When I first found out that Lauren and I were having a boy, I remember my imagination started racing. For whatever reason, I immediately began to think about the kind of baseball glove I was going to buy him, how much kid fishing gear would cost, and whether or not a child’s Fender Strat with amp to go with it was a good investment. I pictured us running around in the backyard or him trying to dunk me in the pool. I envisioned us both hunched underneath the kitchen sink as I taught him how to amateurly plumb, butt cracks out and everything. Needless to say, I was very excited! (I’m sure my reaction to a girl would have been equally exciting. So, future daughter, if you ever read this, please don’t be offended.)
The day finally came when I got to meet Kyler and hold my incredible spawn. After coming home from the hospital, I had his toys ready to go. I couldn’t wait to play with him! And then…he just laid there. He cried some. He did strange alien things with his arms. And then he cried some more. And laid there some more. And pooped and peed on me.
I wanted to bond with him so badly. I wanted to connect with him and when it didn’t immediately happen, I began to feel very guilty. How could I feel so distant to someone who is part me? Babies don’t come out of the womb ready to swing a bat and wrestle. I quickly learned that if I was going to bond with my son as an infant, it was going to take work.
One of the most common things I hear from other new dads is how difficult it is for them to bond with their child pre-nine months. As a dad who also struggled with it, I want to share a few things that helped me bond with my soon to be wrestling son while he was still a wiggly potato on a blanket in our living room.
- Be Active in Preparing for His Arrival – Guys may not be good at decorating the baby room, but we are definitely good at assembling furniture that comes in boxes. We can paint walls, too. By actively participating in helping Lauren nest, I was able to participate in anticipating Kyler. Although, I ultimately didn’t have as strong of an opinion on the different baby gear we bought, I still tried. This helped me bond with Kyler because it built the anticipation.
- Schedule One on One Time Each Week – Lauren had a difficult delivery with Kyler, so when he was first born I had to be very involved with his day to day survival. Spending that kind of one on one time, knowing that his survival depended on me, helped me bond with him quite a bit. Once Lauren recovered, though, it became more challenging to have that kind of time. This is why we now have Saturday Man Morning. Every Saturday morning, I take Kyler on a walk, or on an errand, or let Lauren go do something while I take care of him. Not only does this give the mom a break, but it provides the kind of individual action that helps guys bond.
- Own Part of the Routine – Babies like routines. I know one of the best things we did as parents was start a bed time routine to help Kyler wind down. Although there are parts of the routine we share, or will switch on, I always am the one who changes his final diaper and gets him in his jammies. This is something I look forward to every night, and something he enjoys as well. I also change his first diaper in the morning and play with him in his room. By owning those parts of his daily routine, I was able to find consistent special time to be with Kyler and get to know him.
- Talk to Your Baby – This was probably the hardest for me to do. I have a hard time forcing conversations with people who can talk to me back, so doing it with a drooling, crying baby seemed impossible. Talking to my newborn son consistently, as hard as it was, became one of the most significant factors in bonding with him. Not only did it remind me that my baby was, in fact, human, but it also helped him to learn my voice. The connection of familiarity is huge for bonding.
- Expose Them to Your Interests – Even though Kyler is way too young to participate in music with me, I can still expose him to it while he is a baby. I would play him songs on my guitar, sing things that I wrote, play bands that I like while we are all hanging out in the living room. Showing him these things that are important to me helped me feel closer to him. If you’re a big sports fan, buy your baby a jersey or sit them in your lap while you watch the game. If you like cars, show him your car. Buy your baby a hot wheel. Showing your baby your uniqueness helps establish your identity to him or her.
It might be hard, but making the effort to bond with our babies as dads is very worth it. And we don’t need the baseball gloves and fishing poles to do it!