Entries from blogs tagged with “fatherhood”
This, sadly, will be my last Daddy Rules column. Ironically, my writing a farewell column at this time has a lot to do with the fact that I am a new parent.
Right around the time I got the job at the Journal-World, in early 2013, I found out my fiancee, Jessica, and I were expecting our first child (we had just gotten engaged a couple months prior; we met in the Chicago area, where we're both from.)
So in March 2013, we moved from northern Iowa, where I had been working another newspaper job, to Lawrence, a place I'd first visited during my job interview a few weeks earlier. It would be quite a few major life changes happening to us in the course of a few months, but the opportunity at the Journal-World was too good to pass up.
Lily was born Oct. 16, 2013, at Lawrence Memorial Hospital. Having had my first child there and interacted with staff in my capacity as a health reporter, I can honestly tell you that LMH is a gem. It's a community hospital that thinks bigger than most hospitals its size but cares for patients with a warmth and friendliness that lets you know its goal, above all, is to serve the community.
That said, it was difficult to have our first baby so far away from family. Sure, our loved ones made the eight-hour drive to visit us often, but they weren't around when we could have used a hand around the house or a free babysitter so we could have a night out on the town. So I when I got the chance to be a health reporter at a newspaper (The Times of Northwest Indiana) that is about 30 miles from our respective hometowns, I went for it.
If I had to start from scratch and find a place to raise a family, though, I'd have a hard time not choosing Lawrence. The community has a great education system, from preschool through college. People here put a strong focus on health and wellness. It's an aesthetically beautiful place. Great restaurants and culture, too. (Now I'm getting sad for leaving!)
But at this point in my life, it's going to be a lot easier to be closer to grandmas and grandpas. Not only will Jessica and I have free babysitting and the chance to have date nights again, but we won't have to make that eight-hour drive with a small child every couple months for family get-togethers and holidays. Those road trips drained my energy for days after.
Dan Coleman, who is part of Dads of Douglas County and a librarian at the Lawrence Public Library, has been submitting a monthly column about fatherhood, and he plans to continue doing so. I encourage other local fathers to follow his lead (ahem, other members of Dads of Douglas County). It's the age of the modern dad, who is more active in his child's life than the fathers of yore, so we are definitely in the spotlight these days.
Personally, I hope to keep daddy blogging in the future. I'm not sure what the venue will be, but as Coleman told me: "We can't let mommy bloggers get all the glory!" Even though Larryville Mom does a great job and regularly kicks my butt in page views, dads need a voice on the Internet too.
As for Lily, she turned 1 last week and is cuter than ever. Her front teeth are coming in, she walks with the help of walls and furniture, and is at least saying the words "Mom" and "Dad" (and "Tia," for our dog).
The three of us will always have a connection to Lawrence because of Lily's birth here, so we'll never forget it (we'll be back to visit, at the very least). To the community that helped us raise Lily this past year, we say, Thanks!
Fatherhood has never been easy. But with all the societal pressures of today, is it more difficult now than it's ever been?
Carrie Wendel-Hummell, a doctoral candidate at Kansas University, sheds some light on this question with her recent research study into the effects cultural stressors have on new parents' mental health.
Contrary to popular belief, fathers are not immune to postpartum depression. While their mood disorders may not be caused by hormonal changes, like in some mothers, men can still be impacted by the pressures of modern parenting. That's particularly true if they have a previous history of mental illness, inadequate social support, marital distress or low socioeconomic status. About 10 percent of new fathers are at risk of developing depression after the birth of a child, about three times the risk for men in general.
One risk factor that separates men from women is employment status, Wendel-Hummell says, as fathers often feel more pressure to be breadwinners. Throw in the fact that men in 2014 are less likely to be able to be the sole earner and expected to play more of a parenting role at home, and you have a recipe for stress.
In her study, Wendel-Hummell interviewed 17 new fathers with signs of mood disorders, and compared their stories to a sample of new mothers. The dads tried to work hard to further their careers while, at the same time, building a relationship with their children at the end of the day, even though they were exhausted from their jobs. They rarely took more than a week or two of paternity leave, while some got mixed messages from their employers about whether they were allowed any time off at all (many employers are required to give new mothers — and fathers — up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave).
