Be an MVP Dad

15 ways to turn your first year as a father into a winning season.

by Gary Drevitch
Copyright (c) 2003 G+J Publishing, Inc.
PARENTS
September 2003

1. Join the snooze patrol.

Getting a baby to sleep through the night may be the most stressful challenge new parents face. Experts advise putting an infant to bed while she's still awake to teach her to fall asleep on her own, but some parents sing, rock, snuggle, and even drive their baby to dreamland. Keep experimenting until you discover what works best for you. Almost nothing else a new dad can do will earn as much praise and thanks as cracking his baby's sleep code.

2. Tackle diaper duty.

Once your baby is eating solid food or drinking formula, his dirty diapers may make you gag. Yeah, well, he's your kid. Changing diapers should become pretty quick and painless - even when you're half asleep - once you get the hang of it. If you want a real challenge, just wait till potty-teaching time.

3. Remember to romance.

You're both tired. You're not in bed at the same time very often. You may just forget to kiss each other. But from here on out, it's all about finding moments. If that means Sunday afternoon in the kitchen while the baby naps, so be it. Pucker up and accept that, for now, your wife craves sleep, and sleep only.

4. Keep stress at the office.

Don't bring your work troubles home. Like dogs, babies can sense anxiety. And like pets, they don't care how your day went-they just want some attention. Besides, we both know you'd be much happier playing peek-a-boo together than moping about office politics.

5. Pitch in.

Once upon a time, your home was a well-organized showplace. And now? It isn't. That's probably because your wife has basically stopped cleaning. Should you say something to her about it? No. Just pick up her dirty socks, and while you're at it, do the dishes and take out the trash.

6. Be the CEO of Family Inc.

Your newly expanded operation has a number of administrative needs, such as ordering new or improved life-insurance policies and a will, and setting up a college fund for your child. Make a checklist, and start taking care of business.

7. Stop for stems.

Buying flowers for your new mom once a week won't just make the kitchen look pretty. It will show her that you still find her attractive, sexy, and - especially - worthy of courting. It's corny, sure, but buds will make her smile. A movie and a surprise dinner out can work wonders too.

8. Start storytime.

The benefits of reading to your child from Day 1 are well-documented. Though it doesn't matter which picture book you select, why not choose one with a pro-father message? Try Guess How Much I Love You, by Sam McBratney; What Dads Can't Do, by Douglas Wood; or Daddy is a Doodlebug, by Bruce Degen.

9. Don't keep score.

If you need to put in overtime with the baby for a few days while your wife is tied up with work, do it with a smile; eventually, you'll need her to do the same for you. And stay in the game by reminding yourself that there's no parenting skill that your wife has that you don't have too (other than the ability to breastfeed).

10. Go for giggles.

Having a wit like Seinfeld's may entertain your dinner-party pals, but the rice-cereal set prefers slapstick. Loosen up and start mastering the fine arts of pratfalls, sneezing, and otherwise humiliating yourself. Just don't forget to bring Mom into all of the fun.

11. Put on your chef's hat

Admit it, you're fantasizing about cooking pancakes for your child on cheery Sunday mornings. Get in the habit by whipping up a few breakfasts and dinners for your wife each week. You'll earn brownie points, and those meals will probably be the only home-cooked food you get for a while.

12. Learn some guy stuff.

One day, your child will want to learn all the cool stuff that fathers are expected to know - how to bait a hook, identify the stars, juggle three balls, and throw a curveball. If you're like me, you have no idea how to do any of these. So start studying now. 101 Secrets a Good Dad Knows, by Walter and Sue Ellin Browder, offers a competent introduction to the manly arts.

12. Mark those milestones.

The nights go on forever, but the year flies by. You simply will not remember much about the early stages of your child's life once he turns a year old. That's why it's so important to record those firsts. If frilly baby albums aren't for you, just start a file on your computer. And keep track of milestones other than the basics such as crawling, eating solids, and walking. For instance, my son was exactly 3 months and 12 days old the first time he snatched a dollar bill from my hand.

14. Be a Saturday-morning superhero.

Someday you'll be able to sleep in again. But for now, get up and take your child out early on Saturday mornings to the park, the front lawn, or even the coffee shop - anyplace you won't wake up your sleep-deprived wife. It's not just for her sake; it's a great way to bond with your baby.

15. Cherish your partner.

Maybe it's the way your baby clings to her; maybe it's the way she smiles while he throws his mashed bananas at her; maybe it's just the way she looks in that short nursing nightgown. Whatever it is, your wife is pretty incredible. Let her know it - often. After all, a good MVP always credits his teammates when he wins the big prize.