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  • Writer's pictureMarian Wiener-Margulies

Dad's Night Out

September 28, 2007

A group of fathers are sitting together talking. Not about Sunday night football, not about a stock tip, and not about the trend in real estate prices. Not a buffalo wing nor a keg of beer is to be found. So what brings these dads together on an otherwise ordinary Wednesday evening? The fact that they are new or relatively new dads. And the fact that they want to experience more profoundly the role they might play in their child’s life. What do they talk about this motley crew of dads? For starters, what it feels like to father, how not to panic when their baby cries incessantly and how to get a decent night’s sleep. They are talking about the dos and don’t of selecting a nanny. And throw into the mix some more esoteric questions like what does it mean to father? And how do they want to father their child similarly as or differently from the way they were fathered. A new twist to dad’s night out to be sure.

This group meets bi-weekly on Wednesday evenings in the home office of Larchmont-based psychologistt Dr. Marian Margulies. They meet to share their stories, to learn about the latest research on such topics as attachment, attention, and emotional development in babies. And they meet to connect with other dads who are traveling a similar path, traversing the peaks and valleys of new fatherhood.

“I began this group shortly after I met a dad who owns his own business and had brought his baby to work. Asking him how he enjoyed his status as a new dad, he confided that he fears he will follow in his dad’s footsteps and not be patient with his son or present enough in his life. Other dads would also share their angst about not being involved enough or wanting to strengthen their relationship with their child or wondered what did it mean when their baby was doing something puzzling. I checked to see if there were any groups I could refer them to and not finding any, I thought, why not start one.

Some of the questions that come up at the dad’s meetings include: how can I get my baby to sleep through the night, and how do I get him to take a bath when he is wiggling all over. Does holding my baby all the time spoil her? How how do I get my baby who is a fussy eater to try something new?

What often happens is one dad will provide another dad with answers to his questions based on his experience which may or may not help. But it is comforting to know the alternative strategy exists.

Here's an example:

The group is focused on their babies’ sleeping patterns. One dad shared

his experience of "ferberizing" his two twin girls. Now for one who has never heard this term, all sorts of negative associations might come to mind. However, for those in the know, it has to do with getting your baby to sleep at night for longer stretches over time, by allowing your baby to cry a bit before checking in on him. This is done in a gradual way. So this dad said that his girls are now sleeping soundly at night. The dad seated next to him said emphatically, "What you did is huge!"

In another session, one dad was describing how he gets his baby to take a bath, after another shared his difficulty with this. The first dad said, "I've learned that the bath water gets cold quickly, so it's best to start with warmer water. Just make sure you

have a towel handy," he said, with a trace of authority, having had a few more months of fathering under his belt.

Sometimes the sessions become more introspective and dads share some deeper and more profound feelings of their fathering experience related to life cycles such as loss of close relatives in the present or perhaps as a child growing up.

The only thing that seems to be missing at the moment is a large platter of buffalo wings and some beer. Food for father’s thought!

For more information about the group, contact Dr. Marian Margulies or 914 384-5544. Two groups in process of forming are dads who are separated or divorced and dads with children ages 3 to 5.

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