Free Basic Training for First Time Fathers
How did you first learn to change a diaper, burp an infant, console it, or pack a diaper bag? I’m the eldest of five children, so in my case, it was tending siblings during the rare times my parents went on “date-night.” And I did a fair amount of childcare for other families to earn spending money.
It shouldn’t surprise you to hear that today, women have fewer children, they have those children later in life, and according to most data, 41% of those children are going to be raised by a single parent. Often that single parent will juggle both a low-wage job and childrearing. So it won’t surprise you that locally, 85% of children and youth qualify for free or reduced school lunch. 70% of youth in custody did not grow up with both parents. Generally, raising kids falls disproportionately to women. They are, traditionally, culturally, and arguably biologically, the better-suited caregivers. 72.5% of those accused of shaken baby syndrome crimes are men. Yet with more women going to college and graduating from college, women are now often the primary breadwinner. Add these findings together, and there is a need to teach men how to raise children.
As a teacher, I see the effects of kids raised in poverty daily. Many crave even negative attention from adults. They are often hungry, and often unsupervised at night, staying up to morning hours to play video games. 24% of our middle schoolers will miss 10% or more days of school in our state. Often, their reading and math skills and motor skills are behind grade level because from a young age, their caregivers are unable to afford certain toys, books, internet access, sports fees, etc. that wealthier families are.
We can either sigh and lament these statistics, or we can recognize that we are not preparing men well for two realities: 1) they will want to leave a relationship when they find out that they aren’t able to provide their family with the level of financial support that they would like to, and 2) by staying, they can provide their families with far more than financial support.
With a few weeks of my 2015 summer vacation left, I heard an NPR broadcast that taught gang members who never had fathers— how to _be_ fathers. A few phone calls later, I had financial support from AllCare to become a facilitator and establish a chapter of “Boot Camp for New Dads” in Grants Pass and Medford.
Boot Camp’s motto is: “A father for every child, no matter what.” The 3-hr. course uses “veteran dads” who have 2-12 month old babies— to teach “rookie dads”— those who are soon to deliver. It covers fears that fathers have, and how to form a parenting team; how to react when/if the female shuts out the dad as “not competent enough” to care for the child. Rookies change diapers of the veteran dad’s children; learn how to console— and they learn how to nurture their relationship with a newly hormonal, overtired mom. Changing diapers, consoling, taking the child to a park, and reading or singing to it will give her relief rest that she desperately needs.
It’s one thing to have the perfect class available at the perfect time. It’s quite another to have a gender that prides oneself on their independence— _sign up_ for the course. In Grants Pass, there are 25 distribution points where an expectant father would come across our brochures: Women’s Health Center, Southern Oregon HeadStart, Options, Child Welfare Services, and Pregnancy Care Center, are just a few.
If you know of an expectant (i.e. “rookie”) father, please tell them to register via our website: www.gpbootcampfornewdads.com.
Enthusiastic, proud veteran fathers will be ready to impart their wisdom on the 2nd Saturday of every month, at the Women’s Health Center off Ramsey at 1075 Grandview Ave. in Grants Pass, 9-12 am and from 1-4pm at La Clinica Wellness Center, 730 Biddle Road in Medford.
By Bob Bath.