Creating A Special Daddy-Daughter Bond With Number Two
Updated: Dec 7, 2020
by Scott Beller
DCG Director of Communications and Daddying Editor
Our daughter, Lauren, turns 11 this Sunday. She came along almost exactly two years after her sister, Morgan, who I helped raise as a stay-at-home daddy. So, after much trial and even more error caring for our first child, I figured I was well prepared for anything a second daughter could throw at me, figuratively and literally. I had pants with many pockets for extra binkies, toys, and snacks, and a tried and true, daily baby “game plan” reinforced by the following axioms:
Support the head
Wipe front to back
Keep all hands and arms inside the swaddle
Read all the picture books. Then read them again
Microwave a bowl of water to take the chill off the bottle
Boppy pillows are vital to reduce arm fatigue while feeding, holding, and reading
Be prepared with extra diapers, wipes, onesies, swaddles, and burp cloths
Keep plenty of kid- and dad-friendly music at the ready, sing, and insert baby’s name into the lyrics as often as possible (La La La La Lemon by Barenaked Ladies was perfect for Lauren).
I expected the usual, persistent fatigue all parents of babies experience. But what surprised me most with Lauren was how I quickly embraced the unpleasant and uncomfortable things. Activities I used to struggle with often led to the best moments, early on, and helped us forge an even tighter bond. Those included naptimes and, of course, diaper changes.
As an infant, Lauren’s older sister used to micro-nap – maybe 20 minutes at a time – so, rarely was I able to get any time to relax or do actual work beyond reading and writing a few emails. But Lauren took to napping fairly easily. And after a while, my anxiety faded as she could nap for an hour or more at a time.
While it was great to get those breaks, I found myself looking forward to her wake-up time. I’d hear her stirring upstairs and would come get her out of the Pack-n-Play in our bedroom where she slept. It was the best feeling to pick her up, all warm, wiggly, and gurgling with a smile on her face. Then I’d talk and sing to her as I changed her diaper before scooping my fresh baby bundle up again. (More on this in a minute, but obviously diaper changes weren’t always smiles, whistling birds, and fairytale endings.)
As she got older, this nap routine stayed pretty much the same. When she was a year old or so, her naps got even longer and she’d often wake up and talk or sing to herself to let me know she was awake. By the time I reached the top of the stairs, she’d be standing up in the Pack-n-Play holding her teddy bear ready to go. When she was 2, I’d have to wake her up from her naps that could go beyond three hours if I let them.
Many times before waking her, I’d sit for a minute and just watch her sleep. So tough to disturb such a deep and nourishing slumber. But with a whisper “hello,” I’d gently lift her up for a cuddle. And while she was still groggy, I’d lie down on our bed with her on my chest so she could ease into the rest of our day together. More often than not, this maneuver turned into an extended nap for her and a catnap for me.
When I think of the things I miss most about my time with her back then, these blissful, comforting naps together are the first to come to mind. I think what paved the way for them was my adoption of “wearing” her so much in the Baby Bjorn, something I didn’t do much at all with Morgan, though I held her plenty. One reason I used the Bjorn so much with Lauren was to keep my hands free when I took both girls to the park. In the spring and summer heat, it could become a bit unbearable, but in the fall and winter, Lauren was the perfect space heater tucked in close to my heart.
Now about those diaper changes…
With Morgan, my wife and I had each experienced some legendary, surprise blowouts fit for an America’s Funniest Home Videos highlight reel. But only Lauren ever got me tangled up like a game of twister on the changing table. She was maybe 3 months old and we were alone at the house. I thought I had all the wipes, diapers, and onesies I could possibly need – then she obliterated everything. Sparing you the goriest of details, the episode went like this:
Fresh diaper #1 put in place
Fresh diaper #2 in place
Daddy notes there's just one more diaper available
Repeat performance, and Lauren grabs hold of last diaper AND clean onesie, pulling them into the “red zone”
Daddy, coated up to his elbows, notes no more wipes – performs maximum stretch reaching for nearby dresser drawer for any passable substitute, holding one hand on baby to keep her from sticking dirty diaper or onesie in mouth and/or wiggling off the table
To this day, I don’t know how I managed to keep from getting pinkeye or contaminating the entire house, but I do know "the incident" taught me two important dad lessons:
Add a few more of everything to your reserve supply and keep them within easy reach of the changing table, and
To get through everyday challenges of parenting that often seem like “emergencies,” you have to be able to laugh at yourself.
There’s one more thing I love about that story. Through it all, my daughter had no idea the struggle I was facing and I was able to keep the chaos to just below a boil so that she remained highly entertained. That perspective is useful to me as an imperfect parent, who can let my own issues affect how I respond to my kids – kids who are probably completely unaware of what may be going on inside my head. I regularly have to remind myself of that…and to come clean (pun intended).
I suppose I could go on for another 1000 words or 1000 pages writing about all the reasons I love Lauren and all the great moments I’ve shared with her over the past 11 years. I guess the reason these, in particular, have stuck out to me is that they continue to influence the close relationship I still have with her day-to-day. The loving hugs and humor far outweigh the frustrations and the (many, many) messes. This mighty girl has always kept me on my toes and taught me new things about being a dad and myself when I thought I already had a firm grasp. Happy birthday, Lauren, and thank you – We’re Glad You’re Here!