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An indispensable handbook on all aspects of fatherhood during the first 12 months, The New Father charts the physical, intellectual, verbal, and emotional changes which a child experiences in the first year and examines the emotional and psychological developments the father may be experiencing. 30 illustrations. 224 pp. 35,000 print.
Nobody really knows how or when it started, but one of the most widespread--and most cherished--myths about childrearing is that women are naturally more nurturing than men, that they are instinctively better at the parenting thing, and that men are nearly incompetent.
The facts, however, tell a very different story. A significant amount of research has proven that men are inherently just as nurturing and responsive to their children's needs as women. What too many men (and women) don't realize is that to the extent that women are "better" parents, it's simply because they've had more practice. In fact, the single most important factor in determining the depth of long-term father-child relationships is opportunity. Basically, it comes down to this: "Having children makes you no more a parent than having a piano makes you a pianist," writes author Michael Levine in Lessons at the Halfway Point.
"In almost all of their interactions with children, fathers do things a little differently from mothers," writes researcher David Popenoe. "What fathers do--their special parenting style--is not only highly complementary to what mothers do, but by all indications important in its own right for optimum childrearing."
Not surprisingly, then, fathers have very different needs from mothers when it comes to parenting information and resources. But nearly every book, video, seminar, and magazine article on raising kids has been geared specifically to women and to helping them acquire the skills they need to be better parents. Fathers have been essentially ignored--until now.
How This Book Is Different
Because babies develop so quickly, most booksaimed at parents of infants (babies from birth through twelve months) are broken down by month. The same goes here. But while the majority of parenting books focus on how babies develop during this period, the primary focus of The New Father: A Dad's Guide to the First Year is on how fathers develop. This is an approach that has rarely, if ever, been tried. Each of the chapters is divided into three major sections:
What's Going On with the Baby
This section is designed to give you an overview of the four major areas of your baby's development: physical, intellectual, verbal, and emotional/social. A lot of what a man experiences as a father is directly related to, or in response to, his children. So knowing the basics of their growth will help put your own growth into better perspective. Please remember, however, that all babies develop at different rates and that the range of "normal" behavior is very wide. If your baby isn't doing the things covered in the predicted month, don't worry. But if he is six months behind, check with your pediatrician.
What You're Going Through
Because the experience of fatherhood has largely been ignored in parenting books, many men think the feelings they are having are abnormal. In this section we examine at length what new fathers go through and the ways they grow and develop--emotionally and psychologically--over the course of their fatherhood. You're a lot more normal than you think.
You and Your Baby
This section gives you all the tools you need to understand and create the deepest, closest possible relationship with your child--even if you have only half an hour a day to spend with her. In this section we cover topics as diverse as play, music, reading, discipline, and temperament.
A number of the chapters feature a "Family Matters" section in which we discuss a variety of issues that will have a major impact not only on you but also on your family as a whole. Topics include dealing with crying, postpartum depression (which men get too!), childproofing, family finances, and finding appropriate child care.
Why Get Involved?
First, because it's good for your kids. "Everything we know shows that when men are involved with their children, the children's IQ increases by the time they are six or seven," says pediatrician T. Berry Brazelton. Brazelton adds that with the father's involvement "the child is also more likely to have a sense of humor, to develop a sort of inner excitement, to believe in himself or herself, to be more motivated to learn."
In contrast, a father's emotional distance can have a profound negative impact. "Research clearly demonstrates the direct correlation between father absence and higher rates of aggressive behavior in sons, sexually precocious behavior in daughters and more rigid sex stereotypes in children of both sexes," writes Dr. Louise B. Silverstein of New York University.
Second, it's good for you. A mountain of research has shown that fathers who are actively involved with their children are more likely to be happily married and are more likely to advance in their careers. "Being a father can change the ways that men think about themselves," writes Ross Parke, one of the major fatherhood researchers. "Fathering often helps men to clarify their values and to set priorities. It may enhance their self-esteem if they manage its demands and responsibilities well, or alternatively, it may be unsettling and depressing by revealing their limitations and weaknesses. Fathers can learn from their children and be matured by them."
Third, being an involved father is good for your partner and for your marriage. Division of labor issues are the number one marital stressor, and the more support mothers get from their husbands, the happier they are in their marriages and the better they perform their parenting duties. Men whose partners are happy in their marriages tend to be happier themselves. And men who are happy in their marriages are generally more involved in their fathering role. It just never ends; and there's no reason why it should.
