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29 Essential Pieces of Advice for a New Dad

You are not going to parent the right way. Nobody does. Parent your way. Ignore the advice you don't like, because if you think the way that somebody parents is crazy, they think the same about you.
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To my neighbor, Aaron:

Unsolicited pearls of parenting wisdom are like rashy bottoms. If you're going to have a baby... you're going to have to deal with them eventually.

And you, my friend, are going to have a baby! *cheesing daddy face*

Life has been real peachy since you moved in next door, buddy. The sense of security. The barbecues. (Ok, barbecue, singular, but the summer is young!) The late night gab seshes. Starting Neighborhood Watch on our block, together. Having the block over to our home, increasing peace of mind for me and my daughters. Letting me ceaselessly inundate you with links to my blog posts. Every. Single. Freaking. One. (By the way, I see you've yet to share my latest post. There'd better be a power outage on our street when I get home.)

Now you are having your first baby, like, any hour now, and my family couldn't possibly be happier for yours. And in the same way that the messy, mixed bag of parenthood is a first for you, this letter is a first for me.

You see, I wanted to give you a gift, but I'm a stay-at-home dad of young daughters; the belts have all been tightened and the budget wouldn't budge. So I solicited the help of 29 of the universe's best and brightest dad bloggers to help initiate your journey into fatherhood.

Think of me like the Little Drummer Boy... I just brought you the whole band!

I know you are the right man for the task that lies ahead of you. You will be every bit the best dad EVER, and your kid will want for nothing, physically, emotionally and hand-me-down-wise. I'm not usually one to give parenting advice or tell folks what to expect, save for: 1) "Baby Brain" is real, and 2) You will never poop alone again (assuming you poop alone now). But in the next few days of sleeplessness and NOT ENOUGH EARPLUGS, you might look upon this letter and find comfort in the fact that you are not alone. There are amazing dads all over the world who are willing to lend a word of encouragement, a dinner for two when you're too weak to cook (call me, brosef) or an ear.

It is an old and tired adage that has never been truer. It takes a village to raise a child. Aaron... meet the village.

1. Beau Coffron of Lunchbox Dad:
"Aaron, little known fact. Diapers aren't designed to hold poop in, but to channel the poop up the back and out the armpits. Seriously, this just happened to my baby."

2. Charlie Capen of How To Be A Dad:
"Aaron, cargo shorts are basically diaper bags for dads, diapers aren't climbing harnesses and parenting experts are liars. Fatherhood is an adventure. May you never be the same again."

3. Creed Anthony of Captain's Log... Tales from the Poop Deck:
"Aaron, there will be poop. Lots of poop"

4. Chris Nichols of Rated 4 And Up:
"Aaron, there will be times, times in the middle of the night, while holding your crying child, that you will think I CAN'T DO THIS!

Just remember: YOU CAN DO THIS. And you know what, you can do this better than anything you have ever done before. Be proud, be loving -- BE DAD!"

5. Mike Julianelle of Dad And Buried:
"Aaron, don't do it! Oh, right, too late. Uh...


You're not going to break your baby. Kids are durable. Sure, for the first three months they are utterly terrifying in their fragility, but they have the tools to survive a fair amount of stuff. So unless you're a total a**hole and act recklessly with your baby, you should be fine. Just be cautious and use common sense. And don't shake/drop/throw/eat/sit on him. Don't be that a**hole."

6. Lorne Jaffe of Raising Sienna:
"Aaron, do not be surprised or feel guilty if you don't fall in love with your kid right away. There's a lot of pressure in our society about the moment you first hold your child combined with instant love. Sometimes it doesn't happen. Sometimes it can take six months (as it did in my case) or more or less. Don't let society's perception of what's supposed to happen affect you or get you down. It will happen organically whether it's immediate or down the line."

7. Jim Lin of Busy Dad Blog:
"Aaron, hoard napkins from every Starbucks, McDonald's, Jamba Juice and friend's house and stash them in every corner of your life: your glove compartment, kitchen drawers, your work bag, your garage, your nightstand, in your jacket pockets, in your pants pockets... everywhere. You want access to a napkin with arm's reach (think like a first baseman with the baby as the base) because you will always need them."

8. Mike Reynolds of Puzzling Posts:
"Aaron, watch out when you catch yourself starting to tell your child to 'color within the lines.' I made that mistake once and ruined a picture. We've been coloring outside of them ever since and couldn't be happier."

9. Nick Dawson of Dad Labs:
"Aaron, learn the 'Dunstan Baby Language' of recognizing the various cry sounds... I SWEAR this works. I was often a hero for quieting The Boy via belch/diaper/hunger fixin'."

10. Lance Somerfeld of NYC Dads Group:
"Aaron, find and join a group of dads."

11. Darren Mattock of Becoming Dad:
"Aaron, talk to other dads! They are some of your best teachers. Find a place to hang out with other dads. Sharing a brew while doing that is OK, too. In moderation. Your health matters. A lot. You're definitely going to want to stick around for this fatherhood gig."

12. Justin Connors of Life in 140:
"Aaron, don't forget to put a diaper back on after you change the dirty one out. Especially at 3 a.m., right before breastfeeding time with mom. Trust me."

13. Daniel De Guia of Fit To Be Dad:
"Aaron, enjoy every moment, even the really bad ones, because you will look back and wish you could have slowed down the passage of time."

14. Brian S. Marks of Dashing Dad:
"Aaron, you are not going to parent the right way. Nobody does. Parent your way. Ignore the advice you don't like, because if you think the way that somebody parents is crazy, they think the same about you. Don't worry about it. It is your kid, and you are his or her parent."

