What do you do With an Infant?

This one is kind of a question we sometimes get from guys and fathers sometimes in our group and they can be phrased different ways. But essentially it is, “What am I supposed to do with an infant?” And I think this question is actually coming from a real place for a lot of fathers, because sometimes we feel unnecessary in those first six months. We feel kind of on the fringe. We don’t feel necessary. We don’t feel central to an infant with breastfeeding and all these different needs that are so clear, obviously, at that age.

But what I think is sad then is, because of that, sometimes the default mode kind of becomes just remove yourself and see them when they’re two years old type of thing, or later, or not helping. And I don’t think that’s healthy either.

And so we really, really believe here that fathers from day one should be as close to their babies and children as possible. And actually that stage, that six to 12 month stage, is actually integral in regards to attachment. And so making sure that that attachment is strong and being formed to a father, not just the mother, is really, really, really important. And so all right, Jeremy, I know you’ve got a bunch of tips here. But what are some you would say?

Yeah, guys, this is a really challenging thing for our culture. Probably the most common thing I hear from guys when they first have an infant is, “What am I supposed to do with it?” And, “Maybe I should just give it to its mom until it grows up and can throw a ball,” Or, you know. And all of that kind of makes me go, “Ah, I think you are misunderstanding what this child is.” They’re not your toy. They’re your son. They’re your daughter.

And so what do you do with an infant? It’s a super important period for the infant, but especially for you. Because what’s happening … So you imagine that this baby just came out of your wife and you’re holding him, and something’s going on inside your heart. Be very, very careful to pay attention to what’s happening in your heart because what’s going to happen is probably one of two things.

One is, you’re going to be like, you’re going to feel awkward and you’re going to start to want to reject the baby. That happens to a lot of guys. If that starts to happen to you, you desperately need this time to embrace and allow your fatherhood sort of identity, to rise up out of you through bonding with that infant. They’re not just a new play thing. They’re not just your wife’s new buddy. They’re not your new buddy. They’re your son or daughter.

And so how do you do this? You have to open your … You have to, first of all, if you start to feel that sort of rejection happening at all towards your child, and it can be very subtle, it could just be like, “I don’t know if I like this. I didn’t know what to do.” And you’re just wanting to distract yourself and sort of move away, let your wife take over. I’m saying, you guys, resist that at all costs and really lean into this experience. This is your son, your daughter. And the way that you have this experience is you have to say those words in your heart or out loud constantly. And when you say their name, this is my son, Johnny. This is my daughter. And what you’re trying to do in those moments is awaken something inside of your heart. It’s there. You need it to come alive. And that is your identity as a father. That infant is trying to transform you from a man into a father. Allow them to do that. And the way that you do that is you have to embrace them and bond with them as your son or daughter.

It’s sometimes not easy for us. Our wives, they are feeding them, and they’re crying when they’re not with their mom. And so a lot of times you can experience what you feel like is rejection from your infant and be like, “Well, I, you know …” Figure out how to hold them. Figure out what they like. It’s like, you got to get to know them. You got to bond with them. It’s so important. You guys, again, for your sake, for the sake of your heart, you need to have this bond.

And one of the things that ancient cultures used to do that really helped men get through this season is that they would actually, all their guy friends would come over and celebrate the infant with this new man. And they wouldn’t do like cigars on the porch. They would take the baby and they would run around with the baby over their head.

There’s a really great scene in this movie, Ushpizin, I mentioned before. It’s a great modern-day Israeli movie, but the culmination of the movie is a bunch of men celebrating this new man becoming a father. And there’s also a scene, I think in Robin Hood, that old Kevin Costner movie, where little John has a baby and he grabs the poor little infant, this little, he says, “I have a son!” And he runs around the whole little village up in the trees. And I mean, I remember when I first saw that, I’m like, what’s he so excited about? This was before I had any epiphanies about fatherhood. But, man, that could be really cool, you can celebrate with your friends. Or those are a few ideas.

And I just had a conversation recently with a friend of mine who’s about to have their first child and I get so excited about this season. I also get so bummed when guys are like, “Come talk to me when you can throw a ball.” That is not the right answer. But, Jeff, have you done this? I know you guys have gone through this a lot.

Yeah, I think the exact same thing. I think it’s just, it’s so critical to be comfortable with infants and babies. And what’s cool is, I think we see the not opposite problem, we see the success in our community. I think what’s really cool about the community we live in, and where you can sometimes, where fatherhood is really upheld, you really see the beauty of man.

It is so rich and compelling to see fathers always holding the babies. And father’s always playing with them, taking them on dates, giving the wife a break. And I feel like our community, where we live here in Maui, does that really, really well. And I just sometimes am speechless of like, man, this is so compelling and incredible and awesome. But it starts with just day one, and leaning into that, regardless of awkwardness or uncomfortability. And actually, it’s such a joy and it’s such a gift and I think realizing that is huge.

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