11 Things I've Learned In My Son's First 6 Months. Part 1

by chasereeves on January 4, 2010 · 21 comments

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11 Things I've Learned In My Son's First 6 Months

My child is almost 6 months old now. And this young dad has learned a crap-ton of stuff in that short amount of time. I thought I’d put a list together for you. It goes to eleven.

Lesson #1: Daddies Dress Kids Better Than Mommies

Mom’s are always going to try to own this space and claim that you are making all sorts of horrible errors when you dress your child, but this is just their way of coping with raging envy.

Here’s your big advantage in this area: you could give a shit about a lot of shit that your wife gives a shit about. She’s passionate about dolling the kid up and parading it around with shoes that match his hat, gloves, and knickers.

And that’s why moms will never have the god-given talent that dads have.

She’ll never see that it’s a bit cold outside so we’ll just double layer the shark shirt on top of the onesie and wrap the scarf around his legs. Finish it off with some paper towels wrapped around his head and taped at the top (to keep the air from getting in… Damn you’re good) and you’ve got yourself a kid; a kid dressed for success; a kid with a bright future.

Your wife and her friends might give you crap and laugh about your dressing prowess. Just remember, you are an artist; they are not.

“All true artists, whether they know it or not, create from a place of no-mind” (i.e., mindlessness… Dad’s win) -Eckhart Tolle

Lesson #2: You Can Live On Less

You learn early in your first few months of parenting that you’ll have a whole lot less time for… Everything; money, romance, reading, hobbies, happiness, everything.

But you’ll also learn that you can do with less. It all works out, because you’re adding a walloping dollop of child to your life. And that will end up satisfying you just as good as the other stuff used to.

Lesson #3: The Ultimate Sleeper Put-Down Move 2.0

The only faint wisp of accomplishment and productivity you can have is when your little one is passed out in some other room with 14 fans on and your car backed up against the window idling and gently vibrating that side of the house so he/she/it will sleep as long as infantly possible.

There is no time more special to a new parent than the time the baby is sleeping.

And one of the most goddam frustrating things in the f-ing life of a new parent is when you can’t put your child down to sleep because they keep friggen waking up.

The kid will be so damn tired. And yet, every time you try to put him down, when you make that final move to gently dispose of the body into the padded receptacle, he blinks and looks up at you. As if he was saying, “you’ve got to be kidding me… Right? That’s the best you’ve got.”

What’s even worse is when you get him down into the bed fine — your arms underneath him, his eyes relaxed close, mouth agape just a bit, little lower lip lithely whimpering, occasional phantom suck and/or deep belly dream sound — and you try to slowly, oh so slowly and quietly, remove your arms from underneath him… When BANG! Eyes open, all smiles, and it’s f-ing play time again!! FML.

But now I’m about to reveal to you a trick that can make you the master of the put down. It’s called the Ultimate Sleeper Put-Down Move 2.0.

Like all amazing life secrets, this secret trick hinges on reversing logic.

The Old, Bad Way: Normally you cradle the head in the nook of your arm, with your other arm supporting the bottom and legs. This is bad… and old. We’re going to reverse that.

The Old Bad Way: Arms wrapped around the baby

1: The Old Bad Way: Arms wrapped around the baby

The Arms Are Trapped Underneath :(

The Arms Are Trapped Underneath 🙁

The New, Excellent Way: Take the arm that normally supports the head, and move it under the bottom. Then, take your bottom arm and support the head. Now your arms are running parallel with the baby’s body, instead of wrapped around it (see pictures).

Good: Arms parallel with baby's body

The New, Excellent Way: Arms parallel with baby's body

Now, when you put the child down, it’s a simple, quick, and silent open move rather than a put-down-and-slide-out move.

The Arms Easily Slide Away!

The Arms Easily Slide Away!

It will take a little while to get used to this, but you’ll be amazed when things get clear.You’re welcome.

