When I published the first dad advice newsletter there ended up being too much advice to publish alltogether as one edition so I decided to split it into two stories. I was a bit surpirsed by just how far and wide that story went — it eneded up being the most ready newsletter published to date. That also doesn’t totally surprise me because it’s actually difficult to find real world advice when it comes to kids.
A lot of people say things like “better get some sleep” which is basically true but also completely pointless. I think it’s pretty clear to everyone that your sleep program crashes into a mountain when you have children. What they don’t tell you is the one thing that might help get a little extra sleep (like this Hatch light will if you have a 3 year old who insists on coming into your room while the marines are still in their bunks) or how the Snoo can be a lifesaver (according to my buddy Justin). I hope this helps now or at some point in the future.
Just to reiterate from the first post: everyone is different — parents and kids. So what worked for some might not work for others. I also find that it’s important to talk to people with kids around the same age. If you have a toddler, ask your friends who have kids that are a little older. The further you get from certain things the more they seem to get blocked from your memory.
I sent an email to my network of dad friends and gathered their intel for you below. There are some things you probably would never think of and some things that are obvious. Take what adds value and leave everything else. At the end of the day, do the best you can and let love carry the day.
Ben O’Meara, VP of Marketing Huckberry
It’s so damn hard to get a good workout in with a baby, especially in those early days. Time is a blurr, you're exhausted, etc. etc. — all the cliches are true. A great tip I got was rather than fighting it (or giving up completely), turn my daily AM walks with my daughter into a workout, as well. I got a GoRuck backpack and a 35LB plate they design for it. Throw it on before every walk and go searching for the route with the most hills.
Re: Bags. Don’t buy a diaper bag. They are overbuilt and over-marketed as a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. If you own a good backpack or tote already, well you are good to go. I actually was inspired by a great friend, Joe Peters (previously featured), and a recommendation/gift he got from you, MW, when he first had a kid. The Filson 24-Hour Briefcase makes a great diaper bag, especially when traveling. And for a short afternoon trip where you just need to pack a diaper or two, I use a Topo Designs Quickpack.
And speaking of Topo Designs, Mark Hansen (co-founder) gave me some of my favorite advice — it’s really more a mentality — that my wife and I still remind ourselves daily. “Treat your first kid like your second kid”. You will make mistakes, your baby will lick the floor at some point, and they will end up playing with a piece of cardboard 1000x more than a fancy toy you bought. And all that is ok. Don’t get paralyzed by all the potential things that could go wrong. If you are a loving, competent human, you’ve got this.
Justin Thomas Kay, Designer
I’m going to start this one off selfishly as something 100% for me: Logic Pro X. I have found, 20 years out from last being active in music, its a way to actually engage with it in a way that feels like an attainable thing. And with a 2-year-old and a 3-month-old, that means writing some (very likely mediocre) drone and ambient from my makeshift home workstation with a guitar, some pedals, an e-bow, and logic pro running through these Audio-Technica studio monitors. Perfect for when everyone is asleep.
We got the Snoo. I can’t name one thing that saved our lives more trying to contend with two-year-old energy and a newborn. Renting it was a no brainer, you save a ton of money.
I love to cook (and happen to be the house chef) but as a rule, no recipes that take more than 15 minutes prep time. Preferably 5. That said: 2 ingredient banana pancakes. Instant Pot pot roast. Egg Roll in a bowl (please ignore the name of that last blog).
Miles Fisher, Founder of Bixby Coffee
My wife loves gifts related to the children. For her birthday, I had Oxford Pennant make her custom pennants with the names of the girls on them which hang in our den. For our anniversary, I got her a necklace with the girls' names by Ariel Gordon Jewelry. It makes me feel good to be able to give her special gifts that make her feel appreciated and that her hard work is acknowledged.
Buddi on Netflix is a show that is great to have on in the background when you're trying to read the paper on a Sunday. It's trippy and colorful and doesn't have any catchy theme songs that get stuck in my head all day. Also, Paddington 2 — My wife and I love this movie more than our kids I think.
