Friday Musings on Being a New Father of Two

Shoosh, Shoosh, Shoosh, Shoosh, Shoosh, Shoosh, Shoosh, Shoosh. Cumulatively, I spend about 3 hours a day making this sound. I also devote an inordinate amount of time shaking up bottles, gently patting bottoms, and cleaning. As a new father of two, there is so much to clean- blocks, burps, blow-outs, bottles, and the amazing mess my son makes as he devours bananas, broccoli, sweet potatoes, chicken, or any of the other billion things he eats. Truly it is a sight to see. He loves everything, but after he’s done eating, it looks as if he’s bathed in the meal.

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Just over a week ago, my wife, Neely, and I finally reached the culmination of our adoption journey becoming the parents of two beautiful children- a 5-week old baby girl, Brix Dani Trotter, and her 18-month old brother, Ace Cowen Trotter. Since then we’ve been figuring a lot of things out. The shooshing noise I alluded to above is magic for helping baby girl make that final leap into slumber. It was right after I got her to sleep that I learned my 18-month old can climb out of his crib. Having finished his nap, he calmly opened the door and walked into my room where I was putting Brix down. See, constantly figuring things out.

Here are just a few new-daddy takeaways from the past week:

On Adaptability

My wife and I are the ultimate planners. We love structure, routines, and the process of a plan unfolding perfectly. The past 10 days we’ve been living out of an Air BNB as we wait for permission to leave Georgia and head back to Texas with our new family (a bureaucratic process known as ICPC). In a foreign house, a different state, and as new parents of unpredictable babies, we’re learning to be flexible. More than that we’re learning to communicate and anticipate each other’s needs. Sometimes I need to write. Sometimes Neely needs to work or head to Target kid free. There are times when both of the kiddos need a full-court press. We do it. But, that is not all the time. Being present and clued into each other’s needs has made all the difference.

 On Routines

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Still routines are possible, if not essential. We are quickly learning that routines need to be applied and adapted many times each day. Military units have a routine for every disaster and an often rehearsed process for every unique challenge. The certainty of chaos doesn’t preclude structure, it necessitates it. Likewise, as parents we’re developing a routine for bedtime, naptime, bath time, breakfast, dinner, and getting out the door. Of course the secret to all of this is communication.

Ultimate New Parent Advice

A lot of people ask what books they need to read or how they can best prepare for babies. If you are going to have an infant the most important training you can have is to practice doing everything with one hand. Try doing your entire morning routine with one hand.

On Exercise

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Working out with young ones takes a little intentionality. I’ll probably cover this in more detail in a few weeks. For now, I’ll say that getting workouts in is easy with an 18-month old boy and requires a slightly different strategy when on infant duty. For the 18-month-old, just turn whatever space you’re in into a workout area. He’ll consider this whole thing play. I hang a TRX suspension trainer from the door to do rows and single leg squats. Then I can move to 1-arm push-ups and core work while I let Ace play with the TRX. Then I throw in bear crawls and squat to sideways monkeys all around him. Then pick him up for some Ace squats. He loves this whole circuit. Repeat as needed. With the youngest one, it is all about taking advantage of the breaks. I can go into a day determined to do three different tabata exercise protocols. I may plan push-ups, supermans, and jump lunges. Each is four metabolism spiking minutes. When Brix is down for a nap, it’s go time. It takes some self-mastery, but its just about knowing your plan and executing when given the opportunities. The biggest take home message for anyone who wants to be fit with young children is to master bodyweight movements. These allow you to constantly sneak in exercise and enhance your play.

 On Playgrounds

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It’s even easier to workout when you take kids to a playground. Just model the little ones. Watching my little guy play at playgrounds, it became obvious that these are just obstacle courses. Adults need these as well. We need to play and enjoy fitness through overcoming obstacle courses. I guess this is why Justin loves rock climbing.

 On Natural Inclinations

“Whoever wants to understand much must play much.” –Gottfried Benn

Learning really is the primary inclination of a well fed, well loved child. 18-month-olds get into everything. They want to grab, manipulate, and climb on everything. This is how they learn. The boy only wants to do risky stuff. He wants to pull down whatever is above him, climb on top of everything, slide down, run, throw, and explore.  He clearly wants to be a hero. Seriously. It sounds cheesy to say, but it is his most natural inclination to become capable of heroism. Other than the obvious daddy jobs, my role seems to be setting situations up so he can learn. I’m trying to put him in situations where he finds new capabilities and works to figure things out. This goes for everything from blowing bubbles (he wanted to eat them at first) to building with his giant Legos.

On #Life Goals: Andreia

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It is fascinating to think about the progression from infant to adult. Kids are completely reliant. Baby girl can’t even hold her own head up. Baby boy can run and climb, but left to his own devices he wouldn’t fair much better. They are completely selfish, having no capacity to care about anything, but themselves. This is not a novel revelation, or a problem. It is beautiful to see their mindful exploration, playful demeanor, and zeal for living, but these are perhaps the only natural child inclinations that we’d like to preserve. Contrary to the desires of 21st century lawnmower parents, there is nothing cute or desirable about being an old infant. A parent’s job is to take kids from dependent to self-reliant and more. All animals are governed by a hard drive that sends overwhelming instincts toward self preservation. Children accomplish this by telling the parents what they need through cries, pointing, and eventually words. After a few years they are capable of ensuring their own self-preservation, at least when the materials are provided in their environment. They can go to the bathroom and make themselves a simple meal. While becoming self-reliant, they are still mostly selfish. This is as it must be. Each human must first selfishly explore the world and seek discovery that allows us to find the passion needed for adult flow, high-level competency, and contribution. At some point, for a person’s self-actualization they have to find a sense of purpose and begin working towards pursuits that are greater than themselves. Eventually they have to become capable of altruism and sacrifice. We must become competent enough not only to be self-reliant, but, also to add value to others. In order to become the hero, we were made to be, we all must become so self-mastered and purpose-driven that we are capable of overriding natural instincts of self-preservation in order to act courageously. They’ll never find fulfillment if they aren’t willing to leave their comfort zone and love something passionately enough that they’d risk being destroyed. Every soldier, fireman, and officer knows they may have to run towards danger rather than away. Every parent understands this. We’d all lay down our lives for our children. The highest virtue to the Ancient Greeks was this capacity to override instincts of self-preservation and courageously stand for something greater. An amazing love underlies this capacity, which the Greeks called Andreia. Living a meaningful life necessitates knowing that we can live up to the heroic ideals of our childhood self and exemplify Andreia.

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