The best thing my wife ever did for me after my son was born was nothing.
Let me explain.
Babies were a mystery to me when my son was born. Lamaze classes are great, but once you’re holding that squirming and peeing baby, everything goes out the window. The only thing I was confident doing when my son was born was changing diapers. I used to work with developmentally disabled adults and had changed thousands of diapers, so I had diapering down.
Everything else? Clueless.
Clueless, but fearless. I was completely confident that I was going to “get it.” And I was determined to do so.
My wife was equally confident I would be able understand how to go about taking care of a baby. She would leave me alone with our new baby without worry.
Within days of our baby’s birth, I was alone with a crying little guy who I had no idea how to quiet. I walked around, danced, bobbed, did everything I could to help calm him, but time and again I failed. I tried to give him a bottle, but that too didn’t work. He was unhappy and I didn’t know how to hold him.
So there we were, two guys who didn’t know one another.
But my wife left us alone, and we figured it out.
My wife never yanked him from my arms and said, “Hold him this way.” She never yelled, “You’re doing it wrong!” She let me figure it out on my own.
My wife understands how I learn things. I’m like a lot of guys, I learn from being in the moment. I learn by doing things with my hands. Looking back, it must have been frustrating for her to watch the two of us struggle, but those struggles were important so that we could understand one another.
All too often I hear from new dads whose wives make them feel incompetent. This makes them not want to bond with the baby, let alone be unable to bond. Constantly fearing you’re doing it wrong and you’ll be scolded for doing so is not the way to start a parenting partnership. I don’t know if my wife consciously did this for me or if it was simply the result of being exhausted from delivering and from breastfeeding.
Whatever the reason was, what she did was good for me.
A version of this first appeared on One Good Dad.