Fatherhood 101 | Learning Curves

No One Starts Knowing How to be a Dad on Day 1 — You Have to Figure it Out!

Last updated on November 16th, 2020 at 03:11 am

One month down, 939 or so to go (well, a little less for me, of course).

Fatherhood isn’t for every man, but it’s not as frightening as we think it is.

I'm Not Dead, I'm Just a Dad—Learning Curves—Daddy's Little Quarterback
DoomzToo a week in. I can confirm that he does not yet play football—though he definitely has the arm for it!

I wish I spoke newborn.

With Week Five of the Life and Times of DoomzToo wrapped up, I’m happy to say that fatherhood’s nothing to fear. Sure, there’ll be moments that make you want to pull your hair out (but balding is a very serious problem and this action is not recommended), and sure, your life changes—a lot — but soon enough, you find your groove and things starting falling into place. You learn how to change diapers. You figure out what you need to do to put your kid to sleep. Feeding them from a bottle gets less awkward—nothing in parenting is insurmountable.

But don’t for a moment confuse it with being easy—there’s the inexplicable 3 AM fits of hysteria for seemingly no reason whatsoever. Or learning that it isn’t the poop that makes changing diapers difficult—it’s the resistance they put up with inhuman baby strength, even though they’ll feel ridiculously better once their butt is clean. Or there’s always my favourite new game—Act Like I Want a Soother and Then Spit it Out Onto the Floor Five Seconds Later, which leaves parents hilariously scurrying around the home in search for another one before time’s up and the baby starts testing their lung capacity.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and fall into a rut when you enter fatherhood. Transforming from mere mortal man to the superhuman father that your child relies on is a lot more sudden than the transition to motherhood, and many men (myself included) fail to prepare themselves sufficiently for the things that come ahead.

It’s exciting in the beginning—you get an outpouring of love from family and friends, and you have an entirely new person in your life to love and care for. You can prepare all you want, but it changes everything. Your sleep schedule. Your priorities. Your mindset. Anything’s up for grabs as soon as a baby’s in the picture, and you never know how you’ll react.

Fatherhood is definitely an experience, my friends — every baby’s different, and every father’s going to approach it a little different — but not so different that you can’t learn from others’ experiences.

A Concise Word on Advice

Advice is very easy to give, and even easier not to follow, so I don’t fool with it.

–Randy Pausch, Carnegie Mellon Commencement Speech, 2008

I'm Not Dead, I'm Just a Dad—Learning Curves—Casey and his nephew
Casey, T-minus 2 months to DoomzToo. Notice the deer in the headlights look poor Casey has as he can’t figure out what to do with a newborn babe.

From what I’ve seen, one of parents’ favourite pastimes is tormenting expecting parents with horror stories about their kids and the things they’ve had to go through.

If you get nothing else as a new parent, one thing you’ll never be short on is advice. When DoomzToo was born, I got tons of advice on what I needed to do as a father — much of it from people without kids of their own.

Originally, I took others’ advice with a grain of salt. Misery loves company, and it doesn’t take much for parents to relate to each other—kids aren’t exactly the hardest thing to make. But despite everyone feeling instantly qualified to parent my child, there’s some truth behind the scare tactics that veteran parents rely on so heavily!

But you only start to understand when you’re worrying about screwing things up; figuring it all out as you go, wishing that all the baby books didn’t give such conflicting advice; and being there for your kid instead of just about anything else in your schedule. You shuffle your priorities, you learn new lessons every day on the job—ultimately, parenthood is a compromise between you and your child, the both of you trying to get as much as possible out of your relationship.

And that’s what keeps many men from taking the plunge into fatherhood—this mistaken belief that they need to somehow diminish themselves by becoming a father; that all the time they devote to their child, the man they were before is gone.

But must it be that way?

Fatherhood—Rising Up to the Challenge

I'm Not Dead, I'm Just a Dad—Learning Curves—Sarah and DoomzToo

Sarah was ready for a baby well before I was. Much like the dozen weddings I put her through before we tied the knot, a photo album I have called “Sarah Holding Other People’s Babies” shows evidence that I did much the same when it came to entering parenthood. She’d light up when holding a newborn, likely thinking of what it’d be like to have one of her own while simultaneously staring daggers in my direction for not giving her one already!

Kids weren’t even on my radar before DoomzToo—it wasn’t part of what you’re trained to think about before you become a father. Think about it—when’s the last time you saw a Pampers ad with a father prominently playing with his newborn son, or a Similac ad with a father proudly bottle-feeding his daughter? All I knew is that I didn’t want to change. I remember telling friends that I don’t want to turn into one of those parents who only talk about their kids. The ones who post shots of a first potty trip on Facebook, or have albums filled with dozens of blurry cell phone shots of their kid in moments you’d only understand if you were there. I wanted more in my life than just my kid.

But I’m starting to get it.

It’s hard to avoid talking about your kids all the time when they become so much of your life. I underestimated it before—how much attention, affection and stimulation a baby needs to get through the day. I mean, if you had to go through a day unable to move, feed or change yourself, you’d want someone to step in and improve your quality of life, right?

Things will blur together as you deal with distressed shrieks, projectile pee-pee and the stench of garbage bags loaded with soiled diapers, but these are all just tasks that take less time the more you do them. With a newborn in tow, you can still make time for the things you liked doing before you were a father—you just need to learn how to do it while keeping an ear open for the warning signs that your baby needs you. 

Fatherhood isn’t impossible—it doesn’t even have to ruin your life! The rules of the game will change, and your life will too — but you’ve faced challenges before, and you will again.

