A New Dad’s Guide to the First Few Days

Our house is filled with books on baby development. But other than a picture book for dads that my friend Greg bought me, there’s not much literature on how new dads develop.

Is that because the scientific research on new dads is limited, or because nobody cares? The answer is probably both, because the new dad is low man on the metaphorical totem pole.

That’s what makes us so important. Just like low men on real-life totem poles, new dads need to hold the whole thing up so the world can take pictures of the top of the totem pole, where the magical things are happening.

Fellow noobs, let’s face it. There’s nothing magical about walking the dog or taking the trash out. Even when you drop the bag directly into the can from your second-story deck and pretend it’s no big deal, like it’s something you see every day, most people wouldn’t consider it “magical.”

Where am I going with this? I thought it was pretty clear, Greg. Listen, you don’t have to read this if you don’t want to.

As a dad of a 3-week old, I hereby draw on my vast parenting experience to impart the 3 rules of being a brand new dad.

Rule #1: do stuff

A useful resource without too many words

As a new dad, you are at worst the 3rd-most tired person in your family. And you have new dad strength, which you’ll first notice in your forearms.

Your job as the most untired and forearmed person in the house is to do stuff and to get things done. So go do some dishes or throw the ball at with the dog. Change a diaper. Make sure the DVR is jam-packed with shows that new mom can watch with new baby.

Just keep doing stuff. All day long.

I’m gonna go sit down for awhile.

Rule #2: make sure your hands are clean

There are two essential aspects to this rule. Number one, fill your house with several of those hand-cleaning dispensers that don’t require a rinse. Don’t worry: this part will be done for you. The second part, and this is important, is to communicate that your hands are clean before, during, and after touching the new baby.

Bookending conversations with a subtle reminder tends to do the trick. For example, “I think Tom and Caitlin are swinging by a little later. My hands are clean.”

Or, “My hands are clean. I recorded Bachelor Pad.”

From time to time, someone else will start a conversation. Even if they’re not personally invested in the baby’s welfare, I recommend playing it safe:

“Nice day today.”

“Yeah, clean-hands weather!”

Rule #3: learn non-crying tricks

The first few days are a mixture of joy and a lot of crying. It’s typically the baby who’s crying, but I guess in some cases it could be you, the dad. Don’t worry, lots of people cry. Mostly babies though.

If you find your tear ducts are acting out of sorts, there are two things you can try:

  • Stop watching The Notebook your whole life
  • Even when you’re not watching it, don’t even think about The Notebook (like when you’re cleaning your hands and your mind starts to wander)

If you realize you’re not the one crying, congratulations. You’re a pillar of emotional stability, as symbolized by your new dad forearms. Just remember that nobody’s too concerned about you — much like the head nurse wasn’t concerned when the guy in the nursing home broke through security to read his wife her own autobiography in The Notebook, which has a 52% score on Rotten Tomatoes by the way.

F- seems harsh

If you find that it’s your baby who’s crying, good. That’s far more appropriate given the circumstances, and after 3 weeks of fatherhood I consider myself a bit of an expert in this department.

Here are tried-and-true ways to calm a baby who’s crying starts making people wonder:

  • Try moving the baby to the other arm
  • Change his diaper
  • Rock or something
  • Uh…keep rocking
  • Maybe the other arm was better?
  • Nothing yet?
  • I am at a loss
  • Change chairs maybe
  • Try the swing
  • No the other swing
  • Walk in a circle without making the dog think he’s going outside (good luck!)
  • Ask nicely
  • Change his diaper again
  • Beg
  • See where mom went
  • Make a face that says “classic baby hijinx”
  • Gently shake in your seat
  • But don’t shake like that, it’s too much
  • What do you want from me, man?
  • Count backwards from 1,000
  • Sing a song about clean hands

Eventually something works. And there’s no greater victory or feeling of satisfaction than soothing a sad little guy. Ta-da!

You have successfully troubleshooted Level I of my crying. You are ready for Level II.

If you found this guide helpful, well…I would be incredibly surprised.

Stay tuned for more insight as the adventure continues.

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