A Note on Terminology
He, She, It
In the not so distant past (the present, too, really) parenting books, in which the parent is assumed to be the mother, almost always referred to the baby as "he." While there's an argument to be made that in English the male pronoun is sort of a generic term, I'm pretty sensitive to issues of gender neutrality. And as the father of two girls, I wanted to see at least an occasional "she," just to let me know that what was being said might actually apply to my children. But as a writer, I find that phrases like "his or her," "he or she," and especially "s/he" make for cumbersome reading and awkward sentences. The solution? I decided simply to alternate between "he" and "she" as often as possible. Except in a few specific cases (circumcision, for example), the terms are interchangeable.
Your Partner in Parenting
In the same way that calling all babies "he" discounts the experience of all the "shes" out there, calling all mothers "wives" essentially denies the existence of the many, many other women who have children: girlfriends, lovers, live-in companions, fiancées, and so on. So, to keep from making any kind of statement about the importance (or lack of importance, depending on how you feel) of marriage, I refer to the mother of your child as your "partner," as we did in The Expectant Father: Facts, Tips, and Advice for Dads-to-Be.
If Some of This Sounds a Little Familiar...
If you read The Expectant Father (and if you didn't, it's not too late), you may notice that there's some overlap between the end of that book and the early part of this book. I assure you that this repetition of material is less the result of laziness on my part than of the necessity born of having to cover several of the same important topics in both books.
What This Book Isn't
While there's no doubt that this book is filled with information you can't get anywhere else, it is not intended to take the place of your pediatrician, financial planner, or lawyer. Naturally, I wouldn't suggest that you do anything I wouldn't do (or haven't done already). Still, before blindly following my advice, please check with an appropriate professional.
From Chapter One: 1 Week: Coming Home
What's Going on with the Baby
o Although most of your newborn's physical capabilities are run by a series of reflexes (see pages 38-43), she does have some control over her tiny body.
o She can focus her eyes--for a few seconds, at least--on an object held 8 to 10 inches from her face, and she may be able to move her head from side to side.
o She probably won't each much for the first 24 hours, but after that, she'll want 7 to 8 feedings each day.
o She seems to be doing everything at an accelerated pace: at 33 breaths and 120 heartbeats/minute, her metabolism is moving about twice as fast as yours.
o Her intestines are moving even faster: she'll urinate as many as 18 times and move those brand-new bowels 4 to 7 times every 24 hours.
o Needing to recover from all that activity, it's no surprise that she spends 80 percent of her time asleep, taking as many as 7 to 8 naps a day.
o Right from birth, your baby is capable of making a number of intellectual decisions.
o If she hears a sound, she can tell whether it's coming from the right, left, or straight ahead.
o She can distinguish between sweet and sour (preferring sweet, like most of us).
o She also has a highly developed sense of smell. At seven days, she'll be able to tell the difference between a pad sprinkled with her own mother's milk and one from another mother.
o She prefers simple patterns to complex ones and the borders of objects (such as your jaw or hairline) to the inner details (mouth and nose).
o She can't, however, differentiate herself from the other objects in her world. When she grasps your hand, for example, her little brain doesn't know whether she's holding her own hand or yours.
o At this point, most of the vocal sounds your baby produces will be cries or animal-like grunts and squeaks.
o Although she's alert and comfortable for only 30 or so minutes out of every 4 hours, your baby is already trying to make contact with you.
o When she hears a voice or other noise, she'll become quiet and try to focus.
o She's capable of showing excitement and distress, and will probably be quiet when you pick her up.
What You're Going Through
Comparing How You Imagined the Birth Would Go with How It Went
Let's face it: every expecting couple secretly (or not so secretly) hopes for a pain-free, twenty-minute labor, and nobody ever really plans for a horrible birth experience. Even in childbirth education classes, if the instructor talks at all about the unpleasant things that can happen, she usually refers to them as "contingencies"--a word that makes it seem as though everything is still under control.
If your partner's labor and delivery went according to plan, chances are you're delighted with the way things turned out and you're oohing and ahhing over your baby. But if there were any problems--induced labor, an emergency C-section, a threat to your partner's or your baby's life--your whole impression of the birth process may have changed. It's not unusual in these cases to blame the baby for causing your partner so much physical pain and you so much psychological agony. It can happen easily, without your really being aware of it.