My kids love beanie baby dogs. It's just a thing! Was cool in the 90's. Will be cool in 2030.
John Mooty, Founder NWKC
Involve them in the process. Rather than showing up with a pole and trying to get him to cast, we started from the beginning. Drive to the bait shop, pick out a pole, look at all the minnows and crazy lures, have the guys working give him some tips, grab a free sucker. Now all he wants to do is stop at the bait shop every time we pass it and pull in small sunfish all day.
Take what you can get. My son's favorite thing about golf is getting a snack. He might hit 4 balls, he might hit 40, but why he keeps asking to go to play golf is the walk up to get a Powerade and chips. I could care less about how many balls he hits as long as he is the one asking me to go.
Share what inspired you. The sole reason my son wants to play basketball is because of Space Jam, one of my favorite movies growing up. We get his hoop set up before it starts, he runs around dunking during the theme song, and imagines himself as the young MJ shooting out in his backyard.
Cory Heenan, Director of Retail at Costa Palmas
The NoseFrida was life-changing for us.
Divide and conquer. During quarantine our family has spent more time together than ever before, so on the weekends, we try to divide and conquer. I'll take one kid for the day and my wife Dagny takes the other. This way we get to spend quality one on one time and the kids aren't fighting and killing each other. This sounds psycho but even when we do weekend trips to Palm Springs, we will take two cars for our sanity. * I drive an electric car so save the hate.
Meditation/Headspace. Trying to get a kid to sit still is an incredibly hard task. I've been into mindfulness meditation for a while and the Headspace app has some great meditations for kids and the family to do together. We try to do it at night for bedtime. Trying to get them to develop a daily routine at a young age, I think it will be really beneficial to them down the road. I love this quote from the Dalai Lama. "If every 8 year old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation"
Handy work. I like to get my hands dirty and build stuff. I've learned a lot by trial and error and both my kids love to help me when I'm working on a project. Even having them just hold the drill with me and them showing interest is important. I'd like them to be able to problem-solve and fix things with their own hands and not rely on other people so much.
Eric Yang, Co-Founder of Gear Patrol
A Book: Required reading from my wife for new parents. Read, and comprehend, the Happy Sleeper by Heather Turgeon. Sleep first, plan later.
Some Words of Wisdom: Putting money towards whatever gives our family back time, and specifically my wife Hannah, is almost always worth it. And speaking of time and budgets, take the time to work out solid plan B for the family. Especially nowadays. Embrace both plans equally, don't overthink it and don't spend time looking back. Our family is currently in our Plan B. We're healthy, the kids are soaked in love and stability, and we feel great about it.
A Key Purchase: The Vitsoe 620 shelving system is the best kids/playroom organizational system out there. We invested into a couple of setups for our kids before they were born and they've become indispensable. The shelving system is infinitely configurable and you can modify and expand it as they grow. The system can get expensive quickly, but you can keep it achievably priced if you stick to just the hanging standards and shelves. It's a true buy-it-for-(their)-life thing. Hit up Mike Spriggs at the SoHo store in NY and tell him I sent you. He'll get you into a perfect setup.
eBay and Legos: Instead of continually buying new Lego sets, of which we've spent our fair share of money on, I've found a more creative and economical way to play together. Here's how we do it. My almost 5-year-old, Hunter, is fascinated with Legos and mega-vehicles like ships, trains, etc. We'll take whatever idea is capturing his mind and hunt on eBay for a big foundational part, like the hull of a discontinued Coast Guard ship Lego set to get us started – it's almost like a template. eBay is fantastic for searching for this stuff. When the hull arrived, $12 including shipping, and Hunter saw the shape and scale of it, you could see the fireworks of imagination erupting from his head. Every morning, he's been running down the stairs to add more to his ship (it's in the bottom right of the shelves in the photo). He loves it. I probably love it more. It's been a rich way to kickstart ideas and integrate imagination, patience, and Legos into the way we play. Also, a tip: if you're into building Legos with your kids, try and teach your kid the idea of building in "chapters" so you don't end up spending the entire weekend trying to figure out how to build a spare-parts Millennium Falcon in one go.
