Have you ever heard a dad say that he didn’t really bond with his baby until the kid was walking and talking? Kinda makes you cringe, right? Thankfully I only hear it from time to time. Those guys are missing out on some very cool experiences.
I loved holding my firstborn son Wyatt, studying his face as he studied mine. His eyes were full of questions, and I wondered what he was thinking. One of these times I was holding him, he did a really funny thing as he was about to sneeze. It seemed like the desire was coming and going multiple times before the final explosion. His sneeze stretched on and on, just like you might see in a cartoon.
The immensity of the buildup was way out of proportion to his tiny body. (By the way, sneezing in newborns is pretty common and harmless. We explain why in our Newborn for Newbies class.)
The first time I saw Wyatt do this, it snuck right past me. I didn’t realize what was happening until it was over. He did it again several times over the next few days, and every time I thought it was the best thing ever. I alerted Monica to the cuteness, and she joined in my attempts to catch it on film.
It was so tricky to get the whole thing!
A couple times we were able to start recording in the middle of his routine. Unfortunately, without capturing the whole thing, much of the hilarity was lost. And then, like so many other things kids do for just a brief moment, Wyatt’s ridiculous sneeze ritual abruptly changed to one that was much more subdued (and less overtly adorable). We were sad that our hunt for the perfectly silly supersneeze was over before we could catch the prize-winning video.
Thankfully for all of us, as soon as that specific cuteness ended, Wyatt unwittingly discovered a whole new set of babyisms for us to fawn over. Parental adoration is an ever-changing thing. As soon as you think you know what to expect from your little one, he throws you a curveball. But every phase, every newly budding skill, every awkward developmental transition is ripe with potential to be appreciated by a loving dad if your intention is there.
Here are three of my best tips for bonding with your little one:
Had I not been involved in my son’s daily care when he was young, I could have easily missed out on his cartoon sneezes. Babies change so quickly, you really have to be present and paying attention to notice these things. When you have the opportunity to change a diaper or burp your baby in the middle of the night, take it! What you’ll gain in snuggles and memories will more than outweigh the sleep you sacrifice.
A large part of my fascination with my children has stemmed from wondering what’s going on beneath the surface. For example, my babies were born with the bluish purple hands and feet known as acrocyanosis. This common finding can be disconcerting for inexperienced parents. As a result of my nursing school education, however, I was gratefully aware of this phenomenon. The decreased blood supply to the hands and feet results from the massive changes that happen to a newborn baby’s circulation immediately following birth.
Because I knew this was a common, innocuous finding, I was able to observe it with awe. I knew that my baby’s body was prioritizing blood flow to his vital organs. When you become aware of all the changes that your baby will go through on her way to walking and talking, you can appreciate the little steps that get her there.
All the times before when you’ve held someone else’s baby (or just that one time…or maybe zero times!), you had a very easy out when he got fussy. I would bet there was a mommy nearby who was equally anxious to get her baby out of your amateur hands. Well when it’s your own baby who’s lip is starting to quiver, you can either call for your partner to rescue you, or you can man up and try to figure out what your kid needs.
True, if food is the solution, and he’s breastfeeding, there’s only so much you can accomplish. But hunger is just one problem that can cause your baby to cry. He may be feeling pain from a rogue burp, disgusted with soggy pants, startled by a barking dog, or tired but can’t settle. If you can troubleshoot these common disasters and calm your kiddo, your confidence will soar. And your significant other will really appreciate the fact that she is not the only one able to put an end to the screaming.
Thinking about the moments I spent chasing Wyatt’s elusive supersneeze has made me think about all the other moments within the last 7 years that I count myself lucky to have witnessed. I really believe fatherhood is an amazing gift. Yeah, of course it’s proven to be valuable to kids in many ways. But I think it’s pretty important for us dads as well.
What do you think? Leave me your stories, comments, or questions below!