Wendel-Hummell's research didn't surprise me. After Lily's birth in October, I took three days off of work, mostly because I couldn't afford to do otherwise. Those first few weeks back on the job were tough, because I wanted to be at home bonding with my new baby and helping my fiancee. We also lived 500 miles from our families in the Chicago area, so social isolation was another stressor. I, at least, got to return to work and interact with other adults.
Wendel-Hummell also found that fathers can suffer from the relationship changes that parenthood often brings. Both parents are generally overwhelmed after the birth of a child, though men's natural inclination to stoicism can cause them added problems.
"Often their spouse is the No. 1 person to rely on for emotional support," the researcher said. "When the relationship becomes strained, that may mean there's no one left for the husband to talk to about his stressors." One father told her: "Mom takes care of the bay, I take care of mom, and who's taking care of me? No one."
Dads in the study also largely felt a need to be more involved parents than, say, their fathers were, but said the societal supports just weren't there. They would talk of going to appointments at the pediatrician and feeling ignored; of reading parenting books that only had one chapter dedicated to fathers; of not feeling like their employers empathized with their wanting to have a good work-life balance.
While all this might seem a little depressing, there are reasons people keep having babies (other than to repopulate the planet, of course).
As I can attest from being the proud father of a nearly 1-year-old daughter, I never before realized how deep my love for another person could go. Like when I walk into a room full of strangers and Lily shyly puts her head on my shoulder. Or when I come home from work and she greets me with the biggest, most authentic smile imaginable. Or when she doesn't want to go to bed but instantly falls asleep after I snuggle up next to her.
"Parents say, 'I knew it was going to be a lot of work, but I didn't know how much work.' They also said, 'I knew I would love my child, but I had no idea how much I would love them,'" Wendel-Hummel said. "They had no idea how much capacity for love they had and their children would give them."
She says parenting nowadays can be summed up in the title of a new book by author Jennifer Senior: "All Joy and No Fun." Perfect.
In the cold light of day, I can get away with calling it a penchant for planning, or on rare occasions when things go right for my fantasy football team, prognostication. But if we call it what it really is—worrying—I don’t have to be modest. I’m a prodigy, and for me having kids was like turning a young Ray Charles loose in the Steinway showroom.
The all night jam sessions began when my son arrived. I found inspiration everywhere I looked. The SIDS brochure doubled my heart rate before I even left the hospital, and my incorrect installation of our car seat, which I hadn’t even worried about at all, kept the up-tempo groove going. Okay, I admit, I got the car seat checked out by professionals, as recommended, so I must have been a little worried. To their credit, they never let on that the way I had it rigged, my son would have had a better chance strapped into a barrel going over Niagara Falls. I milked a noodling, self-indulgent solo out of it anyway, with a skill new to my repertoire since becoming a parent: the retroactive worry, about something that could have happened, but didn’t.
As it turned out, both of our babies arrived home safely in their car seats after being born, and for that matter, every other time I’ve ever driven them around. But once home, young kids in the house afford so many more great opportunities to worry.
Here we lie, my daughter and I, a room away from one another in the dark, all quiet. Regretting all the coffee I drank this afternoon, I toss, turn, and wonder: Has she wedged a body part dangerously in some overlooked nook of her crib? Are her teeth growing too fast, or rotting away in there? Does her crib have bed bugs? Scorpions? Poisonous snakes? Why stop in the crib, or even this year? She had such a blast jumping off the porch this afternoon, but am I pushing her toward a career as a skydiving instructor? And if she has inherited the entrepreneurial spirit of her grandpa, what then? A zipline business over a piranha-infested bend in the Amazon?
And my son across the hall in his room: I just heard him cough. Does he have a runaway fever? Is there an anvil, safe, bowling ball, or meteorite plummeting toward our flimsy roof right above his bed at this very moment? He seems to be manifesting my family’s famous art gene of late, but won’t it lead to severed ears, poverty, and paint splattered canvases or sculptures made out of melted Barbies I will have to appreciate? Perhaps he will show the math, chemistry, and engineering bent I see on his mom’s side. I can see him making a lucrative career and stable life of that, until he falls into a vat of toxic chemicals and emerges with bleached skin, green hair, and an unquenchable hatred for Batman.
Worse yet, nothing goes wrong, and my kids bear the crushing ennui of having had such boring childhoods. I check the alarm clock again. How can it not even be midnight yet? They are too quiet in there. Of all the many parenting paradoxes, this is the cruelest: On rare nights when everything goes right with your kids, their very silence could mean danger.
