You just got home from the hospital. Hopefully everything went well, and Mommy is home too. If this is your first child, prepare to feel a bit like a third wheel (if it’s not, you already know the drill). Below I list some of the best ways for a father to bond with his child, and hopefully feel less like a third wheel. My hope is for dads to feel more like the critical member of the family they were intended to be.
Ever wonder why one of the first things doctors do immediately after delivering a child is hand them to their mother (well, besides the fact that she has the food, and who wouldn’t be hungry after going through an experience like being born)? It’s because of a phenomenon that occurs when your baby touches their parent’s skin. It’s called “skin-to-skin” contact, and it means so much to your baby. However, dads can get lost in the shuffle during this crucial window. I recommend setting time aside specifically for this every day. You will find that you have skills of your own to bring to the table that your child’s mother doesn’t, or isn’t as good at. For me, it was “gliding”. It was a term we coined for sitting in the glider with our firstborn, TJ, and rocking him to sleep. He wasn’t as good of a sleeper as Rowan is. I spent many nights with him: his little body laid across mine, tummy to tummy, patting his diapered butt with my hand while gliding him to sound sleep. If you had told me that I would actually miss those sleepless nights, I would have scoffed. Little did I know just how right you would have been!
This one can seem silly sometimes, because until your kiddo learns how to talk, it can feel like you’re talking to yourself. However, many studies have shown that a child hearing their parents voices has tons of benefits for them. Your child’s brain is like a dry sponge; ready to soak up any knowledge it’s exposed to.
I felt a little awkward as I was trying to think of what I should say to my son when he and I were alone during the day. I soon realized that it didn’t really matter what I talked about, it just mattered that I was talking. While you’re getting a bottle warmed up for your little one, talk to him or her! Narrate the process, even though they won’t be able to understand what you’re saying. Say things like, “Okay, I am going to go get you a ba!” Or, when you’re changing your child’s diaper, say what you’re doing out loud. I was very animated when I would change my son’s diaper. If he had gone number 2, I would say, “Oh! Poo tanky!” (Poo stinky). To his delight, I would then pretend that I got knocked out by the smell. If he had just peed, I would say, “Oh, phew! It’s just pee!” while wiping my brow in an overly exaggerated expression of relief. Sometime around six to nine months, your child will start babbling and making sounds like, “Goo! Ga! Ba! Da!” To encourage them and the development of their language skills, I recommend that you always mirror their sounds back to them.
Before long, he or she will start making connections between the sounds you make and what you’re doing. TJ’s first word was “Ba!” for his bottle. His first name was “Da Da!” for daddy. I still fondly recall walking in the door from a long day at Starbucks (where I worked at the time), and TJ, for the first time, saying “Da Da!” while crawling excitedly over to me as fast as his little fat legs and arms could carry him. It made me feel ten feet tall.
Hide and seek is a classic and fun way to make your child squeal with laughter. Peek-a-boo is also a go-to for infants. Or you can play, “Where is it?” and hide a favorite toy or stuffed animal and let your kiddo look for it. I used to pretend that I forgot where I put something of his and let TJ look for it for a while sometimes (an easy way to buy yourself some down time during those super-tired days). Another favorite is “Play Cars”, which is TJ’s name for laying on the floor with Da Da and just… playing cars. Play time is when a lot of early childhood development, physical, psychological, and emotional occurs. One thing I’ve learned is that children (at least mine) don’t really care what you’re doing with them, as long as you’re paying full attention to them.
When you’re going to be a stay at home dad and you don’t want to lose your mind, you’re going to have to find a way to make it fun for yourself and your kids. Children are very perceptive, and have an uncanny ability to intuit things that haven’t been explicitly said. If your heart isn’t in it, they will know. When you’re distracted, they will know. When you’re unhappy, they will know. Don’t worry about being the “most fun dad” or the “best dad” or anything like that. After all, you’re without a doubt the most fun dad that your children have, and the best dad they’ve ever had, too!
What are some of the ways that you bond with your child/ren? Leave a comment below. If you found this post and mistermommy.com helpful, please share it with your friends and family using one of the social media buttons below!