Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Be Prepared: A Practical Handbook for New Dads

Be Prepared: A Practical Handbook for New Dads
By Gary Greenberg and Jeannie Hayden

As I mentioned before, there's a few of these books coming down the pipe.

I have a nine month (six to go) book competition playing out in my head. I am currently auditioning the role of go-to manual for fatherhood. You know, the book I will keep tethered to my end table in my bedroom until my son or daughter turns 18 and I kick them out the door. I'm looking for that all-encompassing guide that will tell me how to do as many things as I will need to do and best prepare me for the unexpected while making me look like I was born to do the job (and somehow maintain my cool card). As of right now, I'm holding the book that is the odds-on favorite to win this competition.

And that's not to say reading a book is going to prepare me for fatherhood. I'm perfectly aware that nothing will prepare me, least of all a book. But I feel a little less not-ready now. And that, at this point, is comfort enough. So please, parents out there, don't give me a hard time about how a book isn't going to do much good when the shit hits the fan. I know. And I'm ready to not be ready.


Be Prepared: A Practical Handbook for New Dads is exactly the sort of book I was looking for. It offers easily digestible material about a wide range of issues ranging from the day of birth through to the baby's first birthday. It covers the standard questions such as "How do I change a diaper?' and "How do you baby-proof a room?" to the more complicated issues such as "How to insert a rectal thermometer without traumatizing the child?" and "How do I best handle a slippery wet baby?" (with a clean sock). It's the sort of book that answers the questions you have and the questions you didn't even know you were supposed to ask. Reassuring, to say the least.

Aside from the obvious stuff, there seems to be an expert level involved in fatherhood and this book covers some pretty cool territory in that respect. Greenberg and Hayden offer all sorts of fathering gold such as constructing emergency diapers, creating a decoy drawer with old electronics for the toddler to "destroy." and how to stay awake at work after your twelfth sleepless night in a row. There is also a great section on traveling with a baby (camping and how to survive long-haul flights), which I am certain will come in very handy over the next couple of years. While I'm certain there are things this book is not covering, from my perspective, it's as comprehensive as Britannica.

And it's funny. From what I have been perusing, other books about child-rearing oscillate between panic and irreverence. My wife seems to favor the former while I tend to frequent the latter. The only problem with humor is that it often gets in the way of actual advice, which is why I'm reading the book in the first place. Be Prepared seems to know when to remain deadly serious, when to yuck it up and when you can blend the two. For instance, this sage piece of advice concerning dining in restaurants with small children:

When going out to a restaurant with your small fry, keep your expectations low. Don't expect to enjoy your meal. Don't expect to converse with your partner. And don't expect your fellow diners to be anything but irritated by your presence. And if by chance your baby is angelic, count your blessings and wolf down your meal as quickly as possible.


And then there are the pictures. Jeannie Hayden's style is evocative of the bygone dad of yore. The 1950s/1960s Ward Cleaver figure with pants cinched up to the solar plexus, pipes firmly clenched in their square jaws and perfectly parted hair. There are lumberjackets and Stetson hats and enough Aqua Velva to drown Mary Tyler Moore. One gets a sense of timeless comfort from the images. Each image is a sort of Superdad with a steady hand, a firm grasp of all situations and a quick sitcom-ending lesson to impart on wrong-doers at every corner. I like that. It's comforting to think I'm taking fathering advice from Alan Thicke.

This isn't to say this book is perfect. I would have liked to have had a chapter or two concerning the father's role in the weeks prior to birth as well as some lessons on protocol and etiquette concerning the announcement but these are minor complains. As it stands, this book is taking it's place on my end table until such time as a better book unseats it. Given the sheer volume of solid advice, I suspect it would take nothing less than Alan Thicke's Guide to Fatherhood (God, I hope that actually exists) to remove this book from its place.


Jonathan Wilhoit said...

My God man, I'm so sorry! I totally missed your earlier post about you guys expecting a little one. Congratulations! Fatherhood is the toughest and the most rewarding thing you'll ever do. It's a shit-ton of work, but it's worth it... but hell, you probably know all about that already. 2 books down already? When are you guys due?

Anyhow, I agree 100% with the book's advice about eating out. With newborns and infants it's easy. As soon as they get to be about one or so, that's when the shit really hits the fan. Mine is almost two, and any meal out quickly turns into a wrestling match and usually ends up with me holding him on my lap and eating one handed (because doing anything less gives him too much opportunity to grab things off the table and hurl them across the room).

But it's totally worth it, I swear! Haha, congratulations, man. I'm really happy for you and your wife.

Ryan said...

Thanks. I'm looking forward to it. We're due in November.

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

At least they have something for dads. When we had our kids, everything was aimed at the mom.

Ryan said...

Yeah. I'm really thankful that someone took the time to write this book. My wife is swimming in books. I had the one.

Athira said...

Congratulations!! I hope you are all geared up to enter the new phase. :) Yeah, I won't say books prepare you for it, but I would say they make you less anxious and a lot more ready for the whole package deal.

neal said...

I may just have to take a look at this. With my two-year old, I may have already passed some of the danger areas, but we passed through a variety of life phases that I never fully figured out.

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