Brian Davis, Retailer & Vintage Expert
Our baby girl is 19 months old, so here’s some observations thus far. Our baby carrier came in handy more than a few times when she was unable to sleep because of teething. I would walk around the house with her and by the grace of God, it would help her fall asleep when all else failed.
One of the things that I really could not get a grip on during year one was exercise. I was stubborn and thought I could only get a decent workout in at the gym. Thankfully I snapped out of it and realized I could get a little exercise in while she played in her pen or took a nap. I just reset my expectations and did what I could, when I could, and it paid dividends. Speaking of working out — the Nike Training Club App was a lifesaver during the quarantine.
On the topic of wellness. This post is a short account of putting on 25 pounds of “new dad weight” and subsequently losing 35.
Believe the hype - Daniel Tiger is the real deal.
Jeremy Kirkland, Podcaster
We’ve been a bit Montessori brainwashed and have fallen in love with Lovevery toys for Harriet. She loves just doing things! Also, drawing pictures! My wife, who’s a talented illustrator sits with her and they’ll draw all afternoon while I play guitar in the other room. Hippie much? But it’s been the best peace and quiet we’ve had during this.
Regarding clothes we get most of Harriet’s stuff from Primary.com they have a decent selection of basics and (appear to be ) a great business.
I’m not trying to plug my own sh/t but I will not lie, the Blamo! Slack Group has been imperative for dad support in this quarantine world these days.
James Fox, Marketing Director Crockett & Jones
We have steered clear of ‘branded clothing’ given the rate at which these little Tasmanian devils grow, but we cannot speak highly enough of the BONDs baby grows! We first found them because we have family in Australia who sent a survival package back 3 ½ years ago. Our newbie is now wearing them as hand-me-downs. Amazingly easy to wash and dry (apparently), lasting for years… they also come with zips rather than those f*@king poppers… whoever thought a baby grow should have ‘four hundred and thirty-six thousand (point seven)’ poppers, needs shooting at sundown! Either that or they need to be a parent!
What's the best strategy to teach your children to love your hobbies without forcing it on them? — Involvement. My daughter is like my shadow, and although it took some getting used to (by that I mean to stop swearing), I really noticed her watching me like a hawk. So many parents think that we have to ‘teach’ our children everything, when the reality is, they are ‘learning’ through their eyes a lot more than we could ever realise. My oldest daughter, Amara, is 3 and there is no shock that she loves swimming, playing the piano, singing, dancing, cars, gardening and giving her mother a hard time… all of my favourite hobbies!
It is actually really wonderful to see our daughter dancing and singing along to, all of the older Disney classics. Bamby, Robin Hood, 101 Dalmatians, Beauty & The Beast, Cinderella... They are still all incredibly well done. The genius of Disney lives on more than ever in our house. However… I’d happily put Elsa and Olof in the oven and turn it up high! I am worried that one day I am going to get some sort of ‘frequency of downloads’ fine from them. Our fine would run into the thousands (and counting).
Derek Buse, Creative Director
One thing that I completely underestimated out of the gate is the art of the swaddle. I’m not talking about the blanket per se (although some are better than others). I’m talking about the perfect technique that will end up netting you more sleep and more time watching the golf channel while the little one is wrapped tighter than a chipotle burrito w/ extra rice and meat. I remember the first night in the hospital the nurse pulled me aside and told me to master the swaddle and that Dads often are best when it comes to this often overlooked hack. She showed me the best maneuver first hand and had me practice a few times with her watching. “The tighter, the better” was her mantra. I mean think of where the kid just came from. She said the perfect swaddle should mimic the womb which will comfort the baby for the first few weeks as it acclimated to a liberated life. I think most dads underestimate how snug the wrap should be. They feel like they are going to hurt their kid, but it doesn't work that way. The perfect swaddle is also, in essence, a baby straight jacket. What you want to avoid is the baby wiggling free of the swaddle wrap and then waking itself up. The longer the wrap holds, the more sleep the kid gets. I’ve been out of the swaddle game for a couple of years, but when I see new or expecting dads I always share the importance of the swaddle. Funny side note, back in the Riviera Club days, when we were sourcing our Japanese shirting fabrics, I had our pattern maker sew up a handful of swaddle blankets out of surplus fabrics. Only the best for my girls...
