As of a few days ago Caroline is five months old. Not everything has gone well but a lot has. I’ve come to understand at this point that having a child offers you an opportunity to take one of two paths: you can either keep being the same person you were before you became a parent, or you can use the chaos introduced by “becoming a family” to enact huge changes in your own life to become better for your child. I probably fall short of the latter path but it’s something I am striving towards.

Caroline seems happy and she’s certainly healthy. Every stranger that stops and says hello to her either says how she is “such a happy baby” or “smiles so much!” She’s truly her own person, her disposition is entirely unlike mine or Victoria’s as babies. Part of this is undoubtedly initial personality features making themselves known — I would never take credit for her God-given disposition, but I do think we’ve been doing a good job of stewarding her development.

In a landscape of “mom pages” complete with muted color schemes and fun typefaces, I decided to put some of my own information out there from a new dad’s perspective. There’s a lack of “deep” content in this space which is dominated by listicle articles and Instagram one-pagers. I hope to continue to change that as I write my essays on fatherhood.

Here are the things that have set me up to do well:


I believe that if you’re not willing to read full books (yes, not just essays like this), you don’t have what it takes to improve at whatever you’re pursuing. I’ve seen this play out in many different fields, fathering is no different. Even if you disagree with my book suggestions, take the time to find your own and do some quality reading. Here are the books that shaped my approach.

The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp

I will immediately caveat my call to reading by suggesting that you do not buy this book. Unfortunately the book is mostly fluff to turn one genuinely useful protocol into something that can be sold for $20. The baby soothing protocol outlined in this book has saved my a•• so many times in just five months. It’s not only that it works virtually every time I’ve used it, it’s that when your baby cries part of you will panic. This is normal. Your baby will actually change the timbre of its cry over time to elicit a stronger stress response from you. When you are panicking you need something CONCRETE to do. Not a vague collection of things to try, you need a protocol simple enough to memorize. There is a reason that the US Armed Forces rely so heavily on procedure, when you are stressed and your frontal-lobe shuts down you can only run routines, you cannot think creatively.

The protocol is known as the 5-S’s. Follow these steps in order:

  1. Swaddle - wrap your baby in a firm but not too tight swaddle. Search YouTube for technique videos. We were partial to using velcro swaddles for quick bundling. Do not skip this step!

  2. Side or Stomach position - Hold your baby on their side or stomach. When Caroline was small enough I put her face-down with her head sideways on my elbow, belly on forearm, and legs around my wrist.

  3. Shush - white noise (use background sounds on your iPhone) or make a shushing noise with your lips. This sound mimics the sound of blood rushing in the womb. It should be louder than you think it needs to be. The sound of blood in the womb is about as loud as a vacuum cleaner.

  4. Swing - Look for videos to get a good technique for this. It’s not slow swaying, it’s a pretty rapid “jiggle”. Small movements but pretty quickly. Again watch a video so you don’t shake too hard or too gently. I tried to imagine simulating a light turbulence on an airplane.

  5. Suck - Only do this step once your baby is calmed down. This step doesn’t necessarily calm your baby, it just keeps them at the level of calm they’ve gotten to. You can put your pinky in their mouth with the nail-side against their tongue, gently touching the roof of their mouth with the tip of the finger. Binkies work too but for some reason they’re always impossible to find when you most need them.

The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk

This was an eye opener and it should probably just be required reading in your 20s sometime. Although I don’t feel as though I was at risk of traumatizing my child before I read this book, it makes very clear how important how you treat your child is as an infant is and how corporal punishment, while horrible (and ineffective), is only the most obvious ways in which children are traumatized among many others that are more socially acceptable.

[…]children with histories of abuse and neglect learn that their terror, pleading, and crying do not register with their caregiver. Nothing they can do or say stops the beating or brings attention and help. In effect they’re being conditioned to give up when they face challenges later in life.

Thankfully, societal attitudes towards corporal punishment have largely changed in America. Most people consider it some degree of child abuse. It is also helpful that no study has ever proven that it is an effective method of behavioral correction. Numerous studies have demonstrated the connections between corporal punishment and emotional disregulation and addiction disorders in adulthood. There are more nefarious ways to traumatize your child that society views as normal and even desirable such as in this example with the “baby that never cries”

We now have reliable ways to assess and identify these coping styles, thanks largely to the work of two American scientists, Mary Ainsworth and Mary Main, and their colleagues, who conducted thousands of hours of observation of mother-infant pairs over many years. Based on these studies, Ainsworth created a research tool called the Strange Situation, which looks at how an infant reacts to temporary separation from the mother. Just as Bowlby had observed, securely attached infants are distressed when their mother leaves them, but they show delight when she returns, and after a brief check-in for reassurance, they settle down and resume their play.

