The Early Bonds of Dadhood

My husband changed his first diaper the day my son was born. Awkward and intimidated, he braved the unknown beneath that Pampers and came out (mostly) unscathed. In fact, I didn’t change a single diaper that first month. Partly because I had a C-section (for my 10.2-pound bowling-ball-of-a-boy) and couldn’t easily roll myself off the sofa. And partly because he felt an overwhelming desire to help; to be needed.

Frank feeding baby

Early morning feeding

Every night, he’d wake up for the hunger cries, change the diaper, and bring the baby to me on the sofa to nurse—I was more comfortable on that monstrous green couch than in our bed.

Four years later, we repeated a version of this ritual with my daughter (who bested her brother’s birth weight by six ounces!). Only this time, he also took on the lion’s share of caring for a toddler on an abbreviated night of sleep.

During the first few months, we made baby bath time a family routine. Both of us hovering over the kitchen sink, cooing and beaming at this miraculous being, holding and washing our newborn like a precious turkey before the Thanksgiving meal.

These early-year experiences are still so fresh in my mind. They codified our family dynamic—one that involved the daddy as much as the momma. And often flipped typical gender roles on their head.

Frank and Isaac six months

Happy baby and daddy

Today, my better half schedules the play dates with the other moms. He teaches at the kid’s Sunday school (even though he’s a different religion). He drives carpool to camp and plays Barbies with my daughter. He’s the one who documents everything they do, from their first self-portrait to the first time they climbed a tree.

And I believe he does many of these things because he found a way to feel included in those early days. He established bonds and developed confidence in his new role as a father from day one. (He’s also just an incredible man—we are very lucky.)

So this Father’s Day, think about innovative ways to involve the dads in your little ones’ lives. You’ll all reap the rewards of that early connection, for many Father’s Days to come.

 

Natalie Kurz

Natalie is a writer and editor who published her first piece in 10th grade (in a national literary magazine, but her mother says it still counts). In her spare time, she’s a parent to two kids (10 and 6) who provide her with daily fodder for her writing. And an added excuse to drink wine and eat chocolate.