As a soon-to-be new father, I recently reached out to some friends for some parenting advice. Although I was the oldest of five growing up and had more than enough diaper changing and babysitting duties allotted to me by my parents, it’s been at least fifteen years since the last time I did any of that. Besides, I am fully aware that changing a few diapers and parenting are two very, very different things.
So, many of my friends who are now fathers but also happen to be barrel-chested freedom fighters from the SOF community imparted some wisdom on me. That’s right, not only do they jump out of airplanes and hunt armed men – but after they take their boots off and return home they are just as adept at nighttime feedings as they are nighttime raids!
- “Help out your wife. Do stuff that needs to be done without her asking. When you can, take care of the nighttime feedings so she can sleep. Make sure you’re communicating.” – Charlie F.
- “No beers until she’s three. Don’t let her smoke more than a pack a day. And make her lock and clear her weapon before she gets on the bus.” –Jake D.
- “Enjoy every second. Lots of pictures. One of the biggest challenges, in my opinion, is to make sure you and your bride don’t forget to make time for each other.” –Scott B.
- “Be mentally prepared for the first time feces comes flying out of the back of her onesie up the back of her neck. It seems implausible, I know, but it will happen and you’ll be horrified and impressed, all at the same time.” –Nick P.
- “Don’t worry when you cut her fingernails and you cut part of her finger off also, you will feel like shit forever.” –Paul M.
- “When they cry it’s one of three things: hungry, need changing, or wants to be held. And don’t shake a baby, at some point, it will stop crying. Oh, and you will not get sleep. Babies make Ranger School look like a slumber party. Good luck – the delivery room made this four-deployment Ranger weep.” –Mack
- “Don’t let your baby grow up to be a cowboy.” – Jeff R.
- “If she’s not tired, hungry, or dirty, she probably just needs to be close to you. You can’t hold her too much.” –William W.
- “They come with no instructions, so buckle up brother, take it one step at a time. The main thing as previously stated more than once is to be on your game. Your wife will need you whether she says it or not.” –Ron S.
- “Pick them up when they NEED it, but teach them how to grow on their own! If it’s a girl, you’re doomed. In either case, be willing to give your heart away in a manner that you’ve never understood. Be stern, yet flexible. Be happy… because you’ve been blessed with a child!” –William F.
- “Rule of five: Kids cry because they are hot/cold, hungry, gassy, tired, or poopy. One of five things. Just hit the “rule of five” malfunction drill and you’ll have a happy kid every time.” –Matthew G.
- “Photos. Photos. Photos. And enjoy it.” –Matt W.
- “Techniques. The more you have the more flexible you’ll be downrange. As others have said, shits going to happen. Some of the stuff you try will work and others will not. The Internet is a great source of information with all kinds of TTPs. I also recommend Parent magazine. They have a lot of parents that write in on different things they have done or tried and their success. Everything from crying to wetting beds. As others have said, be patient. Hope you are blessed with a sleeper. If not suck it up, take a knee, drink some water and do your best.” –Jeff G.
- “Zipper PJ’s are the only way to go. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to snap together PJ’s after a diaper change at 3 am. Zippers… Zippers everywhere. Also, change diapers. It will be about the only job you can do for the kid the first couple weeks anyway and makes you look good in the mommy’s eyes.” – David H.
- “Don’t ever go anywhere without at least two sets of clothes and snacks trussed up like MREs. Sleep behavior is key. Horror movies have been made about parents who let their children sleep with them. I’ve also run calls on two infants dead from the same situation. They need their own safe bed. Naps are not an article of negotiation. They need them 100% more than they think, and once zonked, will stay that way. At age 2 or so, Daddy coming through the door fixes EVERYTHING wrong in a little girl’s world. That smile and cry of “Daddy” will be etched upon your soul. Remember that when you’re angry. Read. Read as part of the routine. We read before nap. We read before bed. It becomes an associated behavior. Puzzles are another great activity. Finally, raise her to understand she doesn’t need a man to make it in this world. She needs to be able to take care of herself, and that includes all life skills. Getting married is not an end state. Don’t let her get sucked into that ideology. Shoot a bow. Build a fire. Be good at math. Mow the lawn. Change a tire. Prepare her for a tough world.” –David M.
As my days as a non-parent dwindle, and the reality of raising a child starts to sink in, I couldn’t be more thankful for the above advice. I hope that sharing helps out some other expectant parents in my same shoes.