By Arlo Taylor
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
While a wealth of pregnancy books and classes focus on new mothers and a baby, relatively few classes are out there to nurture new dads.
To bridge that gap, Family Advocacy here offers the Dads’ 101 class quarterly for expectant fathers or those whose child was recently born. The next class is Monday, Sept. 28 at the Family Advocacy office on the second floor of the 19th Medical Group clinic.
“The Dad’s 101 class teaches new dads how to be dads,” said Lisa Dicus, 19th Medical Operations Squadron Family Advocacy Officer. “The class is taught for dads by dads. [It’s] an especially fun way for the dads to get together, ask the questions that they may not have had the ability to ask before and learn some helpful skills and tips from the other dads that have ‘been there, done that.’”
The expectant fathers learn the basics: pregnancy-related issues, diapering and dressing a baby, bathing and feeding a baby, preparing for deployments and coping with a crying baby and the effects of Shaken Baby syndrome. The new dads also get to walk a mile in their partners’ shoes while wearing an Empathy Belly pregnancy simulator and seeing what it’s really like having a growing baby bump.
Dicus said the experienced dads who volunteer to teach the class work to help the newbies feel at ease with the transition to fatherhood.
“Fathers are central to the emotional well-being of their children; they are capable caretakers and disciplinarians,” she said. “Research shows that fathers are just as important as mothers in their respective roles as caregivers, protectors, financial supporters and most importantly, models for social and emotional behavior.”
“Sharing personal experiences and making the class relatable are what makes the class successful,” said Tech. Sgt. Justin Nightingale, one of the volunteer teachers.
“The thing I learned and pass on is that there really isn’t an exact science to being a father,” he said. “I liken it to being a supervisor; you apply the good things you’ve learned, try to avoid the bad and make it your own.”
The real-life stories shared – both failures and triumphs – aim to ready the new dads for the adventures fatherhood brings.
“That is the essence of being a father; sometimes you will succeed and sometimes you will fail; it just depends on if you learn from those failures or not,” said Senior Airman Joshua Palffy, who has taught eight classes.
Nightingale, who has taught three classes and has three daughters ages 8, 6 and 3, said the most important thing the class teaches is the importance of being there for the mother and child.
“We stress the different things the mom is going to experience and how to adjust for the changes that will come with the new baby,” he said. “Fathers have a very important role. They’re their son’s first superhero and their daughter’s first love.”
“The class is in many ways a “man-to-man” talk about being an involved dad,” said Palffy, who has a daughter and son.
“I grew up with my father being in prison so I believe that a father’s involvement in the child’s life is very important,” Palffy said. “We try to answer as many questions the dads have to help relive any concerns they may have with pregnancy, childbirth and being a new dad. This class is very rewarding and being a father is something that I pride myself in.”
The teachers also stress that patience is more than a virtue when it comes to parenting.
“We touch on a lot of subjects, but we try to nurture patience … patience and understanding,” Nightingale said. ”Men are natural fixers and want to fix things and in fatherhood, that’s not always the case. Sometimes you just have to be patient and you have to understand the situation for what it is.”
The class lays a ground work for new dads to build their own family legacy
“Dads 101 is a really good baseline [for learning]. It’s just a way to lay a foundation for the dads to build on and go into the situation with a little more confidence,” said Nightingale.
For more information or to sign up for Dads 101, call Family Advocacy at 501-987-7377.