You’d think with the number of books that sit on shelves at every bookstore (and iBooks in the iTunes store) detailing ways to be a great father, we’d all have this parenting thing down pat. Yet, every day, new dads continually scratch their heads so often, bald spots develop (that’s my defense, what’s yours?). When Mason was in utero, I had no idea what I was going to do, and I sure as heck didn’t have an idea when he was born, either, despite Armin Brott’s “The Expectant Father.” Some things in life were meant to be learned on the fly. I knew this when I saw Mason had no instruction manual attached to his heinie.
As a new parent, bonding is the most important thing you can do with your child. We all know this. But as fathers, we may be somewhat in the clouds trying to figure out just what it is we do to bond. We can’t breastfeed (thank goodness). We can’t birth the child (another thank goodness). This motherly concept on instant bonding is, well…motherly! Seeing Mason for the first time did bring instant love, but it also brought this.
Have no fear, new daddies. There are several ways you can bond with your new bundles of joy, and it’s all via everyday activities. These activities aren’t just for newborns, either! Mason is 16 months old, and all seven of the activities I’m about to mention still apply. Make time every day for some of these, and you’ll soon find your children to be as enamored with you as you are with them.
1. Talk To Your Kids
This is by far the easiest thing you can do to bond with your kids. It doesn’t matter if they are asleep or awake, whether they can talk or not. Tell them what you’re doing. Tell them what they’re doing. Tell them what you think of the local sports team (keep it clean)! The sound of Mommy’s and Daddy’s voice is soothing for wee ones. Eventually, talking will become habit. You’ll know you’re doing a good job if this happens.
2. Snuggle Your Buggle
Physical bonding calms both child and parent. In the first days and weeks after birth, skin-to-skin contact helps relieve everything from sleeplessness to colic to discomfort…all because of your warm skin and heartbeat! Plus, it makes for super naps! Without physical affection, you’re missing out of half of the love you can show your child. Take note, dads of little boys: it’s not just for the girls. gender makes no difference this early on. Snuggle like the dryer sheet bear!
3. Fill Their Tummies
Just because Mommy is breastfeeding doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. Most breastfeeding moms pump and store milk for future consumption, and your hands hold the bottle just fine. Feeding and burping an infant helps you know how much food is enough, and whether or not your child is gassy. With infants, even the tiniest amount of gas is extremely discomforting to them. Don’t make them suffer.
For older infants/toddlers, spoon feeding builds trust and helps kids learn where their mouths are so they can feed themselves. At some point, children will lead by your example. That’s right, Daddy…eat the peas.
4. Freshen Your Baby Up
Before I got used to the stench of Mason's poop, every diaper change used two diapers.
Diaper changing is by far the most annoying task a parent can be charged with. Nonetheless, there’s no negotiation on doing it. Admittedly, I get into funks when I seem to avoid it. It’s something I need to work on. Poop happens.
Diaper changing is a very volatile time for little ones, so it’s a great bonding activity. Trust is earned, and there’s a sense of satisfaction and gratitude from babies when a fresh diaper is fastened. Toddlers, on the other hand…not so much, at least from my experience!
5. Enjoy Tubby Time
Early on, baths are quick and tedious. Newborns and early infants don’t do much in the tub/sink. As they grow, however, they learn to splash, spill and play with toys! This is a great time to be imaginative and have an ocean adventure! Get some squirt toys for added fun! Of course, make sure all the nooks and crannies are cleaned in the process. Your little one will thank you as they learn good hygiene!
6. Be A Bookworm
I’ve posted on this previously. While early attempts at reading can be frustrating, it’s pretty much cemented that reading to kids early on makes a huge impact on learning for a lifetime. Thanks to unrealistic advertisements, we all have this mental picture of perfect snuggles with a book and a bottle. In most cases, not gonna happen. Still, read to your kids, every chance you get. If they pay attention, great! If not, keep reading. Their learning depends on it, and they’ll always remember story time with Daddy.
7. Stay And Play
When infants become mobile, chasing them and keeping them safe can get very stressful. Suddenly, there’s no time to sit and relax, or even to be productive and get things done. Little ones can become engaged with something that allows you to let your guard down and do something else…but it’s not always best (but boy is it hard to resist)! Sit on the floor and build a Mega Blok tower, or play with dolls. Bounce a ball around, or put on a puppet show (they won’t care about your acting skills). Sing songs and give them a visit from the “Tickle Monster!” When you become a part of your child’s imagination, there’s some serious bonding going on. Housework can wait.
There’s so many more opportunities for bonding out there. Start with these seven, but look for more. Your children will never get younger, and the older they get, the more you’ll treasure these early years…maybe even the diaper changes! I’ll get back to you on that.