The whimsies of a baby are simply another obstacle to overcome.

cep wrap-up logo

This Post is Dedicated to Chris Collins, RIP.

Chris Collins' Twitter pic—@ChrisCollinsTO
RIP Chris Collins. The world’s a little less exciting with you, bud.

On a more serious note, I’d like to dedicate this post to a buddy, Chris Collins. A father of two and fellow Twitter user, I met Chris at an After Work Drinks Toronto event last year and we hit it off.  In the time since, we had beers, talked parenting, dreamt dreams… he was just a really stand-up guy in general.

He passed on Monday, December 2nd, drowning in Thailand’s Sai Yok Yai waterfall after getting caught in a current. He’s survived by his wife and two kids, and his celebration of life was yesterday, with family and friends sending outpourings of love from every direction.

Anyone who knows Chris knows he called Thailand a second home, and his friend Andrew, the last person to see him before he died, can attest to the fact that he was in a good place in his last moments:

We’ll miss you, buddy. Thanks for all the advice and being part of my life.

By Casey E. Palmer

Husband. Father. Storyteller.

Calling the Great White North his home, Casey Palmer the Canadian Dad spend his free time in pursuit of the greatest content possible.

Thousand-word blog posts? Snapshots from life? Sketches and podcasts and more—he's more than just a dad blogger; he's working to change what's expected of the parenting creators of the world.

It's about so much more than just our kids.

When Casey's not creating, he's busy parenting, adventuring, trying to be a good husband and making the most of his life!

Casey lives in Toronto, Ontario.

8 replies on “Fatherhood 101 | Learning Curves”

Welp this was a bittersweet post.

Amazing photos and great insight on being a new daddio! It’s cool as a kid to see this kind of thing – I assume it’s likely much of what my Dad thought when I was born (since I was a first child!)

Also – amazing photographs! Are you gonna post a full album of the shoot or do I have to visit your house to see them on the mantle/in a physical album!?

Thanks for reading, Paige. Chris was a bit of an inspiration for me, always seeming to make the most out of life while simultaneously making sure to be there for his family. I wish I could’ve learned more from him, but life is what it is.

I think many fathers probably have similar thoughts when they first enter the arena, but it’s manageable. Just gotta suck it up, do what you gotta do, and work around your baby’s needs. It’s that simple.

As for those photos — Sarah posted them all up at once, but I’m more of a piecemeal kind of guy. But drop me a line if you ever want a link to the gallery, and I’m happy to provide 🙂

Superb post. Terrible news about Chris. Just … so very sad.

Hang in there with fatherhood. It does change everything — for the better. Your life will accelerate now. Time will fly by like a dream.

Newborns are easier than you anticipate; their needs are so straightforward; they let you know what they need, they’re not out to game the system, there’s no subterfuge, no hidden nonsense; if they’re crying it’s for a reason. After a few months, they’re crawling and starting to get into things they maybe shouldn’t get into; then they’re standing up and you’re trying to make sure they can’t fall on anything sharp (like a coffee table corner). And on and on it goes, new challenges every month, but escalating slowly. The learning curve is gradual. It’s a very old system, this baby-raising stuff. Seems to work out for people!

Enjoy it while you can. They get big fast.

Thanks for dropping by, Kas — I really appreciate it. Chris was a really great guy, and we miss his presence up here in Toronto.

We’ve had a relatively easy go with a newborn these past five weeks as compared to other parents we know from our pre-natal class — we feel blessed that it hasn’t been more insane.

Though, you’re completely right — it’ll be all too soon when he starts getting into all sorts of mischief, and perhaps my posts will change in tone a bit as I navigate my way through entirely new challenges. But as I tell my staff at work…

That’s Future Casey’s problem 😉

Hope you see you stop by again, sir!

So sorry it took me so long to leave to a comment.
I love this post.
I seems to the rest of the world that you’re adjusting to being a parent just fine. You make it seem like an easy transition.
Keep up the awesome work.

Sad about Chris.
I loved the photos he would post – the cutest pictures of his kids. He always talked about them and all the fun stuff he liked to do with them.
Tragic, really. He’ll be missed. This was a great post to dedicate to him.

All good, Christine — I’m immensely busy these days, especially considering the time of year, so I more or less expect that others are as well 🙂

One thing that happened when DoomzToo came into our lives is that I got a lot more time to think about where I’m at and what’s going on. I cleared out my schedule of social events in order to be home to help out, and in the nights I was here trying to reconcile all these new thoughts, concerns and worries in my head, I started to really come to some solid conclusions about how to articulate it all.

I hope to make fatherhood less scary for men who think that it’s a ball and chain that ruins their youthful lives. I dunno — I think there’s a void to be filled, so I’m trying to do it 🙂

I’m sad that I didn’t get to spend more time with Chris. He really was a lovely guy. I just hope that if he were still with us, he’d be happy with the impact he had on everyone’s lives in his time here. We’ve lost one of the good ones. I just tried to write a post to do him justice, father to father 🙂

Thanks, as always, for taking the time to comment!

You know I totally dig this post … ’nuff said. I can’t wait for the toddler version when the time arrives 🙂 Let me know when you two are ready for a baby date… I’ll make it happen. .. With wine ofcourse.

Thanks — as always — for stopping by, Yashy 🙂 By the time we get to the toddler years, I hope to have stored up a ton of thoughts and insights about fatherhood and manage to feel like less of a novice. I mean, sure, we’ve gotten into a groove and it’s going well, but for all sakes and purposes, DoomzToo is mute and immobile. When he starts walking and talking like a “real person” — it’s going to be a whole ‘nother ball game up in here 😐

Let’s start 2014 off right with a baby date. I’ll drop you a line 🙂

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