So pay close attention during the first few weeks to how you're feeling about your baby. And if you find yourself being angry or resentful of her, or thinking or saying things--even in jest--such as "All the pain is the baby's fault," or (as I did) "The baby had jammed herself in there sideways and refused to come out," try to remember that no matter how brilliant and talented you think your baby is, she was a completely passive player in the entire process. Giving in to the temptation to blame your baby for anything at this point can seriously interfere with your future relationship together.
The Brief "Is This Really My Baby?" Phase
The first thing I did after both my daughters were born was make sure they had two arms and legs, and ten fingers and toes. Once all limbs and extremities were accounted for, I quickly looked over both my daughters to see whether they had "my" nose or chin.
Later on, I felt a little guilty about that--after all, shouldn't I have been hugging and kissing my daughters instead of giving them a full-body inspection? Maybe, but as it turns out, that's what almost all new fathers do within the first few minutes after the birth of their babies. "They immediately look for physical similarities to validate that the child was theirs," says researcher Pamela Jordan. And this happens for a reason: for almost all new fathers--regardless of how many of their partner's prenatal doctor appointments they went to, how many times they heard the baby's heartbeat or saw him squirm around on an ultrasound, and how many times they felt him kick--the baby isn't "real" until after the birth, when father and baby have a chance to meet each other face to face. "Seeing the infant emerge from his mate's body through vaginal or cesarean birth is a powerful experience for each father," writes Jordan. "Birth proved that this infant had been the growth within the mother's abdomen."
As it turns out, only one of my daughters has "my" chin, and it's looking like both of them will go through life without my nose (and, hopefully, the accompanying sinus problems). But what I really found disheartening at the time was that neither of them shared the Brott family webbed toes (it isn't all that noticeable, but it helps my swimming immeasurably).
Babies hardly ever look exactly as you imagined they would before they were born. And being disappointed about a nose, a chin, or even some toes is something you'll get over soon enough--especially when you discover in a few weeks that the baby does have something of yours (they always do).
But what if the baby has a penis or a vagina when you were expecting the opposite? Getting a boy when you expected a girl, or vice versa, can be a real shock. "When one's fantasy is not fulfilled, there is a period of regret for what might have been," writes Ellen Galinsky, head of the Work and Family Institute. "And this unhappiness can stand in the way of the parents' reaching out, accepting the baby."
Fortunately, things don't have to be this way. The conflict between fantasy and reality, says Galinsky, "can also be the trigger point for growth--one can either stay still, hang onto the old feeling, or one can change."
At Long Last, Reality
At some point not long after the baby is born, just about every new father gets hit with a sharp jolt of reality: he's a father, with new responsibilities, new pressures, new expectations to live up to. For some new fathers, this seemingly basic epiphany comes early, before they leave the hospital. For others, reality may not hit for a few days. But whenever it happens, a new father's realization that his life has changed forever can have some interesting results.
Only a day after the birth of his daughter, Hannah, Ken Canfield pulled into his driveway. "I . . . stared out through the windshield at the wooden steps leading up into our house," he writes in The Heart of a Father. "The steps were rickety. One board was a little rotten on one end, and the rusty nails had gouged their way to the surface. Another board had warped up off the supports. I had never given any thought to those steps before... but the thought occurred to me that in less than 48 hours, a new mother carrying a new baby would be climbing those rickety stairs. So, exhausted as I was, with blood-shot eyes and the aroma of my sleepless hospital visit about me, I got out the power saw, some wood, a handful of nails, a square, and a hammer. For the next three hours I built steps."
|Week 1||Congratulations, You're a Dad!||12|
|Month 1||Getting to Know You||51|
|Months 2||First Smiles||76|
|Months 3||Let the Games Begin||101|
|Months 4||Born to Be||124|
|Months 5||Work and Family||146|
|Months 6||Gaining Confidence||164|
|Months 7||A Whole New Kind of Love||183|
|Months 8||Perpetual Motion||200|
|Months 9||The Building Blocks of Development||214|
|Months 10||Forming an Identity||234|
|Months 11||Planes, Trains, and Automobiles||247|
|Months 12||There Now, That Wasn't So Bad, Was It?||265|