Lesson #4: “This Too Shall Pass”

Wifee and I met a couple who’s baby was about 8 months older than Aiden, and they gave the best advice about parenting we had heard up to that point.

They said:

What makes being a first time parent the hardest is the fact that you have no framework or ideas about how long each stage will last.”

In fact, you don’t naturally think of phases at all.

Here’s how it would go: Aiden would have a few good days and life would be beautiful: we’d be floating on the accomplishment of a happy child.

Then, all of a sudden, he would have the worst sleep ever. This would catapult him into a week of horror, and Mellisa and I would say to ourselves: “well, we made a good run of it… He was nice for a while, but now he’s exposing his eternal self… This is the rest of our lives. I loved you too babe.”

When you’re a new parent, you don’t have any framework for how long or short things take for a child. You probably don’t even know what kind of “things” a child gets taken by! So, every new learning stage or shift in your kid’s disposition feels somewhat final.

But this couple in the coffee shop was telling us that every phase ends. That was the sweet secret that second time parents had which made the whole thing bearable again: the teething, the learning and forgetting of new motor skills, and the good and bad nap seasons… They all come to an end and move into something else.

And that’s true. All your baby’s phases will have an end and move into something else. And that brings us parents a little slice of sanity. Even if the next phase is worse than this one, it’s still progress; one more step towards that child buying you a yacht and some slippers.

Lesson #5: The iPhone Flashlight

Every morning I dress myself by iPhone screen-lighting. Around 6am or so, Mellisa will bring Aiden into our bed while she feeds him and he’ll pass out for a little while. I’ll get up when he’s still asleep and try to get what I need out of the room without waking him.

I know, right? A stranger in my own bedroom. I’m not proud about it.

Well, I can’t just go about turning on lights with a baby in the room can I? No. I have to get creative.

Well, one day I found out that the iPhone makes a great little handy flashlight. It’s just bright enough to light some parts of the room without lighting everything, and I always have it with me.

There are some disadvantages, however. Namely, in the glow of an iPhone every color looks like a version of grey. “Huh, I didn’t know I had a grey sweater… Perfect.” Wrong; it’s orange. And you know I never look at a mirror before running out the door in the morning.

But this goes back to the “artist always creates from mindlessness” thing again. You win!

Conclusion

So there’s the first part of the 11 awesome and terrible things I’ve learned in the first 6 months of being a dad. I’ll be following up shortly with the final 6 lessons learned.

In the meantime, I’d really like to hear about what you remember being hard or surprising to learn… if you don’t mind sharing.

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Sister Sara January 4, 2010 at 10:11 am

Fatherhood is looking good on you. Keep it up Chase!

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Mellisa January 4, 2010 at 12:40 pm

The world should know that I both invented and mastered the Ultimate Sleeper Put-Down Move 2.0 – and that whoever this is claiming involvement is nothing but an imposter.

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Courtney January 4, 2010 at 1:45 pm

Damn son. The only thing this jam needs is a beat you can dance to and you’ve got yourself a hit single.

Lessons for the future:

My son is a Ninja:
Once my oldest turned 3.5 he turned into a ninja and can come up behind you in total silence. I’m just glad he doesn’t have a blowgun. Rules: 1) Lock the bedroom door during late evening “biblical” moments with the wife. 2) Don’t hold your morning coffee with your back to the kitchen entrance or “Hi Dad!” will turn into five minutes of cleaning up a startled cup of joe all over the floor.

Phases:
My kids phases are either three days or three weeks. Not unlike pregnancy mood-swings. No complaining. I had nine months to get used to it. But once they’re born, there is ALWAYS someone in the house with an emotional issue. Much of time it’s you.

Television:
You can watch episodes of Deadwood with your child in the room until they start talking. Despite my wife’s protests to the contrary, a 9 month old has no grasp of Sweringen’s flexibility with the F word. And anyway, by one or two they only notice stuff like that when you call attention to it yourself.

