Whether it’s living in the car, getting a hungry dog, or just the miracle of Gaffer tape, first-time fathers need these tips.
There is new information coming out all the time telling you what to do. When to suckle, when not to suckle, the importance of tummy time, skin to skin, prenatal, postnatal, the province of Natal. It’s complicated.
So what I have done with the help of Master Tanner is compiled a list of dos and don’ts – commandments if you will – to help you through the difficult times.
1. Your car is your best friend
If my kids are crying, whining, biting someone else’s kid, or pulling hair out, my go to is to shove everyone into the car and drive. ‘We’re going on a road trip kids!’
Once your kids are strapped in, secured, the one million bags and other kids’ stuff is loaded, and the child-proof door locks are switch on, nobody is getting out. There is drive-thru food, drive-thru coffee, and even a drive-thru ATM. How’s that for progress?
Pro tip: Just like in Speed, try staying above 50 km/h — your kids will stop screaming and bad shit won’t happen.
2. Get a dog (your second best friend)
You will be rewarded with unconditional love, which is something you’ll need when when your kids grow up. When Ginny starting eating solids she would do this charming thing where, if she didn’t like the food we prepared, she would toss it on the floor.
What a bold response. Imagine that power move at a dinner party — you lock eyes with your host and tip his Ossa Bucca on the floor.
Our dog Wilma thought it was a great game. She would just sit under the high chair and wait for some filthy puree to be dropped and gobble it all up. Wilma now follows my five-month-old son Clive around, trying to pick up a bit of breast milk. Cunning.
3. A family beach trip is never a good idea
We headed to the beach, car packed to the brim and ready for our big adventure. We brought everything — sunshade, boogie boards, two prams, bumbo seat, snacks, formula, nappies, swimming nappies, swimming aides — everything.
We were ready for anything — the apocalypse could have come and we would’ve been sorted. When we got there we realised that prams don’t work on sand, and we had too much crap to carry.
So we decided, after a heated exchange, that I would take everything back to the car. When I got back both of my kids were crying. Apparently they were scared of the sand. We left the beach at once. No one talked on the car trip home.
4. Embrace the freedom of being pantless
Australia is a warm climate for nine months of the year and there’s no real reason to wear pants. And my two kids are at their happiest pants off — free and easy breezy. If they do a poo-poo, simply wait til it turns white and throw it in the compost. The garden will thrive! Everyone wins.
5. Food is easiest in cylindrical form
My daughter goes mad for a Chiko roll, spring roll, pluto pup or just about anything she can get off the back of a truck from a dirty carney. The beauty of the cylinder. It’s even easier if it’s on a stick.
Pro tip: Never add sauce. It makes a big mess and the kids get hyper.
6. Gaffer tape can (almost) fix everything
Kids shoes are not made to last — they are made cheaply and sold cheaply. Best way to counter this is with Gaffer tape. If the velcro doesn’t work anymore, Gaffer tape it. If there’s a hole in the shoe, Gaffer tape it. If the shoes are too big, fill up the empty space with Gaffer tape. No matter what Ginny and Clive’s shoes looked like originally, they would always end up the same — round, shiny and black.
7. Join your local church (for the free stuff)
When Ginny was just born we were scrounging around for baby things — we had nothing. We decided to rely on the kindness of strangers so we joined our local parish. It was called ‘Our Lady of Something Something’. I’m not exactly sure what they believed in, but God was the central theme.
Once we were welcomed into the parish we started picking up a heap of free stuff, and they were even willing to babysit. But we did have to leave once Ginny started talking. She was parroting all the horrible things we were saying at home. How about some forgiveness on that one?
8. Always order the kids’ meal
The kids’ menu at any, um ‘restaurant’ is great value for money and the perfect entrée for a normal meal. But why should the kids have all the fun? Get them to order one for you. Even though Clive isn’t on solids yet and is not quite talking, I still get him to order me the nuggets and chips.
9. Have a standby name for your kid
If people call your son a girl or your daughter a boy, just go with it. But have an alternative name at the ready. The trouble you have to go through to explain actually he is a she but at the moment she is pretending to be a he. It’s all kinds of awkward.
10. Medicate (if not your kids, then yourself)
When my eldest was teething, I looked for the strongest thing I could get over the counter for her. The chemist informed me that as she’s a child he couldn’t give her anything too strong.
I told him that I couldn’t take another night of her screaming and crying. He said he would see what he could do, and came back with a box of Panadeine Forte for me. It worked perfectly. I could hardly hear her and I slept through the night like a baby (and my partner had to deal with her).
Remember: These commandments are not to be taken all at once and go best with a large glass of moderately-priced wine. Remember to relax and be sure in the knowledge that most things come off with a high-powered garden hose.
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