Author and comedian Doug Moe knows first-time fathers are as worried about being terrible at their new terrifying jobs as new mums are. But while most modern fathering guides centre on men’s oafish parental failings, Man vs. Child forgoes condescension in favour of fresh and irreverent wit.
This guide for first-time dads tackles funny but important questions, like how to be a good dad without becoming a BabyBjörn-wearing tool in the process, or what to do if your child loves your iPad more than they love you. From caring for a newborn to dealing with a kid on the verge of adolescence, Moe breaks fatherhood down into survival lessons like “Time to Decide About God” and quizzes that ask dads to reflect on hilarious parenting questions like “Is My Child Too Annoying for This Restaurant?”
-Newborn: Keeping This Weird Thing Alive Awhile, Even As It Tries to Kill You
-Your Interesting Baby, Maybe the Most Interesting Baby Ever
-Man v Toddler: Does Your Toddler Want to Kill You?
-Now That My Kid Doesn’t Need Me, What Is My Life Worth?
Balancing relatable humour with heartfelt advice, Man vs. Child will appeal to any dad looking for both laughs and real guidance from a man who has had – and survived – these experiences himself.
The following is an extract from Man VS. Child by Doug Moe.
Tantrums: Welcome to the Darkness
The main thing about toddlers isn’t toddles, it’s tantrums. I guess “tantrumers” doesn’t roll off the tongue sufficiently. Tantrums are the ubiquitous freak-outs wielded by toddlers everywhere to get what they want through a combination of embarrassment and torture.
Everyone Thinks You are a Monster
Most parents will do almost anything to make tantrums stop. Private, home-based tantrums are horrible, but they are manageable for strong parents. But what do you do about public tantrums? Everyone stands around staring, watching you fail, and blaming you for the screaming child ruining their day. Tantrums aren’t your fault! Of course, maybe you forgot to feed your child. Or you skipped a nap in violation of the sleep schedule. You did both? Wow. But embarrassment is the enemy of good parenting. A parent impervious to embarrassment is an irresistible force.
Everyone Thinks Dads are Dumb
For centuries, men have reaped the benefits of male privilege: first dibs in land, voting, power, etc. But mid-meltdown, that power dissolves and the centuries of female wisdom and child-rearing responsibility comes back to haunt the beleaguered dad. Nosy biddies all over will start to question even the best dad if he is with a kid in mid meltdown. They just assume that you are as big an idiot as all the lovable TV dads they’ve come to know from the story box they watch at home, and they will give you some “extra help.” Try to accept this help as graciously as possible. They’ll say, “She looks hungry!” or “Is everything okay?” If you get sarcastic or angry, all you’ve done is confirmed that you are a big dumb dad who doesn’t know how to keep it together. Give them a politely clenched smile like mothers everywhere have practiced forever.
Talk to Yo ur Kid Like She is a Tiny Cavemen
Although some tantrums are inevitable, many are caused by the frustration a toddler has in communicating her desires and feeling heard. There’s lots of advice out there on this. One approach I enjoyed came from the book The Happiest Toddler on the Block. This book advised that toddlers are like tiny cavemen—and not just because they both wear overalls.
According to this view, the correct approach can mitigate tantrums.
1. It’s best to talk to toddlers in short, emotive phrases, as if you are talking to a caveman. But instead of saying things like “Big sky-bird eat mommy” (Caveman), you say things like “You want snack! You want SNACK! You hungry! SO hungry!” (Toddler) to mirror their concerns back to them in a way they’ll understand.
2. Then you add what you want to get across: “But daddy no have a snack! Snack when we home. Almost home. Then SNACK!” The book calls this the “Fast-Food Rule”—somewhat confusingly since now I’m just thinking of that drive-in on The Flintstones. It’s called this to help you remember to repeat back “his order” (what he wants) before you tell him “your price” (what you want).
3. I also think it’s fun to say “May I take your order?” but your mileage may vary.
If talking like a caveman doesn’t work, you can always try an old dad standby: ignoring. Most dads are great at ignoring things, a handy characteristic when a kid is pitching a fit in public and can’t be reasoned with. Know that you are not a bad dad, despite what literally everyone else in the world thinks.