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Dads take baby steps toward learning the basics

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- “The class was fun just hearing the dads with kids talk about how much fun kids can be. Just other little stuff, like it doesn’t matter how much money you make your kids are always going to remember the time that you spent with them,” said Senior Airman Dale Cook, 27th Logistics Readiness Squadron, at a fathers parenting class Oct. 13. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Scott Mackay)

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- “The class was fun just hearing the dads with kids talk about how much fun kids can be. Just other little stuff, like it doesn’t matter how much money you make your kids are always going to remember the time that you spent with them,” said Senior Airman Dale Cook, 27th Logistics Readiness Squadron, at a fathers parenting class Oct. 13. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Scott Mackay)

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- Nine male Airmen were racing to the finish with fierce competition Oct. 13. That is when they were not laughing and asking, "How do I do this again?" 

The Airmen spent the day at the Airmen and Family Readiness Center learning skills that may not be of first nature to them: they were learning the basics of being first-time dads. 

The fierce competition played itself out in baby doll diapering races, while others got the opportunity to strap on an "empathy" baby-belly giving the dads a first-hand glimpse of what it's like to carry extra "baby weight." 

A "no-women" session allowed the men to share their experiences of finding out their wife or girlfriend was pregnant and the emotions surrounding the life-altering event.
Darren Nickerson, Cannon's Family Advocacy Outreach Program Manager, said he believes men are drawn to this program because they need "a place they can go to ask questions they want to ask without fear of being told, 'that's a stupid question.'" 

When asking questions, expectant and new dads receive answers from other men who are going through the same season of life experiences. 

Tech. Sgts. Tory Gard and Gary Godbey were on hand as facilitators to answer questions from the dads-to-be. 

"There are many things that the new dads-to-be, that are having daughters, might not know about: like what to do if the men's room does not have a changing table, or where to take them to go to the bath room when they get older, but still cannot go by themselves," Sergeant Gard said. 

Other practical issues centered around how to change a diaper, take a babies temperature and learning what Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and Shaken Baby Syndrome is, said Sergeant Gard as well as giving new dads a chance to interact with other men that are also about to be new dads. 

Mr. Nickerson echoed this when he said that medical personnel and other people dote on the mom-to-be, providing her with books, information about breastfeeding and diaper bags. "There is nothing aimed specifically at the dads and we have questions, too," he said. 

"Having been the only dad there whose baby was already born I probably have a different perspective," said Staff Sgt. Michael Welch 27th Communications Squadron Maintenance Operations Center. He said the easiest part for him was diapering and clothing the doll since he already has experience with his own baby, but the most difficult part was the diapering races because he tenses up when competing. 

Second Lt. Christopher Bennett, 27th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, said that he "would almost recommend it be a pre-requisite before your wife gives birth. Most of the material covered in the class could be learned the hard way [by experience] but it would probably be a painful crash-course in Dad Basics." 

Sergeant Welch agrees. "I think that others ought to take the class because becoming a Dad is scary enough," he said. "Without any knowledge, learned tasks will seem that much more daunting." 

The "real-world experience that the instructors provided" was Lieutenant Bennett's favorite aspect about the class. He said the men were provided materials to read after class, but most of the class dealt with questions expecting dads had. 

Mr. Nickerson believes that men will receive the greatest benefit from the class if they wait until their wife or girlfriend is at least 10 to 12 weeks along in the pregnancy, although they are welcome anytime and can take the class as many times as their boss will allow them. 

The next Dad's Class is scheduled for Dec. 15. Call Mr. Nickerson at 784-4716 for more information.