For New Fathers the Scouting Adage ‘Always Be Prepared’ Applies

by David T. Bruce

During a recent getaway, I spent the better part of a week trying to put myself in the place of a new father while reading Be Prepared, by Gary Greenberg and Jeannie Hayden.  As a father of five children, ages ranging from 9 to 26, I have grown jaded and a bit of a know-it-all in terms of appropriate child-rearing strategies.  For me, I know what works and what does not work.  Therefore, I was forced to keep an open mind as I perused this twenty-first-century guide to parenting from a dad’s point of view.

Be Prepared is not a clinical book; in all likelihood, Dr. Spock would not approve.  This is probably a good thing.  Truly, clinical studies have rarely impressed me, and those strategies that have been field-tested are those that I found have been most reliable.  Even so, readers may find that some of the tips in this “Practical Handbook for New Dads” are not necessarily suitable or applicable for their home.  That’s okay. One size never really fits all, when we talk about raising children.

The authors present tips on how to cope with a variety of challenges encountered by parents during a baby’s first twelve months, and where one tip may not work for you, another tip might.  The trials faced by dads are not sugar-coated in this book either.  Frank discussions about burping your baby, changing your baby’s diaper, breastfeeding your baby (not you; Mom), resuming work, resuming sex, and a myriad other almost-guaranteed scenarios are addressed logically and chronologically, with a bluntness that leaves little room for interpretation but also lends a sense of humor to parenting.

I found myself nodding frequently, snickering sometimes, and wishing often that I had access to this book when my first son was born a quarter of a century ago.  There was no book back then to impress upon me the insignificance of multiple pictures “of him lying on a blanket,” nor was there any mention of the sock glove that would help you keep a grip on a slippery baby in the bathtub.

Many of the tips in Be Prepared may seem tongue-in-cheek, but I assure you that catching up on sleep inside a men’s room stall at work is not an imaginary situation.  As well, you will be amazed at the mischief that your baby can and will get into and what extreme measures you will have to take in order to keep your baby from harm. As a dad, you have accepted a great responsibility.  This parenting book for dads sets a fabulous example, illustrating that dads are not only responsible for baby’s care but also for Mom’s care.

When I first began to read this book, I wrestled with that jaded part of me that had forgotten the fun in guiding a baby through his or her early months.  I wanted to take the book and child-rearing way too seriously. In Be Prepared, I am reminded that above all, dads (and moms) must maintain a sense of humor.  Parenting is a blast.  Treasure these moments, as your
baby grows.

New dads will be doing themselves a service by reading Be Prepared before their baby is born, to get a glimpse of the first year of their baby’s life.  When you find yourself missing the joy of parenting, scrambling for moral support or guidance, take some long, even breaths and revisit Be Prepared (and for a dose of common sense and camaraderie.

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