
- Get used to crying. The first year of parenting is full of tears. You just have to figure out what’s needed. Food? Sleep? A little snuggling with Mama? Find those needs and meet them. And you’re not the only one who will be crying—your kid will want some of the same things. But at the end of the day, if the your baby is clean, not too warm or cold, fed, and not dangling off of the balcony of a hotel in a large city, I’m sure they’re fine. For what it’s worth, we used a philosophy (a book?) called Baby-wise. Chrissy read it. You should get it for your wife. You teach your kid to sleep, and you don’t have to care if they’re crying. Win!
- Encourage breastfeeding. While it may seem a bit awkward, it’s apparently something that happens in nature all the time. All kinds of mammals breastfeed: cows, pigs, squirrels, iguanas, ducks, Subarus, rhinos (wait, are rhinos mammals?). Check out the new BBC documentary, Breasts and Udders of the World if you don’t believe me. It’s good for your kid, and your wife needs encouragement to try but grace if it just doesn’t work.
- Take as much time off as you can. Talk to your boss about how much you admire Europeans. Get her to agree that she loves Europeans, too. Then explain that you’ll be taking six-months paid leave after your kid arrives.
- Learn to do new stuff like cook. Garlic scapes sautéed with almond butter you milled yourself? Grape leaves around lamb bruschetta? Ladyfingers soaked in scotch, lit on fire, and drizzled with organic wasp honey? Your wife will love you. It might also be appropriate to clean, shop, and change diapers.
- Cut out as many activities as you can. You have one activity now: surviving. That’s why you need all this time off of work. You can get out of anything when you have a newborn. “I’d love to come over and re-caulk your deck, Brian, but you know, with the baby and all…”
- Choose one thing for each of you that will keep you sane. It could be paintball, cross-stitch, a daily coffee, or huffing glue. Just pick one and help each other stick to it.
- FREE BONUS TIP! AVAILABLE ONLY TO PEOPLE WHO MADE IT ALL THE WAY TO THE END OF THE POST! Don’t ever give your child a pacifier. The last thing we need in this country is more passive kids. Last week, we celebrated our nation’s independence. But we are falling behind. We need to do something. Give your baby an “aggravator” or something. Maybe set them up in front of World of Warcraft. We need our babies to rise up together!
What advice would you give to new dads?