Stage 1 of Parenting: The Comforter

We’re going to do something we haven’t done before, which is to do an actual series. So we’re going to do six episodes where Jeff and I are going to walk through six different stages of parenting. And, in our homeroom and our online community right now, we do different themes every month and this month’s theme is called the skill of stage based parenting. And this has really been a huge deal for our parenting, for our family over the years because, oftentimes you get hold of a book or some overarching parenting philosophy, and it sort of claims to be the one way to think about parenting that will revolutionize your family.

And what we’ve discovered is that, well, it usually does revolutionize your family in a good way, but for a particular stage. And so I’ve learned to slot a lot of these, what are often pitched as sort of total parenting philosophies, into particular stages. But, parenting is really complicated. I mean it changes depending on what’s going on. And so what we are encouraging folks to do in homeroom is to adapt your parenting style, at least try because I know that’s easier said than done a lot of times, to the season that your family’s in and to the season your kids are in.

So, we’re going to talk about all six of these stages, they all start with the letter C, and the first one, we call the stage comforter, or the kind of comforting stage. It starts with really pregnancy or even pre-pregnancy until your children are about 18 months to two years old. And with this stage is a lot of about, is attachment. What you really want to accomplish during this stage is bonding with your baby. And especially when talking to fathers, I oftentimes emphasize that this is a time where a lot of, sort of modern Western dads sort of check out a little bit, and they aren’t as engaged.

And a lot of times they’re like, the sort of proverbial thing they’ll say is, “When they get a little bit older, a little more interesting, when they can kick a ball back or something like that, I’ll be more interested. But until then they just kind of poop and cry and sleep and, what am I supposed to do with that?” And, so we talk a lot to dads about what’s happening in this stage is, you are changing. You are accepting your identity as a father, and you are deeply bonding with that baby. And that’s a really big deal. It’s really big that you resist the urge to sort of separate yourself or become kind of independent, and this happens to a lot of dads.

A lot of times we subtly and don’t even realize we’re kind of rejecting our infant, because we’re rejecting the identity of fatherhood. It feels really weird to us. We feel like, I like being a friend, I like being a worker, I like other identities that I have in my life, this is a new one, it feels a little weird, it feels kind of heavy, it feels like maybe more of the mom’s thing. And so all those messages sort of add up to kind of like, just of pulling back. And, as opposed to the exact opposite of that, which is to lean in, to attach to that infant, to really feel like your life, your heart, all those things, opening your heart, opening your life, and that really is created by spending time with your infant during the stage. Jeff, you’ve been through this a few times now.

Yeah, we’re in the thick of this stage right now, third time in a row, six years in a row basically. But yeah, no, we love it, a couple of things, quick things I’ll say. One, you can know when you’re exiting the stage, me and Alyssa joke that the exiting ritual of this stage is when the baby basically starts to drop the sippy cup off of the table on purpose and look at you.


That’s like the ritualistic rite of passage of like, and they’re exiting the stage. Now first let me say too, I think some parents overreact to something like that, and they think that’s like defiance, that’s not defiance, at least that we’ve seen, that’s kids pushing and poking curiosity. But just entering into a new stage of like then learning, teaching, shaping, shepherding, et cetera. But I think some go heavy handed on that one, and then some don’t do anything, they think it’s cute. It’s like, no, that just shows that like, okay, now they’re trying to test boundaries in a curious way, not a defiant, sinful way, to just be like, oh yeah, that’s when you’re going into that stage of like, now we need to shape our kid, and teach our kid, and train our kid.

But zero to two, just attach, attach, attach, attach, read, Attachment Theory, read books, like Hold Onto Your Kids, even though the problem of that book is later the research is very pertinent early. You know the coauthor of that book, I never know how to pronounce his name, Gaber, Gabe, Gabor Mate, whatever, something like that, he’s got brilliant work on it, podcasts, speeches that are just so good. And I would just say, put down your phone, those first two years, like he even talks about that like your eye contact is so important with your kids at that stage.

Well, what they see you kind of giving your affections to, your energy to, your eyes to, should be them not a device. And that stuff actually does affect the later years, I think, and he shows that with his research. But, so yeah, so lean into that, and especially like Jeremy said with fathers, this is such a time to let your heart be captured by your kid, by your attachment to the kid, not just their attachment to you, the relationship, the marriage, just lean into that full on, I think that’s what we’ve fumbled around with, with kid one, which most people do, that I was just convinced of after that of like, you got to go all in on this and it’s actually very beautiful, and amazing, and helpful to do that. And actually is so enriching to my heart as a father and dad, and even husband in the marriage.

So that’s what I would say to that. And I think that’s certainly a stage that I think some people just kind of, like you said, just skip over, or just think it’s a little bit more biological, natural of just like, let’s just do the needs and the feedings, and all that, and just get over with it, when it’s like no, lean into it, it’s really powerful.

Yeah. And we have like a four word description for the style of parenting for each of these, this one’s low stress, high presence. One of the things you want to do is take the stress off of your wife during the season and let your infant feel your confidence, feel your strength, feel your presence. Know, that’s why we call this the comforter stage. You want kids to feel like they’re safe. And so, and the father has a huge impact on that feeling. Because when kids feel safe, they really mature in a very healthy way, if not, they go into survival mode and lots of things can happen to them due to that.

So you want to really try your best, and this is can be hard, you got a young family, and you got a lot of responsibility, and your wife could be really stressed out, but that’s kind of the goal. Is to create that low stress, high presence environment, and that you’ll see your family really thrive, and your infant oftentimes really thrive, if you can pull that off.

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