15. Brent Almond of Designer Daddy:
"Aaron, don't be afraid to ask for help. From your significant other, your parents, your in-laws, your neighbor, whoever. Yes, it's your job to be his Dad, but don't be a cliché by not 'asking for directions.' You're the chief, but it still takes a village, and there's lots of wisdom out there to be had. Also, never take advice from a blogger."

16. Adam Cohen of DaDa Rocks:
"Aaron, 95 percent of car seats are installed wrong. If it wiggles more then an inch, it's installed wrong."

17. Cort Ruddy of Ruddy Bits:
"Aaron, baby wipes are the duct tape of parenting."

18. Dan Poore of That Poore Baby:
"Aaron, when I talked to other dads before we decided to have a baby, they all said it was life-changing and it most definitely is. It is one of the most demanding, aggravating, tiring, grueling and smelliest things a human being can ever do. Yet, right when you get to that breaking point the damnedest thing happens. The little man looks you in the eyes and you look in his and you see yourself in him. Then he smiles that special, toothless smile that only the two of you share. You know, the one he uses just for you. He looks up at you with those impossible baby blue eyes and smiles that perfect little smile... and you melt."

19. Michael B. Smith of Helping Fathers To Be Dads:
"Aaron, N.A.P.S. 'Naps - A - Parenting - Savior.' Get that young'n on a schedule!"

20. Jim Higley of Bobblehead Dad:
"Aaron, be aware of ceiling fans and low door openings when you're walking around with your kid on your shoulders. Oh, and one other thing: Get in the habit of making sure your child sees you smile every time you see them. Be they 1 month, 1 year, 11 or 21, kids need to know they are people of value in their father's eyes."

21. Buzz Bishop of DadCAMP:
"Aaron, six weeks. Circle a date on a calendar six weeks from the birthday. THAT'S when you get to sleep a full night again. Maybe."

22. Victor Aragon of Fandads:
"Aaron, if you are not that fit, start exercising now. Chasing your kid around all day is tiring, so it helps to have some cardio under your belt."

23. Simon Ragoonanan of Man vs. Pink:
"Aaron, remember to eat. It begins to slip surprisingly far down the priority list. Accept all gifts of food. If anyone asks if they can do anything, answer 'Cook us some food, please.'"

24. Josh Misner of Mindful Dad:
"Aaron, find a song for you and your baby (I suggest looking up Kenny Loggins' album, 'Return to Pooh Corner' -- amazing work). Make it yours. Dance with your baby to this song every night. Sing it, whether you feel like you sing well or not. Someday, this one song will be your special way of putting your baby to sleep without even having to try."

25. Dustin Fisher of Daddy Needs A Nap:
"Aaron, it's nobody's fault. Early on, when sleep deprivation took away our ability to reason, my wife and I thought every little thing that happened was somebody's fault and we were determined to discuss it to a conclusion. This is not healthy and also not correct. Sometimes you'll knock the baby's head on the door frame and it's not because your wife has her seat back too far. It just happens. Try hard to weather that storm and once you get the hang of it, you'll come to that conclusion yourself. But for the sake of the relationship, try to remember this. Good luck. You'll be fine. And I don't care what you've heard, it does get easier."

26. Zach Rosenberg of 8BitDad:
"Aaron, being a father doesn't mean giving up the things you love. It means enhancing and excusing the things you're not supposed to love anymore. Fatherhood means you have a great excuse to play with toys, collect action figures and get back into whatever video game you left when people said 'it's time to grow up.' And that little kid -- the one that tumbled out of your wife's privates, not the one inside you -- will cherish all of the things you do because you're their first idea of 'cool' before society gets to them and spoils them like it did to you. So while you're trying to get your baby to be civilized and grow, it does good for your soul as a dad to de-civilize yourself and be young again. Also, figure out who your favorite superhero is NOW, because when it's time for wall decals and little bed sheets, you want to have a bargaining chip early in the game. If you hesitate at all, it'll be monkeys or bulldozers on that wall instead of Spiderman or Batman."

27. Aaron Gouevia of The Daddy Files:
"Aaron, it's not easy, but it is worth it. You don't have to enjoy every second, but try to enjoy the great moments. And don't just tell your kids you love them everyday, show them."

28. Pierre Calzadilla of Poptism:
"Aaron, when your wife is pissed off, the kids are going crazy, and life is hurling challenges your way -- stay. Don't run. Don't run to TV, beer, other people or distractions. Stay present, engage her, get babysitting, go on a date and let her talk. Also, take your kid out by yourself, talk to your kid from the day they are born and don't stop. Build the relationship and love your family more than yourself!"

29. John Kinnear of Ask Your Dad Blog:
"Aaron, Don't worry about being a 'great dad.' One thing I have learned through trial and error is to accept that my quality as a father is not defined by a qualitative word. We parents are defined by the aggregate of all of our parenting experiences. At times we are great. At other times we fail miserably. Most of the time we are somewhere in the middle treading water and trying to stay afloat. You are about to jump in the pool, and it is going to feel really scary and really new. Embrace that. Try to find joy in it. And if you can't, if you are too tired or too scared or too anything, just know, that is OK too. It will all even out over time. Your whole life you have been told 'When you're a parent, you'll just know...' Well, Mike's neighbor Aaron, that is a load of bullsh*t. You won't know anything -- but babies are far more durable than they look, and you will be surprised what you will figure out through trial and error. I am convinced that there is an evolutionary reason why people don't remember being babies, and I am fairly sure it is to give parents a couple years to figure things out. Good luck man."

Ciao for now, neighbor.

Dada Mike

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An earlier version of this piece appeared on Mike's personal blog, At-Home Dad Matters. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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