Ultimate Dad Checklist

Ten things to embrace fatherhood like an expert.

For new dads and men about to become fathers, hereís some wisdom for raising your child.

1. Strengthen Your One-on-One Game

Most dads-to-be are concerned with taking care of a crying baby and other challenges babyhood brings. You will find, though, after a few months of on-the-job training, caring for your child becomes second nature. Learn how your baby reacts to your care, and he will learn what to expect from you, like that dads are fun! After a while, nobody will be able to take better care of your child.

2. Get to Know Your New Best Friend

A baby can steal your heart with a goofy smile, so you know heíll do his part. Your part is to spend time with your child and notice how he responds to the world and to you. Notice his efforts to explore and learn. What calms and soothes him? And how does your baby like to play? You will tune into his world, learn to be patient and eventually teach him things, like a secret handshakeó yes, seriouslyó that only you two know.

3. Share New Experiences

While at first your baby appears to just sleep, eat, cry and stare into space, there is an amazing process underway in your childís brain. Your babyís daily experiences of seeing, hearing and touching everything in sight are opportunities for growth and preparation for talking, walking and winning golf tournaments. Rich experiences produce rich brains. As a dad, you will make your childís environment very rich indeed.

4. Be a Safety Net

You will likely feel an instinctual protectiveness of your baby that makes you diligent about adjusting your totís car seat, removing choking hazards and baby proofing things to stay ahead of your childís growth and mobility. As your babyís dad, take care of yourself as well. Ditch the pre-baby bad habits and macho risk-taking (no more skydiving or race car driving), to ensure you will be around a long time.

5. Admire Your Mate

The metamorphosis of a wife into a mother will be something you appreciate as one of the most remarkable of all human experiences. Your partnerís sacrifices and intense bond with your child warrant your deep respect. But itís easy to take your spouse for granted. The three to four tough months after your babyís birth present a window of opportunity for fathers. Dig deep; itís going to pay off for decades.

6. Be There for Your MVP

Stepping up in caring for your baby shows mom she can count on you. Make sure your spouse feels good about herself as a mom, and remind her of the wonderful child she has produced. Watch for signs of depression and get mom in touch with her doctor if signs appear. Try to take a little time each day to talk to your wife about something other than the baby.

7. Get Your Wife Back

Your mateís body, time and sense of worth will get wrapped up in her baby, and your former sweetheart wonít have much energy and attention left over for you for a while. Once life settles down a bit, itís time to help your wife find her non-mom side again. The ball is in your court at this point to be patient and take the initiative on establishing the relationship you want for the next few decades.

8. Plan Your Road Ahead

You will get through the nine month warm-up period and endurance test of the first few months. After that, youíll find your groove and define your plan for the long term. Understand that becoming a dad is an intensely personal process filled with peaks and valleys, and itís up to you alone to make it work. Remember to also take care of yourself, enabling you to do your job for your family.

9. Get Outside and Explore

You will learn to accept that babies are a lot of work, and caring for them may not seem like much fun at times. You will also find that a fatherís role in teaching his baby to play is one of the coolest jobs on the planet. Start the fun early with mini-adventures, such as letting your baby feel and explore your face, taking a trip to the hardware store and building a crawling obstacle course. These small feats lead to bigger ones like enrolling in swimming lessons with your child to prepare your tyke for surfing.

10. Take Pride in the Job Youíre Doing as a Dad

Developing a strong sense of self as a father is crucial. As you meet your babyís needs, learn to trust your instincts. Helping your child learn new things helps you to develop an awareness of how important you are to your son or daughter. Fatherhood will challenge you, broaden you and provide you with a deep sense of self-respect. (Being dads makes us men in the finest sense of the term.)

For dads of tykes rather than newborn tots, here are cool ways to celebrate Fatherís Day.

  • Enjoy a minor league baseball game.
  • Go miniature golfingó no need for clubs or a golf cart.
  • Fire up the grill. A cookout featuring dadís favorite foods is always reason to celebrate.
  • Play Wiffle ball or get a backyard football game going.
  • Plan a picnic at the park or the beach. Be sure to bring a Frisbee, football or baseball gloves and a ball.
  • Take a family bike ride around the neighborhood or head for the nearest state park or trail.