Having a unique and singular connection to your son or daughter is something I cannot stress the importance of for a new father. Many dads quite often think that this sort of thing, this connection, must wait until their kid is a few years old and old enough to play sports etc.etc.
But it starts earlier than that.
It should start earlier than that.
Being a dad doesn’t start when the hard part of the first few years is done and diaper changing is over. Being a parent isn’t just the woman’s job either.
This connection that I’m talking about is something that is just for dad and son, father and daughter and for them to share. It’s something special, stable and consistent. It’s something they (the child) can rely on and look forward to. It’s calming and soothing. It’s something that sets their relationship apart from the one they have with mom. It’s almost a cornerstone of the Father/Child relationship and I’ll get back to why I think that is later on.
I’ve been asked a few times by dad friends and new or soon-to-be fathers in my dad groups on Facebook about tricks or “Hacks” when it comes to being a dad. Yes, moms, dads do talk about parenting stuff and more than you realize; maybe not as much they should, though. Watching sports with an infant doesn’t give an infant much of an emotional and physical connection to their dad. A 5-month-old infant doesn’t care about football, baseball or hockey regardless of how much the dad does. They want to be held, talked to and played with not occasionally glanced at during timeouts and commercials.
My single biggest suggestion for new dads is this:
Find THE song
What is this strangeness I speak of? It’s a song that you sing to them from the earliest days of their life. You sing it to them before naps and before bed at night; you sing it when there are sad. You sing it to the when you are rocking them and feeding them in the wee hours of the night. This song becomes part of their routine and yours. Once they become used to the consistency of the song and you (the dad) singing it then it becomes a source of calmness for them. I started thinking of “The Song” well before my son was born. It should be a song that only you sing to your baby, not the mom.
Trial and Error
For my son Jax, it took several tries to find the song that really did the trick. It’s a matter of finding not just a song you can sing well enough but also a song that provides the most calming tone in your voice for the infant, toddler, and child. The tone is important. Studies have long shown that certain vocal tones help induce sleep and calmness in infants and toddlers. Remember, this is the song that will stick with them for perhaps years and it might even be something they remember later in life. I think I tried 6 or 7 songs over a few weeks before I found the one that works. 2 ½ years later it still works. I did it today in fact when Jax was being fussy before a nap.
A few nights a week, back when he was an infant and when I was the one putting him to bed at night or getting up and bottle feeding him at 3 am (or whenever) and regardless of my work or school schedule the song became part of our routine. I’d stand and hold him while swaying side to side. Sometimes, I sat in a rocking chair while holding him while I sang it, and then put him down in his “monkey” or crib and sung it a few more times. There were countless nights where I sang, hummed (or a combination of both) this song 7 or 8 times until he fell asleep. I remember many times when he would put his little hand on my throat while I sang or hummed and I assumed he liked the way the vibration felt.
Later, I added a YouTube video of a song he liked to the cycle and together they worked 80-90% of the time. The other 10-20% of the time he wanted mom no matter how hard I tried and no matter how patient I was but I was okay with those odds. Being a good dad doesn’t mean you can’t defer to the power of mom and it doesn’t make you less of a man or father. I’ll admit it’s a little bittersweet, though. Now that Jax is 2 ½ those percentages are slowly falling. Sometimes he is just tired enough where he doesn’t need it or want anymore. Those days of rocking and singing my little boy to sleep with his head on my shoulder or chest are coming to an end. I won’t lie this special song isn’t just about making your kid happy. It’s about making you happy as well.
The connection and what happens.
Remember that father-child/connection I talked about earlier? Well, this is a connection that you will grow to miss. It’s a connection and time that years down the road YOU will look back on fondly as a father (or I assume you will). When your son or daughter is out driving for the first time you will look back, remember those nights when you would pick him or her up after they woke you up crying and sing them back to sleep. You will miss the peace and innocence of those days, at how easy they were and notice just how fast they went away. I’ll admit I get sad on the nights where he just lays down in his crib and goes to bed with no fuss and prodding. Sometimes It felt like it was the one thing I really good at as a dad and now I’m like, “Well, crap now what?”
You see moms just have this magical and inexplicable connection to their babies. I don’t know why or how but they do and we all know it. The connection dads have with their babies and kids takes effort and time but it’s worth the work. Remember guys it’s not about how well you do or don’t sing in the eyes (or ears) of your baby; just that you do. I don’t know if Jax even likes “our” song but I do know he likes it when I sing it and that’s ALL that matter.
I suppose now is the time to tell you the song I used. It’s Moonriver. The version I sing is a comfortable mix of the Andy Williams version and that of Frank Sintra’s. More along the lines of Franks I suppose since it suits my voice better. This version by the London FILMharmonic also worked pretty well during the first 5-6 months and is just instrumental.
If you need hints, here is a great list I found on the Google machine and some of these I did actually try.
So, If any other dads read this, what songs did you used to sing (or still sing) to your kids to calm them down when they were upset or getting ready for bed?