Doin’ it… and stuff:
This is subjective but in my experience it takes exactly 18-20 months, from conception, for your wife to “get back to normal.” That means mentally, physically, emotionally, and in a way that satisfies HER, not you. After that “normal” will have to be redefined because the angel in the next room get dibs. Doin’ it takes a hit. Don’t take it personally.

Cup check:
Your balls are at the exact height of a 2-3 year old who wants your attention. They only tug on pant legs in the movies. If they want your attention they will punch you in the nuts. It’s innocent, sure, but still makes you sweat and ruins any conversation you were having with your friend you bumped into at the coffee shop. And try and not use the knee defense, even though a natural response, it doesn’t look good to nail your child in the face in public.

Volume:
I know understand why old men want peace and quiet. Once you have kids that are talking… the questions… the noise… oh dear god the noise… Our pediatrician actually suggested earplugs. Most of the time they are literally talking just to hear themselves.

Sleep:
Not unlike the infant who can wake up the second you put them down, a three year old will get out of bed the second you say good night and shut the door to claim some false maladie (“my eye hurts”, “my foot itches”, “I’m sad”…) or have to go pee even though he just went 5 mintues before. I still haven’t figure this one out except to set up ground rules for the stuff that’s necessary (“If you have to go pee then just go, wash your hands and go back to bed. I don’t want to hear about it”).

This is a short list… I will only end by saying the single greatest sound in the entire history of the universe is the sound of your own child belly-laughing. It’s addicting. I wish I could put it in pill form and take it throughout the day because it is true joy.

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Chase January 4, 2010 at 3:13 pm

HA HA!!! Hilarious! Thanks Courtney! That one’s going on the list of all time greatest comments evar.

@sister sara: thanks!

@mellisa: Impostor my ass! Go ahead and just try to impostor my ass!

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Amanda Mae January 4, 2010 at 3:48 pm

I’m a nanny to three kids who are 4, 3, and 18 months, so while I don’t experience all the joys of parenthood, I do deal with most of the issues small children bring on a regular basis. With the 3 year old, at around 2.5, her parents started putting a baby gate in front of her door at night to keep her in her room. The first couple of weeks she would cry when she realized she couldn’t get to the door, but at least she wasn’t coming out every 5 minutes, and now, she just accepts the gate and stays in bed. It’s a good idea for anyone whose kids won’t stay down.

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Courtney January 4, 2010 at 4:27 pm

Snap. Gate at their bedroom door? So genius it should have been mine!

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Damien McKenna January 4, 2010 at 6:52 pm

I’d also throw on the list:

* Spend as much time as you can holding your child, specially during the first year.

* Spend as much time as you can with your children, even if you have to extra work at home make time to spend with them so they know they are important.

* While you can’t nurse (well, technically you could, but..) there are lots of things that Dad can do to help.. I found that my wife and I balanced it akin to the perfectly tuned and practiced rhythms of the best baseball players: she fed our children and tried to ensure they had the absolute best nourishment possible, including many sips during the night, i.e. the pitcher, while I took care of everything that came out, i.e. the receiver. I also found that you develop very finely tuned skills for changing diapers quickly, very quickly, even in the near-dark of 3am.

* You only know everything is ok with your baby if you are right there. Yes, co-sleeping. And yes, you can have a normal life and still co-sleep, while never having to wonder “will the intercom be loud enough to waken me if the baby gets into trouble” or even if the baby will make any sounds.

* Doctors don’t always know best, especially ones that give you free formula samples during the first visit.

* The most important thing I found from parenting two young children: extended nursing made a tremendous difference to their health – they weren’t in-and-out of doctor’s appointments, didn’t have near-constant ear infections, etc, etc. Plus we never had to deal with “oh no, we didn’t pack a bottle”.