One such ominously peaceful night revealed a new strategy, however. It struck me like the bolt of lightning I thought would hit the stroller earlier that day when we were caught out walking in a sudden thunderstorm. It was impossible to stop worrying, but some worst case scenarios were just good clean fun to ponder.
Diaper spook lights, for instance. Somewhere I had read that the top secret, super-absorbent chemical mojo used in disposable diapers can on rare occasions create a harmless, but spectacular luminescence in a darkened room, a la the legendary Wint-O-Green Lifesaver sparks. I had never seen it, nor did I hope to, but imagining a baby bottom aurora borealis was really quite amusing.
And how about the eerie specter of carrot babies I visited upon myself on another recent long dark night of the soul? Egged on by visions of an orange-tinted iguana I had seen in a pet store, I became convinced my relentless pushing of carrots and sweet potatoes at dinnertime had led to the unintended consequence of permanently orange children. As it turned out, judging skin tone by the light of a cell phone above my daughter’s crib was almost as fun as it was impossible, especially when she woke up and laughed. After all, this is Big 12 country, where Oklahoma State and the University of Texas (depending on the final, exact shade of orange) would surely welcome, if not financially assist, prospective students thus altered through no fault of their own.
Librarian to the core, I thoroughly researched both scenarios in hopes of stoking my angst with frightening facts. Too many carrots can cause a baby’s skin tone to change slightly, but not permanently, and reports of diaper spook lights exist, although they look to me more like the stuff of urban legend. But here was a healthier way to pursue my favorite hobby. If I was going to worry so much, I might as well have some fun with it, and I recommend the same for all parents. Find things to worry about that make you laugh instead of cry. For the group nearest and dearest to my heart—expectant dads out there—here’s one of my favorites to get you started: I bet you didn’t know your baby could be born with more back hair than you. Okay, sorry, here’s a tissue. Sometimes you do cry a little before the laughing starts. But look it up. After all her back hair falls out she’ll be so healthy and beautiful the sky will be the limit on your worries.
Dan Coleman is the secretary for the board of Dads of Douglas County and a children's librarian at the Lawrence Public Library.
Show me a picky eater and I'll show you someone whose parents were picky eaters.
One thing I've tried avoid during the first 11 months of my daughter's life has been making healthy foods seem weird or like a punishment of some kind. I believe parents who say things like, "Eat your vegetables or you won't get any dessert" will raise kids who grow up to like dessert more than vegetables.
My daughter loves spinach because, for one, it's delicious but also because I don't make a big deal out of feeding it to her. I don't cringe while waiting to see whether she likes it or not. I don't hold a cookie in the other hand as her "reward" for her finishing the leafy, green veggie.
Lily also loves sweet potatoes, bananas, squash, peas, apples, carrots. As do I. The difference is, it took me maturing into an adult before I started appreciating many of those things. She already has a head start.
We are all heavily influenced by our parents, from our work ethics to our religious beliefs to our politics. Our diets are no different. For instance, a relative of mine has been a finicky eater since childhood. He would much rather eat frozen chicken nuggets than any kind of fruit, vegetable or even bread. I always found it a little weird, until I learned his dad doesn't eat fruit or vegetables. Like father, like son.
To me, this all seems like common sense, but research has also borne out that what children eat in their infancy influences their diets for years to come. Eleven studies published recently in the journal Pediatrics and conducted by such agencies as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration suggest that parents should introduce children to fruits and vegetables at around 10-12 months of age to start them on a pattern of healthy eating.
One of the studies found that while infants may squint or wrinkle their noses after the first spoonful of a new vegetable, they are generally more than willing to try another bite.
Another study determined that infants who are given sugar-sweetened beverages late in infancy are twice as likely to be obese by age 6.
The research also showed that — shocker! — children were more willing to try fruits and vegetables if they saw their parents eating them.
To go on another tangent: When I see someone feeding a small child greasy fast food and soda these days, it almost seems like child abuse, with all we now know about the dangers (and causes) of obesity and diabetes. I don't think we should even call children obese; that makes it sound like they bear some blame. Instead we should refer to them as "kids of irresponsible parents."
Just like you shouldn't burden your children with your neuroses about life, you shouldn't pass on your fussy eating habits to them. Your baby is a clean slate, with no preconceived opinions about green beans or broccoli or beets. Don't cloud them with your own biases against healthy food.
