Last week I got my first opportunity to facilitate the Boot Camp for New Dads class. It was an awesome experience and I like to think it went well and that each dad in there came away with something that evening (hoping that’s reality and not just my imagination:). I thought I’d share a little bit about what it looks like and what I feel is so awesome about it.

First though, here’s the basic premise: a group of “rookie” dads (dads with their first child on the way, dads with brand new little ones, and/or second time around dads just looking for a refresher on what to expect with tiny people) sign up and show up for a three hour class/workshop geared toward getting them ready to be a new dad. “Veteran” dads (dads with a little one already between birth to about 8 months and who have preferably previously attended the class as a “rookie”) join as well and bring their babies to answer questions and provide hands on experience. A facilitator keeps the conversation moving, but the real crucial component is “rookies” and “veterans” getting some good Q & A time.

-The “veteran” dads are amazing! This class asks dads of little ones between birth and up to about 8 months to give up a Monday evening and bring their little bundle of joy into a group of strangers to be vulnerable, answer questions, and pass around their precious child to be touched and held by people they don’t know. These guys are awesome! They are indispensable and the class can’t run without them. They help show the “rookie” dads that men can be nurturing and caring and are willing, capable parents.

-I always leave impressed by the transformation and changes in the “rookies”. This last time most of our “rookies” had actually already had their children arrive (which isn’t typical) and so were also able to sort of be “veterans” in a way and pass on their own advice to the dads with kids still on the way. But, a lot of the time you have an expectant dad that hasn’t been around kids much and may or may not have signed up of their own free will. At the end though I see men who have a new respect for what they are getting themselves into, a vulnerability to put themselves out there by asking questions, and a hint of confidence and reassurance that says “ok, I think I got this!”

-As a facilitator my job is just to not get in the way. Since I’m also a “veteran” dad I can share my experiences as well, but my main role is to help everyone feel comfortable and try to make sure we cover all the real important topics.

-The curriculum is great! Talking about teamwork, dad in the protector role, and dads being pushed away by moms for not doing it “right” are all common issues and can be very challenging when your lives have been turned upside down and nobody is getting any sleep. It’s comforting to know other guys are dealing with it as well and can be empowering to take home and have a conversation.

-Postpartum depression and “baby blues” are real things! I think one of the most important things dads take out of the class is an understanding of just how much moms go through and how hard it can be to handle all the hormones and emotions flying around. Dads are encouraged to be supportive and alert, and to involve someone outside the home if it goes from “baby blues” (usually not longer than a week and just a general sadness with emotional swings) to postpartum depression (long, sustained feelings of sadness, disconnect from the baby and an unwillingness to even be around the child). Moms are human too and it can be really difficult to adjust to being a parent. As a dad we can help by being engaged, supportive and encouraging as we watch to make sure our partners are OK.

-It begins a conversation and shows dads that it is good to talk to other dads about this fatherhood thing. Being a dad is tough…but it’s tough for everyone and can be easier when you know there’s other dudes out there struggling with the same things. I love this stuff (as I’ve said before) and absolutely learn something new and come away refreshed and inspired every time I get together with other dads. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to facilitate this class and can’t wait until the next one!

This is fatherhood…