* The only reason a mother’s milk would be insufficient as the sole nutrition for an infant would be for medical reasons, unless there’s something seriously wrong there’s no need to supplement too, just nurse & work on boosting supply (more animal protein in mom’s diet, oatmeal gives a good boost too, drink lots of water).

* Locking a 2 1/2 yo behind a gate is a little cruel, instead maybe stay with the child until they’re asleep? The cynical side of me feels it’s giving them a nightly dose of abandonment so they get used to it in later life – nothing quite like it, eh? But I guess families that have an au-pair have set themselves up for that anyway?

* Baby bits are supposed to stay attached, don’t chop off things that don’t seem immediately useful just because insurance covers it.

* (obvious one) Children are all different – our ~3yo doesn’t sleep well unless he has a full stomach whereas our 6yo didn’t have that problem until he was ~4.

* Babies are not *supposed* to cry, it doesn’t *benefit* them, despite what many “experts” say. So if your baby is crying, see what you can do to remedy the situation – popping a boob in their mouth does wonders, sometimes just holding them and singing softly.

* There is no manual, despite what many authors would have you believe, it’s ok to feel like you’re winging it, just focus on what is best for your *bab

Damien
(father of 6yo, 2 3/4yo)

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Damien McKenna January 4, 2010 at 7:09 pm

BTW Courtney, I’ve found that our 2 3/4 yo is just the right height to headbutt me where its tender, especially when he does it from a run. The trick is to stop your legs collapsing when they do that when a) you have guests, b) you’re holding food or drinks (or your laptop).

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Damien McKenna January 4, 2010 at 7:15 pm

BTW again Courtney, my wife used to watch scifi shows during the day while taking care of our eldest and I’d be at work, which was fine until at ~18mos he started running around the house chasing Wraith like in Stargate Atlantis.. had to put a kibosh on it at that point.

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@joshdhall January 4, 2010 at 7:17 pm

Here’s 3 things you have figured out by 9 months:

1. The name really IS Everything! We made the colossal mistake of naming our son Aidan (Fiery Spirit) Doran (Adventurer). This was all well and good in the womb however what I have on my hands now is an increasingly Fiery Spirited Adenventuresome pain in my (baby loving) ass! My reccomendation is now that everyone name their kids names that mean docile, compliant, obedient, quiet, etc. etc.

2. Don’t rush into solid foods before you have to! The idea of feeding the little tyke peas or carrots seems cute to new parents but a word of caution is in order here. Solid foods = solid poo. Food that comes in various colors and smells = poopy diapers filled with various colors and smells. For the love of all that is holy and good in the world stay on the milk/formula as long as you can!

3. Boudreaux’s Butt Paste is the miracle cure for any ailment. Seriously.

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Chase January 4, 2010 at 7:41 pm

@Damien: Man, thanks! that’s some comprehensive stuff! And, who hasn’t chased a few wraiths?

@josh: Thanks man! Bordeaux it is!

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Camille01 January 4, 2010 at 7:55 pm

You can correct any problem introduced into your child’s (notice I didn’t say teenager’s) life in 3-5 days. Baby’s off his nap schedule because you were on vacation? No problem, let it happen and make everybody happy on vacay. When you get home, 3-5 days of strict naps and crying and you’ll be back to normal. Grandma decides to give your 2 year old a soft drink an hour while you’re there at Christmas? Let her do it, despite the fact that your child didn’t even know they EXISTED before then. Keep the peace. Get home and forbid them again–I mean who’s the adult here? Man (woman) up to that whining and crying, put them in time out for asking a second time and it’s back to water and milk in only 3-5 days. Be persistent! Show ’em who’s boss!
Don’t sweat the small stuff.

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Courtney Stubbert January 4, 2010 at 8:11 pm

Reality.
Funny story.
The scene: After dinner bath-time. The kids get in and play while we clean up the kitchen. Before we got in there and WHILE I was reading follow-up posts we had a “code brown” in the tub, had to surgically extract the kids to the shower and detox the tub. While I was fetching the simple greens I almost rolled an ankle on a toy on the stairs.