But with infants who are insecurely attached, the picture is more complex. Children whose primary caregiver is unresponsive or rejecting learn to deal with their anxiety in two distinct ways. The researchers noticed that some seemed chronically upset and demanding with their mothers, while others were more passive and withdrawn. In both groups contact with the mothers failed to settle them down—they did not return to play contentedly, as happens in secure attachment.

Although my earliest memories of being abused were in childhood, I was the baby who “never cried”. My family actually had a nickname for me, “Little Buddha”. Abusive relationships are very rarely time-limited. It doesn’t take extraordinary talent to be a “good enough mother” but it does take presence and empathy.

The Myth of Normal by Gabor Mate

While van der Kolk’s work is a great primer, Gabor Mate’s book goes deeper on the topic and brings in more recent literature. I found that this book not only helped me understand myself and thus understand how to be a better father, it helped me see how our society is ill and how these illnesses are viewed as “normal” (hence the title) and even sometimes desirable!

One such example is “sleep training”, specifically what is now known as the “cry it out” method. Most famously detailed by Dr. Benjamin Spock in his work Baby and Child Care (which I would only recommend reading as a how-to-not parent book), Mate provides a sane assessment of the practice:

[…]the good doctor proposed a cure for what he called “chronic resistance to sleep in infancy.” The way to ensure that the infant doesn’t “get away with such tyranny,” he wrote, was to “say good night affectionately but firmly, walk out of the room, and don’t go back.” That’s right: the “tyranny” of a baby who is physiologically and emotionally programmed to crave physical closeness with the parent, as do all mammalian young.

I know more than one parent that employs this technique, none of them are bad people that want to harm their baby, they are just operating on old information. My hope is that books such as this are more widely read among new parents so that attitudes and practices begin to change.

Play Dreams and Imitation by Jean Piaget

Although being a father is important, it’s not important in the same way as being a mother, especially during infancy. The phrase “mothers stroke, fathers poke” often swirls around my head when I can’t calm Caroline, but she smiles and falls asleep within minutes of me handing her off to Victoria. We have a running joke about this where Victoria at one point insisted me soothing Caroline was “exactly the same” as her soothing Caroline. Now whenever she relaxes immediately after the handoff I say “exactly the same!”

This can feel isolating as a father, like you’re not needed by your child. It’s not true but the need is more abstracted in infancy than caregiver and care recipient as in the mother and daughter. As the father you’re initially 100% responsible for keeping mom calm and well fed. The next stage, the stage that I’ve entered now around five months in, is becoming responsible for PLAY.

Our culture hates play. People do not “play”. It is seen as laziness. Every off-work pursuit must be monetized, you must “hustle”. You must look “busy” at work (don’t tell my coworkers that my subconscious solves most of the hardest architectural problems while I chase my dog around the yard). I even fell into this trap when I briefly tried to monetize this blog, something I do out of enjoyment.

Children do not need to learn play. They naturally grow into doing it. This book is like a primer on re-learning the language of play. It will give you rough expectations of what kinds of play is possible in various stages so that you can appropriately speak the baby’s language. Caroline and I have a few rudimentary games going, but I’m always testing to see if she can learn a new schema of play.

A related word of advice, try to find friends that are willing to engage in play. This is probably good advice even if you’re for some reason not a parent and still reading this. At modern day it is near impossible but worthwhile to do. Unfortunately most adults, especially men, are more interested in watching other people play on TV than engaging in adventures themselves, thinking them to be juvenile, a waste of time, intimidating, or all of the above. These friends are possible to find however, they will be the people you that you can play ultimate frisbee, go on hikes, or play Dungeons and Dragons with.

Natural is Usually Best

It will not be possible for all mothers to give birth naturally and/or breastfeed. Those mothers should never be viewed as inferior, everyone’s body is different. That being said, a natural childbirth, and exclusive breastfeeding is optimal for a baby’s bonding, health, and development. Before drawing the ire of many readers due to the undue oversensitivity to this topic, let’s consider a parallel (real) situation to remove the emotional baggage surrounding this viewpoint.

I have high blood pressure. I have lost a significant amount of weight and dramatically altered my diet but it is still high. Since it’s stupid to willfully let a chronic condition kill you earlier than necessary, I take medication to bring my blood pressure into a healthy range. It works.

Is this optimal? No, it is not optimal. It would be optimal if I did not have high blood pressure and did not have to take medication for it. Do I feel guilty about it? No, I exhausted my natural options first and then coped with the remaining reality. If I was still 230 lbs and taking the medication instead of doing the work of loosing weight, I would feel (rightfully) a bit disingenuous. In the same way, every woman’s body is different and will be capable of different things. I will not judge a woman based on what she does with her body, but it is a refutation of reality to not acknowledge how optimal or not something is.

