Kiley Dorton

The first two years: tips, tricks, and thoughts from a new dad

Published on by Kiley Dorton

Being a dad in 2013 is different than being a dad in 1985 (when I was born), and very different than being a dad in 1956 (when my dad was born). Medicine is better. We are connected. And there are things called iPads.

My daughter turned 2 a few months ago, and I learned a handful of techniques that new moms and dads might find interesting. I’ll share them now, and would love to hear your feedback and thoughts.


  1. Do not fear the iPad. Embrace the iPad. The iPad is your friend.
  2. Amazon Subscribe & Save will give you 20% off diapers and wipes, and the boxes will just show up at your doorstep every month, right when you need them most. It is worth it, financially and in terms of peace-of-mind. Take it from a dad who has had to run out to the store at 3am when, much to his dismay, he realized that he was out of diapers and wipes at the worst possible, explosive moment.
  3. 0 to 9 months is more mechanical than people would have you believe. Just keep her fed, changed, clean, and on a schedule. It’s going to be easier than they make it out to be. But around 9 months, the machine will break and there is no manual for what comes next. Honestly, it’s going to be harder than they make it out to be. Just do what works for her and for you.


  1. The mere mention of a bite-size chocolate candy waiting for her at home (if she’s a good girl) can go a long way for making your errands go smoothly.
  2. Threatening to put her in the corner for acting up has quickly diminishing returns; putting her in the corner immediately and sternly emphasizing why you did so has long-lasting effects. Be swift in punishment, make the consequence fit the misbehavior, and be careful not to overuse the word “no.”
  3. Establish a song, nature sound, or story to associate with bedtime. Do it early, and do it every night. When you put on the sound, it means it is time for bed, no matter what. It will be difficult at first, but in time it will be calming, comforting, and sleep-inducing.
  4. (bonus trick) — Get a gigantic refill jug of hand sanitizer (a 2 liter jug is $18 on Amazon). Then get a small, handpump hand sanitizer bottle. Buy those little sticky velcro squares. Stick one square to the top-right side of her changing table. Stick the other square to the bottom of the handpump bottle. Works like a charm.

I also have a few thoughts specifically on being a dad in 2013. Our father’s fathers probably felt that it was ok to not be too involved in the minutiae of the early years. They also probably threatened to “use the belt” from time to time.

I had some odd notion in my head that a dad is supposed to be the disciplinarian. For some reason, I thought he ought to be relatively removed in order to maintain a dominant leadership role. I thought of phrases like, “Wait till your father gets home.” I had images in my head of a strong-but-silent type cleaning a gun while sitting in a rocking chair on the porch.

And then I had a daughter. And I realized how ridiculous all of those notions are.

Being a dad in today’s world means you are part of a team. It’s you, your partner, and your little one. Our teams are playing a game and the rules are simple: stay healthy, stay happy, stay together.

Yes, you have to change diapers. Yes, you have to discipline your child. Yes, you have to cook dinners. Yes, you have to call the daycare. Yes, you have to get up at 2am even though you have to work the next day.

And no, you aren’t doing your partner a favor when you do any of those things. Even if you did it the last time, and the time before that.

You can look at those tasks in one of two ways: 1) as tedious, annoying responsibilities or 2) as the parts of the story that lead up to the big moments.

Every diaper you change is one step closer to a memory you won’t forget. Every TV show don’t watch in exchange for reading her a book is one imaginative story she’ll write a few years down the road.

Every hug you give her and time you say “I’ll miss you” is one more reason she’ll eventually find someone who treats her right, because she’ll know exactly what it feels like to be treated that way.

Remember the small moments, because in time they will become the things you miss most about back when she was only…

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