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04 June, 2011

Fatherly Advice

by Gus Ramsey

   With Father's Day just around the corner, I wanted to share some "wisdom" with those of you who may be getting married soon or will soon be a father for the first time. Not all of this is world class material but when I've shared it with others they have said it was helpful.

  Let's start with being a fiance. Guys, if you are engaged you only have one real job; stay out of the way. Volunteer a few times to do "whatever you need me to do," but for the most part that's going to mean stay out of the way. The wedding is all about the bride. Understand that, embrace that. Everything looks beautiful. You love any ideas she has. If she wants to register at Dawn's House of Funky Fake Nails, you let her. Remember, just about everything you register for is for HER, not you. If it's something you can use, great! There will be a few exceptions where the bride is super cool and she will register for stuff for both of you to use. But for the most part, understand china, towels and small kitchen appliances are part of your future. Now here's what you do. You tell your future Mrs. that you get to return all the duplicate gifts for something YOU want. It's a simple gesture your bride can make to show that she wants you to be happy too, but she's not really sacrificing anything. It's a win-win. When I got married in 1992 I was able to parlay our duplicates into a new TV and recliner. I got about 10 good years out of each and we've still only used the china about 5 times in 18 years of marriage. I ask you, who got the better end of that deal?

  Now let's move on to parenthood. These are in no particular order.
  Just because your baby is an awesome sleeper in months 0-3, don't fool yourself into thinking it's all gravy. Sometimes months 4-6 are much worse. Teeth start coming in. There's a sense of "hey, where are those people who hold me all day?" kicking in. Don't fall into a false sense of security.
  When you think your baby is crying because she misses you, take one of your wives t-shirts that she recently wore and stuff it into the corner of the baby's crib. The baby picks up the scent, thinks mama is near by and settles back down to sleep.

  If you plan to take your kids to pro or college sporting events on a regular basis, save the tickets. I've probably been to 300 Mets games. I would love to know what my all-time record at Mets games is. So now I save the ticket stubs for all the games I take my boys to. Someday they'll be able to take those tickets, go on-line and look up their record and the details from the games they've gone to. 

 If you celebrate Christmas, put the kids stockings outside their bedroom door. This buys you an additional hour of sleep while the kids occupy themselves with what's in the stocking.

  Everything happens on Tuesday. For a good stretch of time, kids have no clue what the days of the week really mean, how long 24 hours is, etc. So when they ask a "when are we going to...?" or "what time can we...?" question, just tell them "Tuesday." It satisfies their need for an answer and saves you about 30 minutes of losing brain cells.

 Watch your kids do "their thing." Whether it's playing an instrument, acting, playing sports, whatever it is, watching your kid perform is so much better than you can ever imagine. It's fun when they play in their little YMCA soccer or tee ball games, but I'm talking about the real thing. The first time my eldest son competed in a legit swim meet, I was overcome with pride and emotion. I walked out of the building, called my dad and asked "Why didn't you ever tell me how cool it is to watch your son compete??!"
  It gets better too. As they find their niche and really start to get good at whatever it is they do, never take for granted the chance to watch them do it. Make the long drives, get up early, do whatever is necessary. Don't be the obnoxious, over-involved, my kid is the best so everyone stand back parent, but make sure you watch them, support them and let them know how proud you are of their performance and effort.

  Just like no plane has ever crashed because of turbulence, no kid has ever died from crying. They cry. Comfort them. Be patient.

  Those slides at the playground that are completely enclosed? Be very careful with them. When my oldest was almost two I decided to take him down one of those slides. I lay down on my back, put PJ on my chest and held him down, neglecting to hold his legs. When we hit a little bump, his leg popped up and his sneaker quickly stuck to the roof. He broke the bone just below his knee. So if you want to let your kid go down one of those, I'd wait for them to be at least 5 and don't go down with them.

   Make sure the door to the baby's room is well oiled. Nothing will wake up a semi-asleep child faster than a squeaky door. This comes into play in two ways. First, if you want to check on the baby and you need to open the door just enough to poke your head in, you don't want any squeakage. Second, sometimes you'll end up on the baby's floor after trying to get the baby back to sleep. I've had many nights of lying on the floor, with my hand in the crib, and then tried to crawl out of the room only to be nailed by the squeaky door. (in case you're wondering, the door is closed or mostly closed to keep light out.)
   Also, position the child's bed in a place where the door is not in the line of sight. Make sure you lay them in the bed or crib with their head not looking directly at the door, if possible.
This will allow you to peak in at times when they are just lying there, talking to themselves or singing, without you being seen. Trust me, some of the best moments as a parent occur while doing this.

  Laugh. A lot. Laugh at yourself. Laugh with your kids. Laugh at all their jokes and laugh at your own foibles. It builds their confidence. My dad has an awesome laugh. Whenever Bill Simmons is talking to him on the phone he tries to get my dad to do his patented "put down the phone and walk away while he howls" laugh. It's great because you hear him in the background trying to compose himself as you sit there waiting for him to pick the phone back up.
  When I was young, getting my dad to laugh was the highlight of my day. So laugh for your kids. It's one more way to say "I love you."

  Know this; It gets better every day. As cool as your kids are when they are 5, it's even better when they are 6. As great as that is, it's even better when they are 7. And so on.
  So if you are about to embark on the journey of parenthood, I hope you embrace it. Whenever a friend tells me they are going to have their first child I say the same thing, "Welcome to the greatest club in the world, parenthood."

  (if you have some tips that you've learned as a parent over the years, throw them into the comment box and help some future parents find their way.)

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