In a recent post at Barstool Sports, a male human being known as Big Cat (real name Dan Katz) announced that he is going to become a father for the first time. He seems a bit worried about it, on account of being a 34-year old who has to “bring a heating pad with [him] to basketball every Saturday morning.”
Granted, Mr. Cat is older than the average new father in America, but only by a few years (about three, to be precise), which means he is not alone in entering the realm of fatherhood just before he’s old enough to be elected president. Plenty of American men are in the same position—trying to figure out how to be good dads with bad backs.
Where can they look to find a word of wisdom? Where can they turn for advice? They can turn to me—a man who has experienced first-time fatherhood both in his mid-twenties and his late thirties. If that doesn’t make any sense, let me explain.
My wife and I have three sons, the first of whom was born when I was 25. Then, seven years after baby boy three arrived, we became foster parents to two toddlers and a newborn.
As any parent can tell you, the longer the gap between your kids, the more it will feel like you’ve completely started over, so seven years is more or less a complete reboot. You’ll be able to remember all the gross, disgusting stuff you had to do in the past, but you won’t remember how to do it anymore. It’s basically the parenting equivalent of being Backwards Jason Bourne.
Having recently relearned everything in my second run as a first-time parent, I am therefore uniquely qualified to teach other men my age how to alter the tricks a twenty-something dad has in his arsenal to fit a body and mind that are approaching middle age. For Mr. Cat and any other men wanting to know how to parent the wee-est of ones while in your thirties, here are ten pieces of advice.
1. Rediscover Your Lung Strength
Because infants lack the capacity for speech, the greatest way they can express their love is to expel bodily fluids into your face holes. Do you have a mouth? They will puke in it. Do you have nostrils? That’s where poop goes now. Those things on the side of your head that you use for hearing? You call them ears. Babies call them snot receptacles.
If you have a son, he will somehow manage to pee behind your eyeballs. It’s gross, but from their perspective, it’s love. These are, of course, misguided attempts to show affection, but until babies develop more advanced methods of bonding, expect them to do these things every chance they get.
While goggles and ear muffs can offer you some measure of protection, they still leave your nose and mouth exposed. If you were a twenty-something father, you might possess the athletic burst necessary to dodge and duck these mucous-filled valentines, but since the ravages of time have robbed you of the necessary spryness, you’ll need to take a different approach: breath control.
While your wife is gestating that baby, practice holding your breath for increasingly longer periods of time. Build up that lung power. Go full Tom Cruise. Then, when your baby is born, you’ll be capable of undergoing a closed-mouth, plugged-nose baby-smooch session for five minutes at a time without accidentally inhaling last night’s breast milk.
2. Keep the Dad Weight Off
Speaking of strengthening your body, staying trim is one of the challenges men face when they begin parenthood after their metabolisms have begun grinding to a halt. But for all the jokes about dad bods, staying in shape post-baby is not that complicated.
The best thing you can do is keep a variety of healthy snacks handy whenever your child asks to devour some carb-filled delicacy. For example, if he needs a refill of animal crackers, grab yourself a handful of almonds during your trip to the pantry so you won’t be as tempted to devour those gut-busting lions, tigers, and bears.
With regard to exercise, my number one tip is to join a local gym that provides free child care. Not only will this give you more opportunities to cut some weight in the weight room, it will also give your child the chance to share all 57 strains of the bubonic plague that he picked up in the nursery, and nothing will help you cut those surplus papa pounds faster than spending five days erupting from both ends.
3. Familiarize Yourself with Classic Children’s TV
During my first run as a father, you could always trust that inappropriate material wouldn’t show up in any of the children’s television programs at one’s disposal. These being the days of hyper-wokeness and progressive indoctrination, however, you can no longer trust fuzzy Muppets or anthropomorphic equines to raise your child for half an hour while you take a break from parenting.
The solution to this problem is to have a variety of classic programs available at your child’s command. Let me suggest a few programs I came across back in the unwoke days of the Obama administration.
“Caillou” is a fairly tame program about a bald French Canadian four-year-old. The only word of warning is that the titular character’s voice will make you go full “Birdbox” after five minutes, so make sure your will is up to date.
Likewise, “Thomas the Tank Engine” is a perfectly wholesome show about a tuxedo-wearing despot who rules over an island filled with sentient trains that he constantly threatens to murder as punishment for being insufficiently productive.
Finally, “Pokemon” is a fantastic show that teaches children the value of teamwork and dedication. As a side bonus, the show’s frenetic pace and nonsensical storylines will also teach him how to talk to his friends who are all hyperactive slaves of the smartphones their foolish parents bought them for their fifth birthdays.
4. Keep Your Kid Off Social Media
Speaking of smartphones, a major challenge of parenting today is figuring out how to incorporate your child into the social media world. If you were a bright-eyed twenty-something first-time parent, you might believe that all of the world’s ills can be solved by you uploading an adorable picture of your son dressed as Baby Uncle Sam at your July 4 bash with the caption “#barbecute.”
Thankfully, as a jaded man in his mid-30s, you recognize that no amount of social media affirmation is worth the trouble of reprobate social media creeps who will somehow make your son the poster boy for white privilege or white supremacy 15 seconds after you press “tweet.”
Therefore, for the sake of your child, follow your skeptical instincts. Be cautious with social media. Don’t share pictures or videos, no matter how adorable, that can be viewed by anyone on the platform. Create social media accounts that can only be seen by close friends and family members who can be trusted.
If your Aunt Sharon violates your wishes about privacy, threaten to dox her as the woman behind Facebook’s much maligned True Patriot Grannies for Trump page. She’ll get in line.
