One of the most powerful questions you can ever ask someone is, “Can you tell me about your father?”
For many, this elicits a heartwarming response: Memories of a loving childhood filled with hugs and cuddles come flooding back.
But, unfortunately, for others, the opposite is true — a picture of darker times, perhaps. In fact, the way we answer the question may well tell us a lot about who we are and how we came to be.
Every child coming into this world has one question that needs to be answered, and that question is: “Am I enough?” Basically, “Do I have what it takes?”
We know our mother loves us, but what we’re really looking for is validation. For most of us, this comes from our father. Our father’s response to our arrival in this world is crucial, for it’s the absence of any validation that creates the father wound.
So profound is this phenomenon that many experts in the field of fatherhood believe the father wound to be the most pervasive wound on the planet. Young boys and girls who don’t have their father’s love may very well spend their lives looking for someone to tell them they are indeed enough.
The good news for new fathers is that this wounding is completely avoidable. Although some dads can feel overwhelmed with the idea of bonding with their newborn, it’s really simply a matter of moving from your head to your heart.
Here are tips on how to make those loving connections right from the beginning.
1. Start early. The perfect time to start connecting with your baby is during the pregnancy. Talking softly to your partner’s blossoming belly — or even singing — may seem strange at first, but rest assured the connection between you and your baby will have already begun. Later on, your newborn will recognize the tone and pattern of your voice.
2. Cradle your baby closely. Similar to when mother and child are breastfeeding, the close proximity of your newborn allows his eyes to meet yours. It’s important that this facial recognition begins from the first day your child arrives. Wrapped in your strong arms, your baby will feel safe and secure.
3. Soothe her tears. A lot of dads feel nervous because their newborn is fragile. However, when your baby is upset or crying, don’t be afraid to pick her up and rest her on your chest. Make sure to always support her head, and remember to whisper softly in her ear how much you love her — for simply being here.
4. Change those diapers! Yes, that’s right. Gone are the days when this was the work of the mother. Changing a baby’s diaper is the ideal time for you to connect with your newborn. Make it a playful time with plenty of tickling, giggles and laughter. A baby loves to be massaged, so take this opportunity to rub his arms and legs. Be organized, have plenty of diaper wipes and enjoy your time together. Just as importantly, you will give the baby’s mom a break as well.
What may seem like some simple ideas will create a loving bond with your kids. Looking into their eyes, holding them tight, letting them become familiar with your voice and letting them feel loved will be an experience that they will carry with them for a lifetime.
Your children will forever know that they are indeed enough!
Darrell Brown is the author of the highly acclaimed bestseller Raised by Our Childhood Voices (darrellbrown.com.au).