And just like you shouldn't treat homework or reading as a punishment, with television and video games the reward, you shouldn't have chocolate cake be your child's prize for finishing his cauliflower. To revise an old idiom: Don't use a carrot as the stick.
My 10-month-old daughter just will not keep her sunglasses on.
That's not surprising — given that she's 10 months old — but all the same I'd really like to protect her vision when we go for walks on hot summer days and the sun is beating down on us.
Since I'm worried about this, I figured there are probably a few other things I should know about protecting my daughter's sight. So I reached out to Dr. N. Marie Koederitz, who recently opened a practice in Lawrence specializing in kids' vision health, called Sunflower Pediatric Eye Care & Strabismus, or SPECS.
Here are a few tips she gave me:
Get your kid's eyes checked at least once if your family has a history of vision issues, such as eyes crossing or poor vision on one side. The complete exam should be performed when the child is a year old.
If you notice your child's eyes crossing or drifting, this could be a sign of strabismus, or misalignment of the eyes. "Some kids just need glasses and that straightens their eyes, and some need other services or treatments," Koederitz said.
Get a photo screening of your kiddo's eyes once a year through a pediatrician or preschool screening program. "At least until they're old enough to do a visual acuity test and identity pictures, letters and numbers," she said. "That way you can catch eye conditions early and treat them early, and prevent blindness or vision issues when they're older."
If you see your little one squinting when trying to look at a faraway object, he may be nearsighted and need glasses.
Encourage your youngster to play outside and get away from TV and computer screens. "There are some studies which show that kids who have more outside play time have less risk of needing glasses. They may be less nearsighted later on," she said.
If your infant has chronic tearing or a recurring eye infection, it may be the result of a clogged tear duct.
Protect your kid's eyes from the sun. "This limits UV light exposure, which may, as they grow older, contribute to cataracts and macular degeneration," Koederitz noted.
Feed your child lots of fruits and vegetables, which are good for vision health.
Make sure your little one wears eye protection while playing sports. "I think every kid should be wearing protective eyewear, but I know as a mom it's hard to make them do it," she said. "For my three boys, baseball is the only sport I can get them to wear eyewear consistently."
As for my baby and her disdain for those cute, pink sunglasses her mother and I bought her, the doctor said to be persistent. "I think a lot of it is just consistency: to try every time they go out," she asserted. Or Koederitz recommended some alternative sun-protection devices, like Baby Banz sunglasses that wrap around infants' heads, stroller covers, or hats (which my daughter also seems to have trouble keeping on). I've since started walking Lily in her other, cheaper stroller — an umbrella model — that has an adjustable canopy I can put in front of her eyes when she's facing the sun.
If you have concerns about your child's eye health, contact SPECS, 346 Maine St., Suite 400, at 856-7732.
Parents, how many times has this happened to you?
Your child is doing something adorable — laughing hysterically, fully in the moment — when, instead of savoring this completely organic occasion, you … search for your cellphone.
You feel your pocket, look on your coffee table, before seeing the boxy, plastic shell-covered device sitting on the kitchen counter. You get up, grab the phone, pull up your camera app, swipe over to video mode, hit record … aaaand your kid is no longer doing what she was doing to make you frantically hunt for your phone in the place. Ugh.
Welcome to the age of the smartphone! Isn't it grand?
Smartphones are the ultimate gift/curse. They're a gift because they give you the convenience of having one device for tasks (accessing the Internet, GPS navigation, photography, video recording) that used to require many. Knowing you're always plugged in is the curse.
You might be lounging on a beach in the Caribbean, sipping an umbrella-shaded drink, but as long as you have your phone you'll be tempted to check your work emails or take a selfie or post about what a great time you're having on Facebook.
Now this digitally induced mania has infected our parenting.
I love that I can share important moments from my daughter's infancy with friends and family members who live hundreds of miles away. But at what cost? Whenever Lily does something cute, my first thought is always: Where's the phone? The pressure you feel to capture even the most benign moments can be overwhelming. Sometimes I feel like the digital age is making us insane.
Is all this technology a good or bad thing? I'd rather it exist than not, but I think we have to find the proper balance. The solution might just be to unplug when you're spending quality time with your child, to live in the moment rather than worrying about whether others will be able to see it later.
Still, you keep your phone nearby, on the off chance you're going to get that "perfect" scene on video, that you'll capture a memory you can cherish for a lifetime.