Joe Fotheringham, Creative Director
Something I look forward to all week is Sunday mornings. Usually, I get up as early as possible, wake up Navy (now 5), pack him into the back of my car (I have a car seat in the back of the Porsche) and we drive through the fog of the canyons to grab a coffee at Old Place. There are usually a few other classic car guys there, Navy entertains everyone with magic tricks and stories from the week, and we usually look around the property for the resident peacock. We chat about the week, sing (read: shout) along to Beastie Boys in the car, and for a couple of hours a week, nothing else matters. Luckily it’s navy’s favorite part of the week too, and more often than not we extend our coffee run into a morning at Leo Carillo or further up the coast. Those moments where there is no other noise, relationships, or complications to get in the way have been one of my greatest thrills as a parent. Last weekend we turned it into an overnight to Big Sur, we packed snacks, swim shorts, and booked a cabin up there in the woods with a fire we were able to roast marshmallows on (navy’s main request). I’m sure neither of us will soon forget it and are now planning our next trip to Yosemite.
Chris Bray, Co-Founder of Billykirk
One of the best parenting tips I learned early on was to praise the effort rather than the accomplishment. It’s no surprise that kids are programmed to continue doing things their parents applaud them for. However, if they are more often praised for skills that come easy like hitting a softball or times tables then when they try like hell but fail at catching a pop fly or understanding sentence structure, they’re learning that tasks that come easy are rewarded and tasks that aren’t are seen as a weakness. What you want as a parent is to praise your child when she or he fails but bounces back and tries again. The same goes for practice. If you see them practicing a skill over and over this is the perfect time to say, “Keep up the hard work!” Here are some examples of how this works:
Child: “I got an A in math!” Parent: “Well done – see, you spent a lot of time reviewing that homework and it really paid off!”
Child: “I hit a home run today!” Parent: “Not surprised – you've been practicing all week.”
These sorts of positive interactions let your child know that you have noticed their hard work and that it is valued as much, if not more, than the actual result.
Along the same lines and something my father tried to instill into me and the kids he coached (he was my youth baseball and soccer coach for many years) was that one’s self-esteem isn’t necessarily derived from the win but rather from the learning that went onto it. This all leads to self-belief. So, when we would practice and he was the soccer goalie he would do his damnedest to not let us score. The same would go for running races or hoops in the driveway. He would never give in. Sure, this caused frustration but it pushed us and taught us the importance of resilience and willingness to get better. Which, as any great coach will attest, will undoubtedly lead to success in the future.
Al James, Writer, Musician, and ACL Contributor.
I double-checked and I wrote a recommendation for Bobo's Mountain Sugar over 5 years ago on ACL. It's still an absolute staple for our family, especially now that we have two boys that are housing oatmeal and pancakes on the daily. They love it and we love supporting Tina and Skye. We happily buy it by the case and honestly have consumed 100s of bottles over the years.
We all know that Legos are great for dads and kids, but they're truly the best value going when you factor in time/creativity/price/longevity/quality. What I really love are the creator sets where there are three sets of directions for each collection of pieces. At this point "building time" is part of our daily family ritual. I love it.
Even if I can't pull off dad hats all that well, I still love to buy them. This one is especially important as the money goes to support the world-famous Steamboat Inn on the North Umpqua River - probably one of the most legendary dry fly steelhead rivers in the world. Steamboat narrowly escaped the recent fires in Southern Oregon, but the entire area was ravaged and the fate of their native steelhead runs and the local economy is still very much undetermined. This dad hat is a time capsule that I'll wear proudly. Also if you want to see what the N. Umpqua fly skating scene is all about this video from Curtis Ciszek is an incredible taste.