One of the reasons Caroline is so happy and healthy is because she was delivered without the aid of anesthetics and/or synthetic oxytocin. She is well nourished and has a very strong bond with her mother because she is breastfed. Victoria’s body was not simply able to do these things, it was extraordinarily difficult to give birth naturally and took some lactation coaching to establish a good latch for breastfeeding. She was unwilling to give up on natural methods before exhausting all avenues, which is perhaps the most important thing.


Most control you believe you have in the world is an illusion. Becoming a parent puts this on another level entirely. Woe to the man who is hubristic enough to believe that he can control the outcomes of another human’s life let alone his own.

If you do not have a mechanism for humbling your self and relinquishing control, you will crumble more than necessary. I do this through prayer and engaging with the church.

I have been humbled in my prayer life. I used to petition God to do things that I wanted, things that were my will. God taught me through numerous examples that this was egoistic. Now I voice my opinion that I want things to go a certain way, but I don’t expect them to. I understand that the outcome of any situation will be what God has decided is best for me. Now I pray for the strength of myself or others. Oftentimes the strength I pray for is the strength to let go of my ego and to accept Christ’s yoke to share the load of what burdens me. I prayed a lot in this vein during Victoria’s labor - not to petition an outcome, but to accept the will of God.

Engaging with the church has been the other side of this coin. If prayer is a practice for me to personally accept the will of God, church is the place I go to experience Christ. I had attended a non-denominational church and a few Protestant-variety churches. Church felt like a bible study, a church for the mind. The pastors and parishioners seemed egocentric, deeming themselves capable of interpreting scripture and distorting church tradition at-will instead of carrying forth traditions and interpretations established in the years immediately following Christ’s death by those that were directly involved with Christ or his apostles. This topic warrants more extensive treatment in another future essay but I will conclude with the following.

I have found a home in Eastern Orthodoxy. When at the Divine Liturgy I feel in my body a lightness and ease, a perspective that shrinks all worldly things. It is not merely an intellectual exercise with grotesque densely polyphonic music, but rather a spiritual occasion where I feel the presence of Christ. I regret not coming to Orthodoxy sooner but my mind was deluded by the intellectual snobbery of Protestantism and the egregious modifications of tradition in Catholicism.

A combination of the perspective I feel during the Divine Liturgy and the correct mindset orients me in a way where I can be a better father to Caroline. I can seek less to control and engage with her in a calm way. When tough times come that are beyond my control, I will be pitifully weak and broken, but through Christ I will be strong.


A faux egalitarianism permeates the current culture where the default viewpoint is that men and women are interchangeable. Although it is clear that gender roles are permeable, the norm is that most people largely fall into the traditionally defined roles. This is in observance of the law of averages. Writing too much on this topic draws unwanted comparisons between unsavory and even predatory figures writing about similar topics. I am grateful that women like Ané (@feminine_not_feminist on Instagram) are writing about this in an earnest and straightforward way — the gender and writing style of the author avoiding the aforementioned unwanted comparisons allowing for a more openminded consideration of the ideas being put forth.

Victoria and I have more traditional gender roles in our relationship and in respect to Caroline and I believe that this has helped us reap the benefits of this time-tested paradigm. I focus heavily on career. I specialize in making money, making sure any house maintenance is taken care of (I had a masterclass in this topic when our air conditioning went out during her labor), and guiding our spiritual pursuits. Victoria specializes in taking care of Caroline, taking care of most domestic tasks, and making sure I don’t turn into an antisocial hermit that works 80 hours a week. The only big non-traditional thing in our work split is the cooking which I almost always do because I enjoy it and Victoria doesn’t.

To many enmeshed in modern culture’s sphere of influence, this will appear to be some kind of forced, regressive captivity. No amount of reassurance from me will sway you if that is the opinion you hold so I will leave it, as always, to the reader.

Although this arrangement may not work for everyone, something resembling it will probably work for most families, which is why it was the cultural norm up until very recently. The tradeoff in approach is simple: specialize in areas that you enjoy and are biologically predisposed to performing and you will naturally have a high level of aptitude in your work, or, split all tasks 50/50 down the middle and do a mediocre job at all of them.

Anyone who thinks that cooking, for example, is beneath them, has already forgotten to humble themselves. Only after we humble ourselves to the task at hand are we able to enter into it earnestly. Out of this earnesty comes a feeling of pride in ones workmanship, whether that's cooking a meal, feeding the baby, or taking out the stinky garbage. The world seeks to ascribe unmerited value to some of these tasks but not others. All tasks are important and the ones that society generally turns its nose up at, most notably mothering, are typically the most important.

It is truly a radical notion in 2022 to say that Victoria is a better mother than I can be and I am a better father than she can be. Out of this understanding, I pursue the craft of fathering and she pursues the craft of mothering.

