Monday, February 25, 2008

Read the book's preface!

Some visitors were complaining that they couldn't see the whole book cover, so here it is again. The right side gets cut off on smaller screens.

The subtitle of the book is "Building a Closer Connection with Your Baby," and that's what we hope the book will help dads do: feel closer and more connected to the little people in their lives.  If you're interested, you can read the preface here:

My dad used to sit on the bathroom counter while he shaved and brushed his teeth, finished dressing, and tied his tie.  I did the same with my toddler.  It would be before dawn and very quiet, and I would set our daughter on the side of the sink while I shaved, talking quietly to her.

Something about being alone together, trying made it exciting and special for her. It didn’t matter that I was busily getting ready; she was glad to come along, and even the sense of purpose was fun for her, just as she still likes to come on the most boring and mundane errands—to the post office, the DMV, even the dentist. When my daughter accompanies me, she doesn’t act bored and impatient. The outing becomes more like an occasion, and I enjoy it more too.

One day, at the sink, she insisted on shaving me. She was just three. If not for the fact that I remember sitting on the sink to watch my dad shave, I wouldn’t even have considered putting a razor into my toddler’s hand and letting her at my throat. I showed her the motion (down, pick up, down—never sideways!—and don’t press hard) and guided her hand through it a couple times. I told her how my grandfather, each morning before he went to elementary school, had gone upstairs to his own grandfather’s room with a straight razor, soap, and brush, to shave him after he had gone blind in his old age. She looked totally absorbed by this, and held her hand steady, so I positioned her hand at the top of my cheek and let her try a stroke. She carefully removed a stripe of shaving cream from my cheek, without trimming a single whisker. We worked on the pressure a bit, and she did most of the flat, easy parts of my cheeks.

My daughter was very proud to have been allowed this responsibility, and to have done something to care for me the way I normally took care of her. It was a bonding moment, which she has asked to repeat every few months since, and which I’ve carried on with her two younger siblings as they reached that age—without a single scratch.

Most men are like I was before my first child, having never even held a baby in our lives and with little or no experience taking care of kids. Of course we feel apprehensive about bonding and unsure how to interact with our offspring. I knew, though, that if I let my apprehension put me in the back seat in parenting, I would be taking a step back from one of the most important experiences of my life. I needed to take the initiative and create my own ways to bond with my child, right from the beginning.

It’s hard to engage after work when you’re tired and stressed, and part of the choice facing fathers is whether to play it safe, stay in that work mode and be very hands-off at home, or to engage with our children, something for which we’ve had no practice, and makes us feel unsure of ourselves.

Bonding with a baby or small child is about the small moments that you spend together, looking at each other, talking, taking walks. It’s not something that happens instantly. It’s a relationship that grows over time. That’s what this book is about: practical, everyday things to do to enjoy being with your children and forge the bond for both of you.

A lot of dads feel closer to older children, the ones who can catch a ball and enjoy a slice of pizza. But the bonding process starts in infancy, in hundreds of small ways. That's where we'll start—we'll get to ball and pizza later.

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