Though there is much to learn about tending to a new baby, I believe there is one hard-and-fast RULE a new dad needs to have learned by the day his little girl is born:
Joyfully read with and constantly talk to her…every day… about everything…from her birth day forward.
This directive is the only one he’ll need to get him off to a great start in his daddying. Over time, this constant will ensure the development of essential language and literacy learnings for his new little princess. Those lessons, in turn, open all other doors.
Later, this strong and wide foundation will provide for trusting, critical communication between dad and daughter. It all can get started while he is reading to his one-day-old babe, perhaps feeling goofy talking to her about a little cloth book.
Much parental focus on their newborn is on the infant’s physical health, but there’s so much more going on on her first days of life. Sure, dad must get involved with everything in her care and upbringing, but I’m talking about building her cognitive skills and an enduring daddy-daughter relationship.
From birth, she feels his touch, sees his looming face, and hears his gentle voice. As a nervous young dad, he is poised to add an irreplaceably powerful social dynamic to all of that sensory input by reading her that first book, which should be one of hundreds or maybe thousands of books he will read with her. While she may not comprehend what she is hearing at first, she will feel the vibration of his voice on her back where it rests on his chest. She will observe the pages, watching his hands turn each page.
His perception changes also. Weeks later, settling in at home, he will watch her noticing those page turns. So he will start talking about what is on the pages, the illustrations and colors and shapes and words and characters and stories. Over time, she delights that his voice changes into something special when holding a book for her. Pretty soon her joyful response indicates to him that she clearly has a favorite among her little collection of books.
That small, still uncontrolled hand will one day reach for the book. He’ll help her reach it. Once grasped, the book will be pulled by that surprisingly strong little arm toward a deeper experience, a quick taste or even a small chew, which he will by now comfortably narrate for her.
The devouring of favorite books has begun and with it, a parent-child bond has formed. She’s on her way. So is he.
The dynamic is very simple.
Reading and talking with her is how he can always be THERE for her, today and every day. Whatever else is going on in her world, and in his, should be a part of this daily event. But he must begin the conversation on day one and keep it going. Every. Day.