5 Tips for New Dadding

Make it through the wilderness of baby parenting.

File Under: Advice, Memoir

My second child just turned two, which means I’ve officially made it through the wilderness of baby parenting.

Here are five things that helped us survive the unpredictable days and sleepless nights.

[Ed. Note – The author claims no expertise except for his own experience and his confidence that he knows what he’s doing. Your results may vary… especially with potty training.]

Date Night

When our oldest child was two, we moved to a new city, and received some advice while on a double date with new colleagues: book a weekly babysitter. It saves you the trouble of deciding when to go out and who to call, gives someone a steady paycheck, and all you have to figure out is what you want to eat, which is about all of the mental capacity you may have in those early years. We made ours Thursday nights, which is easier both for getting reservations at new restaurants and for going to bed early afterwards. Our kids know the routine, and our older one appreciates that we have made it a practice to eat together as a family on Shabbat.

Overnight Diaper

My mother-in-law was a pediatric nurse and taught us the trick of putting an adult undergarment liner in our infant’s diaper to allow her (and us) to get through the night without discomfort. Both of our kids began sleeping through the night at two months, for a full 11-12 hours. My wife wouldn’t let me post about this on social media while it was happening lest we arouse the anger of other exhausted new parents.

No ‘Baby Talk’

My wife and I made a decision together not to use baby talk with our kids. From the start, we talked to them in our regular voices using real words in full sentences. Both of our children were early talkers, describing the plots of movies and books in short but accurate early sentences (“Dumbo flies!”; “Corderoy fell down!”), and their day care teachers have been amazed at their vocabulary. (They haven’t stopped talking for a moment since, but that’s another story.)

Potty

For each of my children’s first birthdays, I created a tradition of buying them a simple little white children’s potty. Placing it in the bathroom with no pressure to use it, we allowed them to exercise their natural curiosity, and both of them used it every night before bath (with the sound of the running water working like Pavlov’s bell), eventually moving on to daytime use and even announcing when they had to go. (Sometimes true, sometimes not, but we tried to honor their instincts.) By the time we got to potty training for our oldest when she was ready, it had been her routine for over a year to use it daily, and all we needed was a princess potty party to seal the deal.

Routine is King, But So Are You

Routines works wonders for kids. Our son, in particular, goes down for naps and bedtime at the drop of a hat because he knows that it’s time like clockwork. However, it doesn’t mean that we don’t break the routine when we want to do something special as a family. Our kids have napped in strollers and the car when we are on the go, and it allows us to still be adults with the semblance of a life outside parenting, as well as to create special moments that aren’t confined to the spaces between naps and meals.

That’s it, we solved parenting! (Just kidding.) But these things helped us, and I’m sharing them in the hopes of helping some other exhausted new dad get though the most wonderful and terrible moments of early parenthood.

Jay Rapoport

Jay Rapoport

Nationally-touring music educator Jay Rapoport takes Jewish values and stories and transforms them into "Ruach Rock," a catchy piano-pounding style influenced by Ben Folds and Billy Joel. His first album of original Jewish songs, With All Your Heart, was released in November 2010, and he travels the country sharing his unique blend of instant sing-alongs and engaging musical storytelling that gets people out of their seats and rocking. Jay has performed at URJ Biennial, NewCAJE and NFTY Convention and has served on the faculty of Song Leader Boot Camp, led t'filah for ARJE gatherings, and taught at Hava Nashira. Jay honed his skills as a camp songleader, touring clubs and colleges with various bands, and incorporating original music into his roles as camp director at Temple Rodef Shalom in Falls Church, VA and youth advisor and educator at Congregation Rodeph Sholom in NYC. Jay studied piano and singing at Berklee College of Music and has a master's degree in religious education from Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion in New York City. Since 2014, he has served as Director of Lifelong Learning at Temple Sholom of Chicago. His second album of Jewish music, They Tried To Get Us, We Won, Let's Rock! was released in December 2014.