Posted: Friday, September 6, 2013 2:48 pm | Updated: 2:56 pm, Fri Sep 6, 2013.
By Donald Tretler
For many years I was very unsure about whether I wanted to be somebody’s dad. It seemed like a huge responsibility, having another human being dependent on me to
ensure their survival.Being married had responsibility, but in reality if something happened to me, I was sure my wife would be perfectly capable of fending for herself out in the world. Not true for a child, unless you believe those stories of babies being raised by wolves or gorillas or dolphins.
If I was going to enter into parenthood, I would need to be prepared. But, outside of painting the extra bedroom and saving money, what was I supposed to be doing?
Many men are unsure how their lives will change once they take the giant step to become fathers. In many ways we are entering uncharted territory. Many of us have not had a whole lot of “hands-on” experience with the tiniest members of our own species.
We do not often take advantage of the generous offers from new parents, family members or friends to hold the baby. I’m not exactly sure what it is we are worried about.
Are we worried that our reflexes are not quick enough to keep the precious bundle safe? Is it that it does not appear “manly” to exhibit such tender, nurturing behavior as gently cradling a totally vulnerable little creature? After all, how many pictures do we see of men holding kittens?
I certainly have no explanation why we are so reluctant. I myself only rarely took advantage of holding my nieces and nephews when they were really small. Although, I do remember once spending several hours pinned to the sofa with my infant nephew sleeping on my chest, because I was too afraid to lay him down out of my sight.
This is not to talk of the intense anxiety the thought of changing a diaper brings. I do not know many guys who actually step up and volunteer to change another person’s baby. So, as a result, we do not wind up with much practice before we are expected to perform the surgery-like procedure on our own infants.
Many fathers-to-be envision Mom will be mainly be taking care of this chore once baby is born. But, as we soon find out, we find ourselves in situations where we are the one with baby when the need arises.
Moms will let us get away with handing off the baby a couple times before they kindly suggest, “Why don’t you do this yourself?” Ok, we are men, we can handle it and after a few fumbly attempts we start to get the hang of it. And not long after, we develop a certain expertise.
One fellow dad bragged to me, not long after the birth of our children just a few days apart, that he could change a diaper in less than two minutes.
So, where does a father-to-be go in order to gain valuable experience before his eventual trial by fire? Early Education Services of Windham County in Brattleboro offers a “Training Camp for New Dads” through its Fatherhood Program.
Every three months or so, myself − the fatherhood services coordinator − and retired pediatrician Bob Nassau facilitate this four-hour workshop at the Elmer Barrett III Fatherhood Center, 122 Birge St. This fun-filled learning opportunity features appearances by real live babies, accompanied by veteran dads of previous training camps. Space is limited, so prior notice is required.
For more information on getting into shape to be an excellent dad, call 802-254-3742, extension 135, or email Donald_tretler@wsesu.org.