Why I Said ‘No’ to
Boot Camp for New Dads

From the moment we went public that my wife was pregnant, the advice poured in. Just about everyone contributed:

  • People with kids: “You get barfed on, a lot.”
  • People without kids: “Dude, I hear they go through 20 diapers a day. That’s, like, a diaper an hour.”
  • People with multiple kids: “Oh, one is nothing. Wait ‘til number 4 ... “
  • People with grandkids: “Son, I hope this one cries as much as you did.”
  • Type A people: “You must get this book. But don’t read that book, it’s totally wrong.”
  • Type B people: “Get ready to be barfed on, a lot.”
  • Negative people: “Kiss your life good-bye.”
  • Positive people: “You’ll be awesome. It probably won’t even matter that you get barfed on, a lot.”

And how some gave their advice slowly, using simple verbs- made it clear how high their expectations were:

  • “You know they cry a lot.” That’s OK, I cry a lot too.
  • “You need to be really gentle with them.” So demonstrating the 4-3 defense is out for awhile?
  • “Remember, mom is always right. Never argue with mom.” She told me to never call her “mom.”

Some advice was clearly therapy for those giving it:

  • “You have no idea what you’re getting into.” That’s what I hear.
  • “No really, you have NO idea what you’re getting into.” Um, you’re right, I don’t.
  • “No, REALLY,  you have NO IDEA what you’re getting into.” Should I curl up in a little ball now?

So when I heard about Boot Camp for New Dads, I rolled my eyes. More advice. And by signing up I was actually agreeing that I needed it. Before, it was involuntary. They just started talking. Now, I would be endorsing the assumption that I was clueless. That goes against some code, somewhere.

And besides, I wasn’t. I had been around many babies. I was an uncle 8 times over. I had already been barfed on, a lot.

So I passed on Boot Camp for New Dads. My wife let me decide, and I decided no. Now for all the ironies:

Irony 1) The involuntary and occasionally insulting advice I had received made me refuse when offered the very training and preparation that catered to me.

Irony 2) Because I sensed the need for all the insight I didn’t receive, I am now a coach for Boot Camp for New Dads. In this role, I facilitate groups that combine “rookie” dads expecting their first child with “veteran” dads and their 3 - 4 month-old babies. In this “live” setting, veteran dads share their brand new wisdom even as they demonstrate their newly acquired skills as fathers. And the babies share too, as they consent to be held, changed, fed, and comforted by rookie dads. In this way Boot Camp is as much about experience as it is about advice.

Irony 3) As a coach, I often provide the very knowledge I simply missed by not coming. I look back on the skills I acquired over months rather than minutes. I provide perspective I gained only after I needed it. I relate some of the risks I took and the challenges I didn’t meet mainly because I just didn’t know.

Irony 4) Had I participated in Boot Camp, I would have been able to respond to all those little pieces of advice I received by providing more recent, more credible advice of my own.

Irony 5) I now actually offer advice to any guy considering not participating in Boot Camp for New Dads. I have not been there. I have been there. Go ahead and be there.

-- Schuyler Totman, Boot Camp for New Dads Coach