Lesson: There is nothing you can do about a code brown from a 1.75 year old. They do what they do. Get your emergency control in place. Usually hardened in the fires of experience.

Lesson: Don’t be checking your emails during bed time. It throws off your game and you gotta stay sharp. Poop is hardcore.

Lesson: Scan the stairs on your descent and stay in shape. Steps are a mine field. My soccer fu skillz saved me a trip to urgent care.

Fathers Unite.

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Courtney Stubbert January 4, 2010 at 8:41 pm

Camille01 – I like where your head is. A wise woman.

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Camille01 January 4, 2010 at 8:51 pm

Courtney — Why thank you and your tips/stories are hysterical. My real given name was “Sara Martin _____” which means Princess Warrior. Totally fits.

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Chase January 4, 2010 at 11:39 pm

@Courtney: My god man!! Hilarious! I almost had a code brown reading your story!

So say we all…

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Stretch Mark Mama (@stretchmarkmama) January 6, 2010 at 1:07 am

Oh, that was just glorious. “Car backed up to the window” bwahaha, so close to reality it shouldn’t be funny–but it is.

It’s so true that it’s a lot easier the 2nd+ time around. Sure, you’re busier and have another child that demands all your time — but you’re smarter and can let a lot of things go (namely: worry) that you would obsess about with the first one. (Speaking from personal experience.) I have friends telling me they’d never have a second child b/c they can barely keep up with the first–but it wasn’t until I had more than one child that I actually started to enjoy parenthood (who, me?) and relax a bit.

And in random closing, if you guys haven’t read the Baby Blues comic strip you need to getcherself to the library and get started. It’s my all-time favorite in that genre. Start at the beginning when the couple has their first child. 🙂

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Chase January 6, 2010 at 10:41 am

Thanks @stretchmarkmama! Baby Blues it is… and it is indeed very encouraging to hear that the second is much more doable. I find I’m fighting against the stream to start talking about the second with Mellisa…

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Matt January 7, 2010 at 8:41 am

@Damien Thanks for quoting out of every feed-on-demand-until-age-10-and-sleep-with-your-kids-book-ever! There are many ways to raise a child.

One thing that I’ve learned is that different things work for different kids (even in the same family), and I don’t have it all figured out.

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Damien McKenna January 9, 2010 at 12:32 pm

Matt, I’ve never read any books like that, I just read the one that said “Mammals (formally Mammalia) are a class of vertebrate, air-breathing animals whose females are characterized by the possession of mammary glands” and “Mammary glands are the organs that, in mammals, produce milk for the sustenance of the young”; coming from an agricultural background it has always confused me that humans are the only mammals that consider this simple biological imperative optional.

Damien

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Thom January 21, 2010 at 9:19 am

Here’s what I’ve learned – we, as first time parents, know nothing.

We think we know, but we don’t. The irony is, we say the same about children. How many times have you said about a teenager, “they know nothing but think they’re the smartest person on the planet.” By the time we’re old enough to have kids, you’d think we’d “get” irony. We should. We don’t.

Sure, parenting could come naturally to some, but to most…(read: me), it’s akin to someone dropping off a drunk monkey @ your place to constantly run around getting into stuff – all while you live in constant fear of them cracking their skull open.

The big thing i’ve learned happened before our son was born. I looked around at friends who had had kids and realized, “I don’t know these people anymore.” It was as if they’d become parent-bots, trying to act like the vision they had of what parents should be, instead of being themselves.

I learned – be yourself; the people who decided to have a kid. That way, YOU are raising your child, not some weird version of yourself that you don’t recognize. Your child will thank you for it.

Once you accept that you know nothing, the learning can begin.

(man, that sound’s heavy and kinda “yoda-ish” – did i just coin a child-rearing phrase?)

thom

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