Confession: Before I had my first child, I was factually petrified that my children wouldn’t really bond with me. Would my kids actually like being around me? Would we get along?
When I first started dating my wife at age 22, I never really had a second thought as to whether or not I would make a good husband, and whether or not I could fill the traditional role of the breadwinner that does his 9-to-5 and keeps a car in the driveway and food on the table. But, as someone who had never changed a single diaper before the birth of my daughter, I had not a single bit of evidence one way or the other as to what small children would do in proximity to me. Would they scream in fear? Would my clumsy hands end up dropping my baby on the floor?
Would I really be able to make an emotional connection with my kids, such that I could convey all of the values, hopes and dreams I had for them?
Thankfully, I found that my kids and I found an immediate bond, and that bond was only strengthened through the one thing that is most enjoyable to me – time outdoors.
Charlie over at How to be a Dad reminded me that it’s International Babywearing Week. A casual look through my Flickr photos ended up revealing that in each of my kids’ first years, I was wearing babies more often than I was wearing pants.
So, I wanted to share a few things about myself and my predilection with this phenomena of babywearing.
The Great Outdoors
One of my first fears I had as a parent, was that I didn’t want my kids to grow up a product of our Internet-addicted, flat-screen-afflicted society, where virtual reality is preferred to the real thing. I wanted a deep, wholesome, and heartfelt connection to the outdoors. I wanted a bedrock of love and happy memories surrounding the beautiful sounds, smells and sights of the mountains, the woods and the ocean. Naturally, my wife and I were taking long hikes in the the woods starting from when my daughter was just under two months old.
I’ll never forget the personal joy it brought me as a father, to watch my daughter’s little eyes following the birds around, taking in the sights and wonderfully pungent autumn smells as we took our first fall hikes through the Virginia woods.
I’ll never forget her little baby hands pointing around, and her squeals of, “DAT! DAT! DAT!!!” as she spotted herons, falling oak leaves and (on our first visit to Florida) the massive expanse of the ocean.
It’s something I take great personal pride in, that on any given day, my daughter and son will prefer a hike in the woods to any possible thing they could do indoors on a computer or in front of a screen.
Housework & Yardwork become Family Time
When the kids are sub-12-months, one generally can’t leave them alone for longer than it takes to go to the bathroom, which can many times have a negative effect on housework and yard work. I found baby carriers like my trusty Baby Bjorn, as well as my Kelty backpack, to be amazing aids for getting things done even when you’ve got kid duty.
I’ve taken the kids out to mow the lawn, and on occasions when they wanted to be held, just stuck them in the Baby Bjorn when I was doing laundry. It was a fantastic way to not only involve them in what we were doing, but to actually be able to get work done while the kids needed watching.
Anyone who knows my wife & I knows that volunteering work with causes we support is a major part of our lives, and has been since our early years. One thing we found was that these modern babywearing contraptions made it completely viable to take the kids along when doing things like volunteer work at our daughter’s Montessori school, or handing out pamphlets & raising awareness for Human Rights education in schools through Youth for Human Rights.
Giving Mommy a Break
Unfortunately, not all of my time can be spent on the way down a wooded trail, or clambering up the side of a mountain. Sometimes, I’ve got to work. But sometimes, especially in the early months of the kids’ lives, this also coincided with a mommy flame-out, when my poor wife – having just put in another 800-calorie breastfeeding marathon, needed a rest. And this is where the Bjorn was yet another practical way to entertain (or nap) my kids while I slaved away over a hot server.
In the end, I think I’ve been ultimately successful so far in being able to be a meaningful part of my kids’ lives. And wearing them proudly wherever I’ve gone has been a big part of that.