As a wildly experienced father of three who is a master of parenting, I felt it was time for me to impart some of my wisdom to all you new daddies out there. Upon the birth of a first child, we all feel a little unprepared (read: completely freaked out of our minds), and it helps to have access to a little friendly advice, even from me, a doofus dad. That’s right: I have not actually figured that much out. But I do know 10 things that you’ll need to know before you embark on fatherhood.
10. You will occasionally touch poop. It’s OK.
It’s inevitable when you’re inexperienced at changing diapers, you will touch poop, maybe even daily. Don’t freak out. Baby poop won’t warp you for life like adult poop will, if you touch it. As excrement goes, it’s as inoffensive as anything on the market. It doesn’t even stink that bad at first. The baby adds in stink molecules at around six months.
9. Your house is no longer yours.
Just get used to the fact now that your carefully arranged, good-smelling, fresh-carpeted home is a thing of the past. It’s now a family house. Within the next two years, the carpet will be permanently stained, every empty space will be filled with plastic baby toys, every electronic device will be mysteriously disabled, and any breakable item not placed higher than three feet off the ground will be broken. I recommend hanging your valuables from the ceiling as if you’re camping in bear country.
8. Get a minivan.
But guess what? To the outside world, neither are you anymore. You’re a dad who needs to haul stuff.
7. Always have plenty of wipes within arm’s reach during diaper changes.
A baby-changing table is like your workbench; always have the proper tools at hand. Remember that just because you’ve thoroughly cleaned your baby’s bum, that doesn’t mean that more poop isn’t on the way immediately. A newborn has an amazing capacity for manufacturing the stuff, and poop can and will appear at a moment’s notice and without warning. Expect the unexpected.
Also, if your baby is a boy, always place a bath cloth or diaper rag over his Johnson during the changing process, unless you’re a fan of pee fountains.
6. Spit-up and vomit are two different things.
Don’t worry about being spit up on. It’s practically no different than someone spilling warm milk on your shirt. Simply peel that one off and grab another one for the baby to spit up on. Purchase your T-shirts at Goodwill and don’t worry about it.
However, when spit-up upgrades to vomit, everything changes. Vomit must be avoided at all costs. If, God forbid, you find yourself alone with a kid who has vomited and you must deal with it, I recommend a bandana or buff over your face, safety glasses, rubber gloves, and a bath towel that can be incinerated immediately after. Don’t look directly at the vomit, either. This can have long-lasting consequences. Look to the side.
5. Get Bugs Bunny DVDs.
When your baby becomes old enough that WWII movies are no longer appropriate to watch in his or her presence, be sure to have some Bugs Bunny available, either on DVD or downloaded. This way, the child can simultaneously learn proper humor and sarcasm and you’re not subjected to “Dinosaur Train” and “Paw Patrol,” which have been known to emasculate human adult men. The kid should be exposed to the finer things.
4. Your wife’s boobs are off-limits.
It’s one of the Good Lord’s greatest practical jokes, the ultimate forbidden fruit. As we all know, the physical process of having a baby affects the size and shape of a woman’s…assets. Being the unscrupulous, shallow cads that all men are, this metamorphosis is always a good thing, almost miraculous.
Until, that is, the new father becomes temporarily insane and puts a move on the sore and ultra-sensitive mother of his recently arrived progeny. This can result in a smackdown that would make Rick Flair proud (and also sad). Retribution can be swift and severe, often resulting in a season-long suspension.
For the love of God, man, direct your attention elsewhere! Those are no longer for you! (Were they ever? Don’t think too hard about that question.)
3. It’s OK to rock your baby to sleep.
Modern baby books will instruct you to place your screaming child in the crib at bedtime and walk away. This supposedly helps the child to develop its sleep schedule and understand that the crib is for snoozing. That’s all well and good, but it removes one of the best Dad moments from the equation.
Here’s what you do: Put on a great collection of children’s music (mine was a CD of orchestral Disney tunes) and sit in your glider/rocker with your child. Grab your mandatory copy of “Oh My, Oh My, Oh Dinosaurs” and read it for the baby, all the way through. (You’ll enjoy it.) Then, turn the lights off and start rocking. Within 10 minutes, your son or daughter will be snoozing on your chest and you will enjoy the very best part of your day. Place the baby in the crib and sneak out. Babies will learn to put themselves to sleep in time, trust me, but only you will have these amazing memories.
(Pro tip: Make sure all noise-making toys are off the floor of the nursery before bedtime. Otherwise, the room becomes a minefield of items ready to start mooing or clucking or barking at the slightest movement, which will undo all your hard bedtime work.)
2. Exercise common sense.
When you have your first baby, you will be inundated with advice, not only from your family and friends, but also from books, Hollywood, and strangers on the street — including me. Some of this advice will be worth keeping and some, complete hogwash. Take it all with a grain of salt. Even though being a good dad is not always easy, if we use good, solid common sense, we should be able to figure things out.
And if your common sense fails you, just focus on not to dropping the baby on its head.
1. Enjoy the baby years.
Having your first child can be exhausting for a dad. (Yes, it obviously is for a mom, too, but this article is about dads.) Sleep deprivation, in particular, can make the initial three-to-six months of your child’s life feel roughly like the length of the Precambrian Period. You will wonder how you’re going to survive it.
But one night, a wonderful thing will happen: you’ll get a full eight hours of sleep. (Ours came the night I forgot to switch on the baby monitor.) You will awake feeling like a million bucks, and the challenges of changing crazy poopy diapers and ignoring your wife’s porn-star boobs will seem minuscule. Being a well-rested human will turn you into SuperDad, and you and your mini-me will start having some serious fun.
Don’t overlook these months, because they go away quickly. Enjoy your baby before he or she learns how to talk (and then won’t shut up), how to operate an Xbox to the exclusion of everything and everyone else, and then grows into a teenager capable of your own destruction.
All poops aside, the baby years are the best.
Longtime humor, fitness, and parenting blogger Mark E. Johnson has written his way through every crazy aspect of fatherhood, from navigating new babies to dealing with sullen teenagers. Follow his exploits at doofusdad.com.