5. Prepare Your Sports Fandom Guilt Speech
The older you are, the more likely you are to have moved away from the state of your youth. On account of this, the older you are when you become a parent, the more likely you are to raise your child in enemy territory with regard to sports affiliations, and the more tempted that child will be to embrace the teams beloved by his friends and schoolmates.
When this happens, many parents will tell you that you should give your children the freedom to choose their own athletic loyalties, as this is a healthy part of them developing their own sense of identity. Do not listen to the blatherings of such overly permissive tribal disloyalists who are bringing untold ruin upon our civilization.
As a parent, you have a duty to force your teams upon your children. Pressure them into sharing your rooting interests. Insist that you might die of a broken heart if they don’t obey you. But above all, really play up the “this town is a festering pile of elitist rot as opposed to that patch of Midwestern Eden where I’m from” angle.
If, for example, you grew up in Milwaukee but are raising your child in New York, tell your son, “Daddy has a real job and needs to do real work. He isn’t a trust fund kid who can blow seven hours sitting in traffic after a trip to see the Bronx Bombers.
“Besides, for the cost of two nosebleed tickets to a Yankees’ game, we could charter a private jet to Milwaukee, snag a baker’s dozen seats right behind home plate, compete in one of those legendary sausage races, and breathe in that gloriously pure Wisconsin air that’s not 50 percent sewer vapor like the stuff back home.”
6. Recasting Fido
Biological imperatives being what they are, people who delay procreation will often turn their pets into a substitute for children. On account of this, it can be difficult to know what role in the family pageant your pooch is going to play once your baby arrives.
“Will I still love my dog like before?” “Will the pup be jealous of the baby?” “Will I still have time to be a good dog owner?” These are the kinds of questions 30-something parents frequently ask themselves.
Don’t worry. No matter how much your pooch may have enjoyed wearing an eye patch and pirate shirt for last year’s Neverland-themed adoption day photo session, in his core he just wants to be a loyal dog, not a poor substitute for a son.
As long as you don’t own a Chihuahua, Chinese Crested, or one of those other breeds of large rats posing as small dogs, your canine will speedily adjust to the role God designed him to fill after your baby comes home from the hospital. Within a few days, your dog’s “protect the baby and the master will give me more food” instinct will kick in. Within a few weeks, he will be far more interested in curling himself around your baby’s infant swing than going back to doggy surfing class.
7. Deciding on Vaccination
In this era of hyper-judgmental social media mommies, every parent now has the difficult task of picking a side in the vaccine debate. Do you want to pledge obedience to Big Pharma and have your child injected with a bunch of mysterious chemicals, or do you want to think for yourself and, while your son is hospitalized with the mumps, read another MommyTruths.Blogville.net article about how vaccines cause circumcision?
Spare your child from countless deadly diseases or gain the respect of Jenny McCarthy? This is a difficult choice that every father must make for himself.
8. Adopt a Preteen
Just as my oldest son was entering his middle school years, our three foster kiddos came to stay with us. One of the most important things I learned during this period was that taking care of little ones is approximately eleventy billion times easier when you have a preteen in the house.
Preteens can change diapers and bottle-feed babies while you ice your knees. They can tighten carseat straps and retrieve toys from the goldfish-encrusted underbellies of couches while you recover from a torn rotator cuff. They can watch “Caillou” without resorting to self-defenestration and prevent toddlers from setting your dog on fire while you take a three-minute bathroom break.
And if you adopt a preteen, he’ll do all of that for free. (Here are some available for adoption right now.) Granted, they might complain about their unpaid labor every now and then. But your infant will do the same in a decade’s time, so learning how to argue with a hormonal mess of a human being before you turn 40 is definitely something that will benefit you down the line.
Plus developing a lifelong, loving bond with a child who doesn’t have a permanent home is always a holy deed worth considering.
9. Bring that Kid to Church
One of the biggest mistakes young parents make is waiting too long to bring their kids to church, opting to remain absent until their kids are old enough to behave in the worship service. However, your kids won’t get good at sitting through church by not coming to church.
Likewise, the sooner you bring them to Christ, the sooner they’ll benefit from all the gifts he has to give them through the waters of baptism and the preaching of his word—gifts like receiving eternal life and learning how to love their neighbors as Christ first loved them.
Another plus of going to church is that every congregation in the country is filled with women whose grown children have yet to reproduce. If you sit next to one of these women on Sunday morning and your baby smiles at her, that grandbaby-hungry church lady will give you free babysitting until her rotten millennial daughter decides she’d rather honor her mother with grandchildren than embarrass her with another request for rent assistance on her $3,500 per month studio apartment conveniently located half a block from the doggie spa where she works as a full-time smoothie barista for Shih Tzus.
10. Get Ready to Feel the Anchor of Peace
One of the biggest falsehoods you’ll ever hear is that marriage and fatherhood are forms of slavery that will hinder you from living that carefree bachelor existence where true bliss is supposedly found. Like most of the lies told by our hedonistic culture, the critical error here is confusing pleasure with happiness.
True happiness is found by living according to our design instead of our desires. God did not make men to live in constant service of our fickle passions. He made us to live in service of our neighbors—especially our wives and our children. Therefore, one of God’s greatest gifts is found when he rescues us from the aimless drifting of our pride by tethering us to our brides and our offspring.
So when you see that child emerge from your wife’s womb, you will gaze upon the beautiful face of God’s anchor—an anchor he’s using to bring you into a life that will often seem difficult but will never be pointless. As you lock eyes with your baby for the first time, you will know what it means to be set free by being tied down.
As you hold that child in yours arms, you will not want to be anywhere else in the world. You will want to stay right there with that glorious anchor of peace because you’ll know that’s exactly where you belong. And it always will be—even when your kid poops in your mouth five minutes later.