5 Silly Mistakes You Shouldn’t Make as a New Dad

5 Silly Mistakes You Shouldn’t Make as a New Dad

 

If being a dad was a corporate job, I probably wouldn’t have made it past my probation period.

In fact, my new boss probably would have sent me packing on the first day, after the diaper-changing fiasco of Jan ‘22.

That being said, mistakes are part of every dad’s journey. In hindsight, some are sillier than others. So as I reflect on my first year as a dad, here are 5 mistakes to avoid if you’re about to board or are already on the rollercoaster that is new fatherhood.

1. Trying to one-up your wife’s bad day

Don’t do it. Just don’t.

Wife: “My arms are dead. I rocked her to sleep for 70 minutes and my dinner is probably cold now.”

My response: “Yeah, my back is dead too. Been sitting down for the last 3 hours and this morning I barely had time for breakfast.”

First off, your bad day as a father is probably not as bad as your wife’s. The mental and physical exhaustion that comes with being the primary caregiver of a newborn is ridiculous.

But even if your day was actually worse, nobody benefits from a game of ‘Who has it worse?’.

Nobody in the history of ever has made someone else feel better by one-upping their pain. Not only are you not validating how they feel, but you’re also dismissing it by bringing attention to your own misfortune.

I’m not saying to bottle up your own feelings. My bad days were bad too. But there’s a time and place to express them.

I’ve learned it’s better to acknowledge and support your partner’s feelings. Be an understanding shoulder for them to lean on. And when the moment passes and you feel it’s a better time, you can then talk about your own struggles and hopefully receive support from them too.

2. Breaking your baby’s focus

You see your kid sitting there silently playing with her toy and as you walk past you say ‘Hello, darling’ (or something else) to get her attention. Or as she’s playing with her little toy car, you show her a cool fidget spinner to see if she likes that.

Sounds normal. But as I later learned, breaking your child’s focus can actually be harmful.

In her book on respectful parenting, Janet Lansbury talks about how at the newborn stage and through the toddler years, your child’s brain is constantly trying to make connections. Every small detail they observe is fascinating and they take the time to study even the most mundane objects.

As they slowly process what they see and feel, it’s not helpful to break that concentration before the connection has been processed. The more you distract your child from something they are doing, the more it can actually lead to them finding it difficult to focus as they get older.

It’s not an obvious mistake but after learning this, I started to catch myself each time I did something to break her focus.

I was so used to doing things whenever I wanted. I’d direct her play to what I wanted her to do.

But now I let her guide her own playtime. I let her finish whatever she is doing and only when she is done and available for new input, do I say or do my new thing.

3. Treating your child as ignorant

It’s tempting to googoo gaga babies and repeat whatever noises they make.

But even at 0 months old, kids are actually very intelligent and have the potential to pick up on stuff much earlier than you think.

Making silly noises isn’t necessarily harmful but does absolutely nothing for the child. It’s like barking back at a dog because you think it’s funny. But every time you talk in a baby voice or mutter nonsense, in a way you’re depriving them of a learning opportunity and looking silly in the process.

Kids absorb life like a sponge and understand many of the interactions adults have and the nuances of everyday activities.

One of my biggest learnings as a new dad has been to not underestimate the potential of my daughter. She gets stuff a lot quicker than I think she will, often without me even trying to teach them to her.

So instead of waiting till she’s older in order to treat her like an ‘adult’ instead of a sack of potatoes, I assume she’s able to understand most things and go about my day without constantly trying to dumb things down.

Trust your child’s ability and capacity to learn and you’ll be surprised how fast they develop.

4. Taking the easy way out

“Dude, if you’re having trouble changing her diaper because she keeps moving, just put on some Cocomelon on the iPad and she’ll stop wriggling around. That’s what I do with my son. Works like a charm.”

Being a parent is a constant battle between doing what’s best for your child and taking the easy way out.

From screentime to candy to discipline, kids test limits, and doing what’s right for them takes a lot of willpower and conscious effort.

My daughter fussed around a lot in her stroll during the early stages. She’d cry and wouldn’t sit still. So for our convenience, we always took her out and carried her to stop her crying.

3 months in, it was almost impossible to get her to sit in it for more than 10 seconds. So we ended up carrying her everywhere for most of her first year.

If we had just stuck with it, maybe she would have been ok with it after a few more crying episodes and everyone would have benefited long-term. But we didn’t stick it out and ended up with the back pain that comes with carrying a growing baby everywhere.

It’s tempting to take the easy way out. But if something is not beneficial long-term, it’s best to just stick through the discomfort in the short-term so good habits and health are established. For both you and your baby.

5. Being too hard on yourself

“I’m not sure I’m ready to be a dad”, said every dad ever, right before they had a child.

Being a parent requires on-the-job training and there is no way around it. You’ll never be ready.

During my early days as a dad, I was reading books and listening to podcasts, trying my best to learn everything I could so I’d be a great parent and raise my daughter right. I was paranoid about making mistakes.

But when I’d read the advice from a parenting book that was the exact opposite of what I’d been doing up until that point, I’d feel like a horrible dad.

But the more I learned, I also realized how that’s the beauty of it all.

Nobody will be perfect. It’s just not possible. You’re guaranteed to mess up. But as long as you have the best intentions and are willing to learn, you *hopefully* won’t traumatize them while you navigate the new journey of fatherhood you’re on.

Don’t be too hard on yourself.

The fact that you’re reading this means you actually care about your child and are taking your role as a father seriously. You’ll naturally get better as you go along and things that seem big in the moment will all just become memories you can laugh about and lessons you will carry with you forever.

This post was previously published on medium.com.

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Photo credit: Chirag Saini on Unsplash

 

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