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Reflections from a rookie dad

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Monday, March 29, 2010

Reflections from a rookie dad

Last week, Andrew posted 3 tips from his first week as a dad.

It made me reflect on the 6.5 weeks under my belt. Being the oldest of 11, I'm no stranger to infants. But I've never dealt with twins or been a father, so in many ways this is all completely new.

Here are a few thoughts from my experience so far.

1. If you're an introvert, twins are not for you! My wife noted this yesterday as we were stopped again (and again and again...) by someone fawning over the kids or relaying their story of having twins or knowing someone who has twins. This happens EVERYWHERE we go with them! At times, I hear an, "Aww, look at the twins!" and I just keep walking. There just isn't time to stop and respond to each one. Twins don't double the attention you attract in public; I'm convinced they quadruple it at a minimum!

2. It's okay to do things with your kids you formerly thought you'd NEVER do. For example, I thought it was "against the rules" to sleep with your kid (SIDS, smothering, etc.). I learned that when it's 4:00 AM, you had 3 hours of sleep the night before, and a child who just ate and has a clean diaper is still crying when you lay them in their crib because they really just want to be held, you hold them. And because you're utterly exhausted, you hold them in bed. And you fall asleep, and so do they, and they sleep longer with you than in their crib, and you both wake up much happier. (And yes, there are ways to hold them - on your shoulder is a start - without risking smothering them.)

3. 90% of the gadgets at Babies R Us won't work on your kid. 10% will. Your mission is to find that 10%. Carson likes the swing and pacifier. Keira doesn't hate them, but doesn't respond as well. Neither does well with the bouncers (being bounced on Daddy's knees is much better). I haven't found the mobile or light/white-noise-maker to be real effective, though they aren't completely useless. The bottom line is you (or your friends and family at your baby showers) will spend a lot of money if you want to and will be maddened at how little of what you buy actually works. Which brings me to my next point...

4. 90% of what does work on your kid, you really don't need anyway. This counts for the smallest and most seemingly essential of items. Take pacifiers, for example. Carson sucks my finger to the bone. This is especially important for the expensive items. Take baby monitors, which run well over $100 for the nicer ones. We don't own one and don't plan to. Unless you're in a large house or go outside while your kid is asleep, you don't need it. People survived for thousands of years without plastic and believe it or not, you can too! And for those items you decide you can't do without, you typically can't use them for more than 1-3 years anyway, so whatever you do, utilize Craigslist! (Our nursery is 100% Craigslist and came from 4 different sources - 2 cribs, a dresser, a dresser/hutch/changing table, and a glider/ottoman, all of which match and cost less than what the glider/ottoman would have cost brand new alone.)

5. Just because it worked for your kid does not mean it will work for mine. And vice versa. Advice is great - after all, I'm giving advice right now. But all advice is just that. There's very little about raising a child that is absolute. I have tremendous appreciation for this with twins, as I'm constantly amazed at how phenomenally different my children are. If two kids with the same parents and such similar genes are so different, how much more different are my kids from my friends' kids? Give and take advice with a grain of salt and don't be too upset when the latest solution you give or take fails to work.

6. There is no greater joy on earth than being a parent! You're hopefully at a place of increased maturity with your spouse so that your love for one another is deeper than ever, and now you add a child (or two or three). That helpless child needs and trusts you 100% in a way that nobody - not even your spouse - ever has. A sense of independence is lost, but there's a new sense of completion as you see your life come full circle in many ways.

I still have much to learn, reflect on, and pass along. Perhaps some of these feelings will dissipate with time. But for now, I'm relishing every minute of my new life as a dad.



Anonymous Bill Roehl declared,

1. My wife is an introvert. She just doesn't go outside (extroverts go outside) and thus there is no such problem.

If she did encounter such a problem she'd just stare at the stranger blankly until they were done brain dumping her and then she'd move on blissfully unaware that she may have offended them.

2. I routinely wake up in the middle of the night frantically searching the bed (in my sleep) for the baby that I dreamed I left there instead of where he belongs--in his crib.

Our son sleeps from 8:30/:45 to 4 AM (this morning it was a full 8 hours until 4:45) so I don't have the same problems that some poor guy with twins does!

3/4. My son *needs* his pacifier and the humidifier. Other than that I think he could live w/o anything else. My wife, OTOH, does not seem to agree.

5. Agreed.

6. Duh :)

3/29/2010 6:07 PM  
Blogger Keelie declared,

Yeah, I agree wholeheartedly with #2! My daughter didn't sleep with us but a couple times - my son....who thought he had to eat every two hours till he was 8 months old, even at night...well, he slept with us a lot more. At some point you start getting more sleep and they start sleeping in their crib! I don't have issues with my toddler sleeping with me...not yet anyway.:)
One thing I think I've learned as a parent is never say never!:) When I'm in the store and I hear someone else's kid screaming, rather than think they should learn to control their kid, like I'm sure I used to think, I'm now just very thankful it's not my kid, because they're definitely capable of doing that. The only difference might be how I choose to deal with it!
And I'm thankful for pacifiers in the middle of the night when I want to sleep in my bed and she in her crib and she seems to be having trouble sleeping. They come in handy!:)

3/31/2010 7:57 AM  
Blogger Kara Jo declared,

Oh my goodness--great post, Joey. Made me smile over and over. I love the stuff you're learning as a dad.