Here's what usually ends up happening: You get a 20-second video of your kid looking at you like, Why are you pointing that thing at me? The moment is over. And not only did you not get it on video but, fumbling around for your iPhone, you missed it as it happened.
Sure, you hold out hope that one day you'll get the cutest video ever, post it on social media, your friends will share it with their friends and then … And then what? Your baby becomes a viral sensation? Is that really worth all the aggravation?
It might be easier to just have a video camera constantly filming your living room, so you never lose those oh-so-cute moments. (For those who haven't read it, I highly recommend Dave Eggers' 2013 book "The Circle," which centers around a giant tech company that takes to placing tiny video cameras all around the world so no one ever misses a moment of anything. Spoiler alert: It doesn't end well.)
I recently realized my daughter will never grow up in a world where you can't film video of yourself and instantly publish it to the world. It makes me wonder what new technologies will be around if and when she becomes a parent.
"Dad," I imagine her telling me, "it's so hard to get privacy these days when my friends are always logging into my smart contact lenses to check out what the new baby is up to you. Back when I was a kid, you actually had to post the stuff to Facebook or Instagram for people to see it. Isn't anything sacred anymore?"
What makes a great park?
As new father, I'd say it's a place with enough activities to keep your kid busy that also has something to entertain the adults.
Lawrence's Deerfield Park is that and more.
With a daughter who's almost a year old, and a need for her mother and me to get more physical activity, we recently started looking for a park that was walking distance from our apartment.
We found a couple that were so-so before coming across Deerfield, which is located off Princeton Boulevard next to the elementary school of the same name. This place is like four parks within one. It has a skate park, basketball courts, multiple playgrounds, exercise equipment and baseball fields, and is a great spot to bring dogs, as well. I can't say this is the best park in Lawrence, since I haven't been to all of them, but this place is perfect for families.
Not only is it walking distance from where I live, but it has basketball courts and exercise equipment, so I can get in some exercise between sessions of pushing my daughter on the swings (about all she's able to do at this point). Because, as new parents know, it's easy to neglect your own health and wellbeing while taking care of a baby.
Another thing that really impressed me about the park was the Born Learning Trail, which features 10 interactive learning stations that encourage parents to read, talk and listen to their kids. The signs, which are courtesy of United Way of Douglas County and the Douglas County Community Foundation, give moms and dads a reminder of the importance of helping their children learn.
Kids' brains are like sponges that soak up information from birth. Parents can prepare them for their futures by interacting with them at a young age. Here's an example of one of the signs: It says, "Watch what your child likes to do. Do the things your child likes to do. Is your child starting or pointing at something? Ask, 'What do you see?'"
So if you have kids and live in west Lawrence, I highly recommend Deerfield Park. Your child will have plenty of opportunities for fun and learning, and you even can burn a few calories shooting hoops or riding the exercise equipment in the process. Check it out.
You hear a lot of advice as a new parent. To keep your sanity, you willfully forget most of it. It's the recommendations you hear over and over again that tend to make it through the clutter.
And if there's one that's been pounded into my head in my first nine months of parenthood, it's this: READ TO YOUR KID!
Just last month, the American Academy of Pediatrics announced that doctors will now tell parents to read aloud to their children from birth. That's because critical brain development occurs in the first three years of life; the more words a child hears during that time the better prepared they are for school and to communicate as adolescents, studies have found.
When a baby is a few months old, though, it might seem like a waste of time to read to her. She might not even be looking at the book. But her brain is absorbing everything around her.
Case in point: My baby's first (intentional) word was "Tia."
Why was that? Well, my daughter probably hears her mother and me say Tia, the name of our 4-year-old yorkie-bichon mix, more than just about any other word. "Come here, Tia." "Good girl, Tia." "Drop it, Tia." "Bad Tia!"
Even before Lily spoke Tia's name, she realized who she was. Whenever we would call the dog, Lily would look around the room for her until she found her. It was adorable.
Lily is also, for whatever reason, infatuated with Tia. I've never heard Lily laugh as hard as she does when Tia runs around in circles and growls. And while Tia was wary of the baby at first, probably feeling like she'd been replaced, she now reciprocates her love with licks to the face.
The other morning, the baby, dog and I got up and went down to the living room. Tia sat on one couch, I plopped on the other and Lily started crawling around on the floor. She then stood herself up by holding onto the couch where the dog was sitting.