The key to this is less about strictly adhering to predefined gender roles (although this is a natural and useful starting point for discussions), and more about clearly negotiating the additional work that will need to be done after the transition from couple to family.


We have never been shy about taking Caroline out in public or having visitors into our home. It is shocking to me that people are shocked by this. We of course want to protect Caroline from harm and illness but we also want her to have a robust immune system and be well developed socially. As a baby, her mind and immune system are primed for rapid adaptation that will only occur when stimulated.

I was a boy in a bubble as a child. Now as an adult I catch pretty much every virus I come into contact with. Victoria’s upbringing was filled with good bacteria and no such OCD concerns about exposure to said bacteria. She only catches viruses from me some of the time and when she does, she usually heals before I do. There is a massive body of research that proves the connection between environment and outcome.

I think most are too conservative in this regard. Filling Caroline’s senses with the variety and beauty of the world, especially the world outside of our city limits, not only entertains her, it gives her growing mind something to feast on and develop.

To put the germ question into perspective, the "Most Deadly Virus Ever", let its name not cross our lips for fear of censorship via regex, had an infant mortality rate of 0.0002%. If culturally we've decided that a mortality rate of that percentage constitutes child endangerment, we would have to give up driving among many other activities. Thankfully the lunacy surrounding this issue is disappating, at least outside of the Los Angeles control grid.


We don’t let Caroline watch screens. Minimal TV. She will not have a tablet. Screen-entertainment creates automaton thinkers whose minds sink into operating in predetermined (and often questionably determined) patterns. I am learning that many consider this to be a radical approach as I continue to bring it up with other parents in conversations.

We are not trying to create the Übermensch, this is a negative process in which we remove the elements of modernity that harm the developing mind.

We are not black and white on this matter. Once she is older, we will sit down as a family for movie night, although the movie will be thoughtfully selected and certainly not anything produced by Disney in the last couple of decades, may God grant their creatives modesty and restraint. Opera or other genuine art should be available as well.

We must also not be hypocrites. We are reducing our screen-based media consumption. Every time we advance this pursuit, the empty time is quickly filled with far more enriching activities.

I am reminded of the example of the parent who allows their child a tablet with strict parental controls that only allows the use of "learning apps" (is there a better sign of the times and our abuse of technology than this contradictory phrase?) Undoubtedly this child will suceed in the mechanical problems of the world. Their skills of multiplication will perhaps be superior to the non-tablet child. The school will consider them gifted because the school is only concerned with the things that can be quantifiably measured. I suspect that child will have an unnatural disposition towards unstructured play and creativity -- both are muscles that atrophy when not used and when a child is forced to act like a machine, this process of atrophy is accelerated.

The child has been taught that the world is a collection of problems to be solved with a correct or incorrect answer — “solutions” in the digital world are seldom “kind of right” or “kind of wrong” along a spectrum as we find in the real, physical world. Machines are excellent at solving black and white problems, machines are far less proficient at abstract thought and having human experiences. The problem is what we define as normal and desirable in society. The concrete black-or-white skills should never be mistaken for ways of being, rather as tools to be picked up when useful and put down when not useful. The only type of person who can use these tools deftly and creatively is the person that is in touch with their body and emotions and able to easily engage in unstructured play. Neither of those qualities can develop under the hegemony of the screen.


Perfection in child-raising does not exist. What I have outlined are the working principles by which we are raising Caroline and with which we have seen positive effect so far. I maintain that everything laid out here is an improvement on “modern wisdom” and conventional attitudes on parenting.

You cannot control who your child will grow up to be. That outcome is relegated to God’s plan. You can however foster the development of qualities that you believe to form a healthy adult in your child. A lot of this essay is self-centered. It is intentionally so. If you do not assess which are the useful and not useful qualities in yourself, how you relate to human experience, how things are going for you in general, how will you know which qualities to aid in the development of in your child?

I have always known that our society was ill. Contrarianism isn’t the right answer, but rather a considered and granular approach to rejecting the parts of the modern world that don’t serve us spiritually. This begins with rejection of most modern entertainment, most of which does not serve us spiritually and some of which (usually the most popular forms) is demonically motivated.

You cannot be hypocritical. Different rules apply to parents and children but you cannot act out on deep philosophical differences while preaching the contrary to your child. If you have found a better path, don’t force your child down it alone, walk it with them, especially if that means cutting out the things in your life that make you less than who you could be.

Children need strong parents. Not the misuse of the term as applied to the grotesque and abhorrent act of corporal punishment — may we pray that these abusers find healing for the wounds that they act out of and that their children may break the cycle. Parental strength is standing up for those things that spiritually empower us. When doing so results in the diminishment of our worldly status or the calling of names such as “radical” or “regressive” we are unwavering in our resolve. This is the kind of strength that is missing from the parents in the world. Will you stand up for righteous things or allow worldly forces to shape your child?

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