This post is largely inspired by my two brothers, each of whom are soon to be fathers. I have tried to gently work in some advice to them, but their day is coming soon and its time to rip the band-aid off.
Now, obviously, a post of this nature could be turned into a book, and often has, so I will just hit the highlights for you in a kind of lessons-learned format. Are we sitting comfortably? Good, let’s begin.
First and foremost, you are now (officially) the least important person in the house. Don’t get mad, just accept it. The baby is the most important, followed quickly by mom who just brought the baby into the world and is now the primary source of food. You change diapers. You rub feet, do dishes, laundry, iron, cook, etc. When it all adds up, you will think of yourself as a very important member of the household. Don’t let it go to your head. You are cooking food, not making it, serving it, not dispensing it. Your wife is temporarily a factory. You’re job is to keep the factory happy.
Several things branche off the above. Help with the feeding, for many reasons. It’s a great bonding moment for you and the baby. Mom gets to take a nap, a shower, whatever. Volunteer for the last feeding of the night and first of the morning. This may seem counter-intuitive, but there is a logic behind it. You’re awake at night, so prepare the bottle before you got to bed and feed the child. Likewise in the morning when you have to be up anyway. Do not volunteer, even if it seems like the nice thing to do, for the feeding during the night. The baby is hungry and crying and will have none of your shenanigans of preparing a bottle when you’re half asleep. Think about functioning in combat situations. Leave it to the experts.
Become one with the boppy, your arms will thank you.
Do not make eye contact during a feeding, especially during the night! This is an introduction to play and all thoughts of sleep will be instantly erased from the baby’s mind. Pretend the child is Medusa. Seriously. You’d be so lucky as to be turned to stone.
Yes, it is possible for something to make that smell naturally. Yes, it is possible for something to want to eat while making that smell (they often go hand in hand). No matter how nauseous you are, stay on target. It will, sometimes, smell like popcorn. Don’t dwell on it or going to the movies (*snicker*) will be ruined for some time.
No one has secretly fed your child tar. They have produced it naturally. A warm wash cloth at changing time is your best friend. The wipe has yet to be invented that can deal with this.
Your child will often smile at you. Don’t be fooled. This is most likely gas and the smile is in preparation for what they’re about to make you experience on the changing table. Some times it’s love, but usually only if mommy is in eyeshot as well.
The baby will always want mommy. Just accept it. They are recently separated siamese twins and there is still some separation anxiety. It’s not personal and the baby will want you whenever there is an evil in the diaper to be vanquished.
Tummy time is awful. Baby will scream bloody murder. Sit on your hands. Avert your eyes.
Let the baby sleep wherever it falls. If the baby wants to sleep in its swing that night, let it. Putting baby in the crib will be interpretted a sure sign you don’t love them. Take what you can get.
Sesame Street for 30 minutes a day is a good thing. Trust me, their brain will not rot. They will develop an unfortunate love of Elmo, but in return you will get a shower in and your friends will thank you for it.
Do not teach baby anything you are not absolutely sure you want them to know. Once you demonstrate, say, how to climb up steps, baby will begin climbing up steps and the whole game changes. You will be blamed.
Play music at feeding time. Dance. Sing. Baby will be highly amused/embarrased and forget that they hate whatever it is you’re feeding them.
Hats, shoes and socks are ejectable. Do not try and learn how they do it, they just get them off. It’s like black magic, do not look directly at it. Better yet, look behind you because they’ve probably dropped a hat/sock/shoe/binky while you’ve been walking.
The baby knows when you want some alone time. You will not have it. Baby monitors secretly work both ways.
Some non-baby specific lessons:
Your house isn’t big enough. The baby’s room/toys will spread throughout the house. Accept it. Do not fight back. You will lose. Visits from grandparents will exacerbate this issue.
Your car isn’t big enough. Your compact fits-in-your-pocket stroller will take up half your trunk. It’s the law. Any attempt to buy a bigger car will be an invitation for the grandparents to buy more things. Don’t fall for it.
Revenge is a dish best served with either C or D size batteries. Don’t worry about buying them. We’ll make sure they’re already loaded in and that you have backups.
Revenge is a dish best served by handing your screaming, reeking child back to you. Remember laughing at us when we had to do it? Sure you do. Okay, we certainly do.
Your house isn’t childproof. Trust me. Take the obvious and necessary steps, but if you go past a certain line, you cross back into the dimension of baby-dangerous. The line is not clearly marked. You will know you’ve crossed this parallel when the baby hurts themselves with a) something “childproof” or b) with the actual child-proofing material (clamps, pads, bumpers, etc.)
Scared? Don’t be. You’ve got at least two years before the really scary stuff kicks in…