"Is that Tia?" I said.
"T-ya," Lily responded, trying to figure out how to stretch one syllable into two.
And don't just read to your baby. Talk to her. Another piece of advice that made it through the noise early in my daughter's life was that you should have conversations with your infant, using baby talk. So when Lily would say, "Goo goo," I would say, "Ga ga." Experts says this teaches newborns the rhythms of a real conversation.
Babies are curious creatures. They yearn to learn. Lily's latest thing is pointing at everything in sight and having us tell her what each item is. (This is also adorable.)
When it comes to reading, my daughter's favorite book is one older than her grandparents. For all the new kids books being released nowadays, it's hard to beat the classics: "Goodnight Moon," "The Very Hungry Caterpillar," "Mother Goose." "Pat the Bunny," released in 1940, is no different.
The interactive children's tome written by the late Dorothy Kundhardt features eight different activities. My kiddo particularly loves patting the furry bunny, smelling the flowers and looking at herself in the little mirror. Not only is she hearing words but associating them with the accompanying activities.
I've tried other interactive books, but none have captivated her attention quite like "Pat the Bunny." So we've since bought "Pat the Puppy," "Pat the Cat" and "Pat the Zoo." You've got to stick with what works.
And be patient. While it might not seem like your infant is getting anything out of your reading to her at first, stick with it. Their brains are like sponges at that age, ready and willing to soak in whatever they hear. Make that time count.
Since this week's WellCommons has a "mature living" theme, I thought I would focus this week's column on two of the more mature people I know: my parents.
To be honest, I can't remember the last time they were this thrilled with me. And I know it has everything with do with my beautiful, 9-month-old daughter.
My mom and dad officially became grandparents with the birth of Lily last October. They were never the types to bug me about having kids, but when I told them one was on the way they got just as emotional as I did.
Even though they live more than 500 miles away, they came to Lawrence to help me set up the baby furniture and were out here shortly after she entered the world.
Their patience for my relative immaturity now seems endless. They no longer complain about making an nine-hour drive to see me. They no longer yell at me when I ask for money. All thanks to my baby.
"It's fun to buy her stuff, watch her grow up and not have to get up with her at night and when she's sick," said my mother, Vicki, a 62-year-old nurse who lives near Chicago, delighted that the karma from all the sleepless nights I caused her is finally catching up to me. "It's fun to see how she looks like you sometimes. I see a lot of you in her: her expressions and stuff."
My mother said she wishes Lily lived closer, but at least we're in the age of the smartphone. And, boy, does my mom take advantage of that FaceTime! Also, whenever I come home to find Amazon boxes on my front stoop, I know it's grandma showering grandbaby with love from afar. "It's fun to spoil your grandchildren!" she said. (Let's slow down on the plural form there, ma.)
My father, James, said it took a while for it to register that he actually was a grandfather. Now he can't imagine not being one.
"Before there was just you and your sister, Emma, and now there's Lily, too!" said my dad, 66, a retired truck driver and junior college professor. "Someday, Lily will have children" — we should slow down here, as well — "and her children will have children, and the cycle will go on. In the beginning, I didn't see that, I didn't feel that. Now I'm starting to get a bigger picture of what life is all about."
One thing I've learned from this experience is that making your mom and dad grandparents will blind them (temporarily, at least) to your own faults.
"I kind of forgot I had children," my mom said. "I only think about Lily."
Babies grow fast.
That point seems pretty apparent, but when you're around your daughter every day, like I am, it can sometimes be difficult to notice.
"Is she getting bigger?" her mother asked on a recent day. She's around our daughter more than I am, so I forgave her for posing such an obvious question. For me, it seems like every time I go to work my little girl gains a pound.
People tried to explain this growth spurt to me back all those many months back, when my kiddo was just a red-faced, shriveled-up newborn. I had heard that babies triple their birth weight in the first year. But it's hard to comprehend until you actually experience it.
After about the sixth month, things just took off: Eating. Sitting up. Crawling. In fact, my daughter is already twice as big as she was in this photo and happily married (well, not "in fact.")
Accompanying this growth spurt was a burst in the number of activities she could do. One recent morning I awoke to find her awake and standing up in her crib, staring back at me. Another day, she was sitting on the floor in front of me, and when I looked away for a brief moment she was on the other side of the room (Did she just teleport over there?) It's fair to say we no longer have anything on the ground that can be tipped over.
