There’s a lot of this stuff floating around the Interwebs these days, and quite a bit of it is didactic, feel-good drivel.
None of it helps resolve the real problems. Like how to quell a toddler tantrum, the stoic refusal of meals, dog/baby coexistence, or how to properly respond when your kid swings into a wall.
And what I’m endeavoring to accomplish with this post is not to help you navigate those moments (you’re on your own there, big guy), but to instead share a few things I’ve learned that have helped make things better. High-altitude, gestalt Dad tricks.
So here we go:
If there’s one thing you take away from this, it should be to remember to stretch. Every. Single. Day.
Now conventional list-making strategy suggests that you put the most important thing at the end. But I don’t want you to miss this if, for whatever reason, you have to stop reading.
Seriously. It’s that important.
Stretch. Every day. Not playing.
You’re going to be bending over to lift your kid out of a crib, off the floor, out of a car seat, etc, and there’s no way to perform that whole “always lift from the legs” safety maneuver.
No, it’s a 90° bend at the waist kind of poor form; one that coquettishly whispers, “you don’t have to do this, you know…” to your back muscles every time.
And now, once you’ve got the kid airborne, you now have to carry them around while trying to accomplish all the other things that you need to do.
Like picking out a Christmas tree, for example.
This inevitably requires a lot of twisting, balancing, and weight correction while your toddler squirms in your arms like a 20 lb. epileptic honey badger. All things that dare your spinal muscles to depart on a non-stop flight to ‘Effthis-istan.
And this says nothing about the time spent sitting, lying, and/or crawling around on the floor, all of which can wreak havoc on unprepared muscles.
“C’mon Daddy! No time to rest! We need to crawl in circles for an hour.”
So yeah, stretch. I take an extra couple minutes after I’m done showering to do arm reaches (both up and down) and then a few gentle twists at the waist. Takes no time at all.
Look, I know. We’re all busy people. Most of the time it feels like we’re Kenyan sprinting through the survival savannah. But you need to take a few minutes to be there when your child goes to bed, or when they get up in the morning. One or the other. (Obviously both is better, but not many of us are that lucky.) Just pick one, and make it a point to rarely, if ever, miss it.
Because the memories of laying your languid, sleeping child down into their bed for the night, or seeing them smile blissfully up at you from the crib in the morning, or catching a few quick snuggles before you both start your days…
These are incredible moments that happen every day, and they’ll carry you through any rough patches that lie ahead.
Also, for dads of kids that are still being breastfed, this a great time to feel less like a walking pressure escape valve, and more like you’re actually a part of your newborn’s daily routine.
It doesn’t make you a bad father to need some time to yourself. Even Superman had a Fortress of Solitude where he could take a quick break from attending to humanity’s piteous cries for help.
“Oh, this one? This is my Xbox crystal.”
The key to this is to MAKE SURE you tell your partner what it is that you’re doing. Something as simple as, “I really just need a few minutes here…” works to let your spouse know that you’ve hit the proverbial wall. Or, if you’re like me, you can fully embrace hyperbole and say things like “If I sit through one more minute of “Squeak,” I’m going to commit a d-Con hate crime.”
Both have the same effect.
Obviously there’s lots more dadvice I could dispense. But most of it is pretty specific and, let’s be honest here, I’ve only been doing this for 15 months. I’m still a rank novice.
But these are a few things that have worked pretty well for me, and so I thought I’d pass them along.