1) Good thing you're not a people pleaser, Joey, or you'd never get anything done when you're out & about. You have to admit, though, that those bundles of yours are pretty cute--who can blame people for fawning, oohing, & awing. :)
2) BTW, for what it's worth, the research shows that co-sleeping (having baby in bed with you) is actually safe, as long as neither mom nor dad are on any mood altering substances. (So don't guilt yourself for doing what you had to, to get through the night. :) Not kidding; this was emphasized in the professional breastfeeding training I took.) Also, interestingly, co-sleeping is very popular in many other developed nations, and--in the ones where it's the norm, SIDS is virtually non-existent. That said, though, I'll admit I didn't do it very often either. Like Bill, Wade and I often found ourselves waking in a stupor & frantically tearing through the sheets for the baby we were sure we left in there somewhere. (Never was the case.) Maybe that actually shows that we're EXTRA cautious, not the opposite.

6) I pray your feelings never lessen or dissipate. :) I don't think they will. Except for maybe for a while when the kids turn 3...

Loved loved loved your post, Joey!

3/31/2010 1:25 PM  
Blogger Kara Jo declared,

Oh, and one more thing...LOVE the photos of them adoring their daddy!

3/31/2010 10:33 PM  
Blogger Joey declared,

Bill, on 3/4, I have to admit I'm finding that some things work better at different ages.

KJ, nope, I can't blame people for fawning. I fawn all day long so I suppose I should allow them a minute or two. :) Also, I've heard a few reports similar to yours saying that sleeping with them doesn't pose any additional risk, so that's good to know!

4/01/2010 4:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous declared,

Real life reply

-If you're an introvert, twins are not for you! – When our girls were about 1, we ran into a woman with her twin boys. After what we thought was a short conversation, she broke out a photo book and told about how her boys played Meg Ryan’s son in the movie “Top Gun” and here’s a picture of Tom Cruise and the boys and dear Lord kill me now. send in the introverts please

-It’s okay to do things with your kids you formerly thought you'd NEVER do. – I never thought that I’d wake a sleeping baby, but I found out early in parenthood that that if one baby was awake and eating at 2 in the morning, the other would wake up just after you put the first back to bed. So when one was awake, we’d wake the other and feed both, put them both back in bed, and get 30 contiguous minutes of sleep

-90% of the gadgets at Babies R Us won't work on your kid - Diaper Genie…too much trouble, baby monitor…too noisy, Baby Wipe warmer the only thing that we did not return.

-90% of what does work on your kid, you really don't need anyway - Read above the warmer was mostly for me. Wipes get cold in that plastic box, I really didn’t care how they felt on the kids’ bums

-Just because it worked for your kid does not mean it will work for mine - My parents came down for a couple days each week to help. It only lasted about 3 weeks when they left in a huff and didn’t call return for 6 months. Take advice and apply it as you see fit. Let people put their own noses back into joint.

-There is no greater joy on earth than being a parent! - Yep! A decade into twins things only get better…harder but better. A practical lifestyle and sense of humor go along way.

One other thing…when our kids were born, friends of ours had trips. 3 kids at a time was something that did not figure out. On the other hand those parents struggling with only one kid seemed incompetent to me.

When we had our son, 3 years later, he was a walk in the park. He eats dirt, plays with the dog, and sleeps on his stomach. All is good

4/02/2010 11:03 AM  
Blogger Joey declared,

@nooneofconsequence, loved the comments from someone who's been doing the twins game quite a bit longer.

We've made a habit of waking up one kid when the other wakes up to eat from the day they were born. Only in the last week or so have we started letting the other sleep longer in the morning because they're starting to get 5-7 hours of sleep consistently. If one gets 5 and the other will get 7, we're happy to take the 7! But as a general rule we do the same thing as you...the more their schedule is forced to be the same the better!

Baby wipe warmer...hilarious. We didn't get one because we figured they could deal with it. Yep, they can. They fussed a little at first but don't care now.

Trips...we may be stupid, or just adventurous, but we're planning a 2-week road trip to California this summer when they're 6 months old. I'm sure I will also be scratching my head at those complaining about their travel experiences with "just" one kid...

4/02/2010 10:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous declared,

when I said Trips, I should have been more clear...Triplets. however, taking atrip with 6 mo old twins is a little have my pity.

4/03/2010 9:52 PM  
Blogger Joey declared,

Trips = triplets...that makes that whole paragraph make a whole lot more sense. Guess if I were more in tune with multiples lingo I'd have been on top of that.

We're having dinner tonight with a couple who had triplets 6 days before our twins were born. Should be an interesting time. We met them at a class for parents expecting multiples. 13 twins and 1 set of triplets were on the way in that class. They brought in a couple who had 6-month-old triplets to talk about their experience. It made having "only 2" seem easy!

4/05/2010 2:41 AM  
Blogger Brian Hsi declared,

great post! as a new dad of twins myself (3.5 months) I'd also add that finding other parents of twins is a life saver. Just having others going through similar issues at the same time is great for one's sanity.

4/06/2010 10:15 AM  
Blogger Joey declared,

Congrats Brian! And agreed on finding others. We just had dinner last night with a couple who have triplets that are 6 days older than our twins. All we talked about was kids. Funny how quickly life takes a turn.

And don't worry, I will not ask whether twins run in your family or are identical. (I have been shocked at how many people have asked whether or not out boy/girl twins are identical. It's astounding.)

4/06/2010 11:34 AM  

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