As a new parent, you quickly find out that much of the advice you get from friends and family members is true. Like when they tell you to appreciate the time when your baby can't get around on her own. Well, that time for me has officially ended.
At first, my baby would sit in her crib or car seat and cry if she was hungry or needed her diaper changed. Now, if she needs something, she'll crawl up to me, pull herself up by my pant leg and stand in front of me, yelling, until I meet her demand.
And until you have a baby, you'll never know how fast your reflexes truly are. Say you and your little one are sitting on the couch together: You might divert your attention elsewhere momentarily, but as soon as she gets too close to the edge you will scoop her up with the speed of the world's fastest pickpocket.
So if you're the parent of a newborn, get ready for rapid-fire growth at any moment. If you have already entered that phase, you have officially given up extended periods of sitting. But look at the bright side: At least you're no longer a couch potato. Crawling babies whip you into shape real fast.
In honor of having recently celebrated my first Father's Day as, well, a father, I'm launching my new parenting blog. Because, of course, I'm already an expert in the field. The blog is called Daddy Rules, as I will try to provide rules for fellow dads to live by. Also, because as a dad to an 8-month-old daughter, I realize I no longer rule the roost or make the rules around my house. She does (as does her mother). I will try to be insightful, funny and not too pushy. I'm open to suggestions on topics or people in the community I should interview or even let take over the blog for a day.
Here are a few introductory rules:
1. Come up with your own rules. The problem with writing about parenting is that it is such a subjective (and touchy) topic. There aren't many 100 percent foolproof rules for raising a kid, besides the obvious: nurture them and don't hurt or neglect them. I'd say learn as much you can from reliable sources, and do what works for you. It's a learning process, sure, but don't let anyone tell you his way is the best way. Because it's not. And, yes, it's possible to listen to too much parenting advice. That might be antithetical to a parenting column, but with everything else going on in your life you don't want to overload the senses.
2. Your baby is now your identity. Whatever you were before no longer matters: a doctor, a teacher, a writer. Forget it. Now that you have a baby, the only thing your loved ones care about is … that you have a baby. Walk in a room with your newborn and watch all the eyes go to her. You're lucky if even you get a hug anymore. "Oh, you just solved childhood hunger in the Third World," your aunt says. "Great, now let me see the baby." And don't expect Christmas or birthday presents for you anymore. All the good will you've built up with your family has been transferred to your little one (which is actually a good thing, because it saves you from having to buy so much stuff).
3. Don't expect an award. I would like to quote the great philosopher Aubrey Graham, aka hip-hop star Drake, from his 2014 song "Trophies": "They don't have no award for that." In the song, Drake is rapping about how, because of his success, he now gives back to his family and friends without expecting anything in return. It's also a perfect analogy for parenthood. You might be the best parent on Earth (or at least think you are), but don't expect an award at the end of the year. Also, don't expect your kid to say thank you after you change her poopy diaper in the middle of the night or feed her at 6 in the morning. It can be frustrating. But it's life. You had the kid; now take care of her. An award, or at least the occasional reassurance that your hard work isn't going unnoticed, would be nice. But it ain't happening.
4. Knowing your baby is going to get sick at some point doesn't make it any less heartbreaking when it happens. My daughter got her first cold recently. I knew it would happen at some point, no matter how well her mom and I cordoned her off from the outside world. But when you see an innocent baby, not able to go to sleep because her nose is stuffed up, coughing and sneezing away her pacifier, snot running into her mouth — you die a little inside. And as I also learned recently, your baby is inevitably going to get you sick, as well. Because while I can avoid all the rest of you people, I can't steer clear of my kid just because she's ill. And, unfortunately, she has yet to learn to cover her mouth when she coughs or sneezes and that she’s not supposed to wipe snot on her father.
5. Enjoy. When people ask me if I'm stressed out about being a new parent, I tell them no. For me, the toughest part of having a kid came before the fact: trying to make sure I had — and knew — everything I needed to raise a child. I quickly learned that was impossible. Sure, taking care of a newborn can seem overwhelming at times, but once your baby starts acknowledging you with smiles and laughs, all your worries melt away. Stress is getting up for work on a freezing morning in the middle of winter or figuring out how you're going to pay your bills this month. Holding and snuggling and playing with a cute little baby? Your own cute little baby? That's fun.