© Tamara Knodel | Dreamstime.com
If you’re becoming a dad, do you know what to expect? Dynamic Dads, a three-and-a-half hour workshop offered by Families Matter, gives help to expectant and newbie dads. This daddy-duty boot camp is a males-only clinic designed to assuage fears and answer questions men have about fatherhood, preparing them for caregiving and addressing how fatherhood will affect their lives.
Program Manager Herman Jackson begins each workshop by going around the table and asking participants to describe their relationship with their fathers.
“I just want the dads to tell me what they saw in their fathers that might be useful to them for raising a child, and what they would want to do differently,” Jackson says. “You can tell a lot about a man by his relationship with his father.”
As the men respond, some describe the ideal American dad who attended every basketball game and showed ample affection, while others describe an absentee father and the challenge of growing up without a positive male role model.
“Some men have a good relationship with their father, some have bad relationship,” says Jackson. “It’s important for men to realize it is not their fault, and learn coping skills to deal with any negative behavior learned from their father or from the absence of their father.”
Nathan Galaske, one dad in the class, says learning about some of the previous attendant’s tumultuous relationships with their fathers made him feel extremely grateful for his loving home.
“It was interesting to hear how differently people thought about their fathers. I have definitely learned to appreciate my father’s passion and strong love for me. He could also be defensive and a little short-tempered, which I really see in myself and want to change for my son,” says Galaske. “I really am starting to understand how important it is to not just be in my son’s life, but be a role model, heavily invested and constant in my child’s life.”
The class also offers hands-on training in burping and changing diapers, tasks some are embarrassed to admit they struggle with. Herman, along with fellow instructor Michael Jackson, encourages the men to become more confident in their caregiving skills.
“I tell them to not be afraid of handling the baby; I remind them the head is the most fragile part. The vertebrae in the neck is not strong enough to support the head, so I emphasize always protecting it,” says Jackson, assistant director with Dynamic Dads. “I tell them to visualize an orange on a toothpick, and that is analogous to their babies body structure.”
During the workshop, participants always practice holding the baby as instructors walk around providing feedback. Jackson even jokes, “Hold the baby the way mom likes while she’s around, but hold them the way you like when she isn’t, just make sure you support the head.”
Then they move on to diaper-changing lessons. Jackson has the men lay a baby doll on its back, giving them the full 411 on everything from how to prevent leaking to proper wiping.
“I use something I call “the two finger” test to check to make sure diaper is tight enough,” Jackson says. “If you can fit two fingers in back of diaper too easily, it’s too loose.”
One of the most important and overlooked aspects of becoming a parent is the strain a new baby can place on relationships.
“It is important to remember the mom did not have this baby by herself, so it will require a team effort to raise it. Dad has to step up and do household chores in addition to taking care of the baby,” advises Jackson. Reassure your partner that you have her back and that she has nothing to worry about. Galaske says the most rewarding thing about the class was the men’s camaraderie and realizing you’re not alone.
“It was refreshing, having a forum where we could all come together and admit we had doubts and fears,” he says. “The class made me realize [not only] how much attention newborns need just to survive, but for their brains and bodies to develop properly, and to be happy in general.”
Upcoming Dynamic Dads WorkshopsAll classes held on Saturdays from 12:30 to 4 p.m.
February 14 • St. Francis-BartlettFebruary 21 • Methodist LeBonheur GermantownMarch 21 • St. Francis-BartlettMarch 28 • Baptist Memorial Hospital for Women
For more information, contact Herman Jackson, 412-7245 • Familiesmatter.com