Military-style class teaches dads what to expect from their newest ‘missions’
GREELEY, Colo. – Boot camp is hell.
Push-ups, running, and don’t forget the mind games. It’s all designed to make ordinary people into soldiers as quickly as possible.
Although most men these days don’t experience the pain and challenge of military basic training, many choose to go through something tougher, more draining and scarier than the drill instructor who makes his mother drop and give him 20.
What could possibly be so daunting? Fatherhood. Yup. Bringing up baby.
That bundle of joy doesn’t come with an owner’s manual, but even before baby arrives there are plenty of concerns and questions.
”Boot Camp for New Dads,” a one-day class modeled after the military training, tries to turn men into lean, mean daddy machines.
Led by veteran dads, the class brings together fathers-to-be and recent new dads one Saturday morning per month. Questions are asked and advice given on a variety of topics including:
– Holding a Baby – ”Just slide (the arm) up to his head and rotate.”
– Crying – ”There’s no ‘off’ switch or volume control with these models.”
– The Delivery Room – ”You could be there 24, 36 hours or you could be there two hours.”
– Baby Sitters – ”You wouldn’t necessarily trust this person with your wallet or your car, but you’re giving them your kid.”
– Diapers – ”If they pee in it, the diaper swells. If he messes in it, you can smell it.”
The 4-hour class is also one of the few times men are the focus in a prenatal world filled with Lamaze and breast-feeding courses.
”Dad just feels that when the baby comes, there’s all these books, classes and videos and they’re left out of the process,” said Kent McElroy, a boot camp instructor and senior pastor at Mountain View Evangelical Free Church. ”In here, these guys are doing it. It’s hands-on baby basics.”
On a recent Saturday morning one of the new dads, Rob Robinson, uses one of his twins to give a diaper-changing demonstration.
”Make sure the new diaper is tight. If you don’t, you’ll have blowouts and that’s worse than a stinky diaper,” he tells Todd Gummer, a 31-year-old veterinary student at Colorado State University. It’s the first of hundreds of diapers in Gummer’s future. His wife is due this month.
”I’m the youngest child in my family. I’ve never really been around younger children,” he said. ”It feels good.”
A few feet away, 26-year-old Kevin Reid holds one of the babies on his left shoulder. A line of drool makes a dark spot on his shirt.
”Ah, it’s OK. I’ve done worse on myself,” he said.
After diaper-changing and holding, conversation drifts into how to keep a social life, deal with the mother-in-law and how to stay on the new mom’s good side. Let her get away and take a break and figure it out for yourself, is the answer, said Roger DeWitt, another camp instructor.
”If you’re constantly asking for her opinion and interrupting her relaxation, she’ll be less likely to leave you and the baby alone in the future,” he said.
For DeWitt, the class is a chance for men to get an idea of what it will take to be a father.
”My dad died when I was 2. I had no clue what a dad was about. I had a concern that I couldn’t pull this stuff off. I just didn’t have any background or model at all,” DeWitt said.
There’s no way one class will prepare anyone for all the surprises of childhood, DeWitt said, but the hope is that it gives men more confidence and knowledge to be involved with caring for the baby.
”Forty years ago, we were pacing outside (the delivery room), smoking cigarettes,” he said. ”Now, we’re gaining a little more control over this mystery.”