Learning On the Job

I always knew I wanted to have children.

Part of it is that, when I was younger, I just assumed that was the natural course of life. All of the adults I knew had children, largely because all of the adults I knew were either my friends’ parents or my cousins’ parents. Growing up, getting married and having children was just what people did, at least through my young child eyes.

Not much changed as I got older. I always seemed to
get along well with children, whether they were my
young cousins or my friends’ Yavelberg kidsyounger siblings and, aside from some occasional sibling mischief, I’ve always felt protective of my two younger brothers. For instance, one brother and I once got separated from our parents at a museum when we were very young (five and two, six and three, something like that) and I remember sitting and hugging him in the corner of a hallway and telling him everything was going to be fine. (Our parents found us very soon afterwards.) In retrospect, my parental impulses were already developing steadily.

I never really knew why I wanted to have children, though. I knew I liked kids; I knew that I enjoyed telling stories, making funny faces and playing games with them. I knew I liked teaching, which came in handy when I was a camp counselor during my college summers. And I knew I liked listening to children tell their own stories, which has been even more helpful as a social worker. But still, even though I liked being around and working with children, I never knew quite why I wanted to have children of my own.


Then, five years ago, my son was born. I remember being so astounded that my wife and I had actually created this little pink mush of skin and hair. In the minutes after he was born, I found myself repeating, “Holy crap, it’s a baby!”1 Even though I knew, rationally, that a baby was coming at the end of the pregnancy, I couldn’t quite wrap my mind around the idea that “baby” and “this new helpless life form in my arms” were the same thing. One moment, I was Aaron; the next, I was Daddy. I had become a father.

And yet, not quite.

Sure, I had become a father in the biological sense. I had passed on my genetic code to my offspring, thus fulfilling nature’s directive that the existence of the species will continue in the form of another young child playing with his earlobes and making fart jokes.2 But, as far as becoming a dad was concerned, I had so much more to learn.


I want to see the genetic code that led to this…

I did learn. I learned the straightforward things, like changing diapers, cutting nails (sort of) and packing bags for day trips. I learned how to install car seats, assemble strollers and how to make it through twenty-four hours of flying with a toddler. And I learned the more complicated things, like trying to rock my children back to sleep without waking their mother, watching my son use a nebulizer and having difficult conversations. I learned about the struggle between balancing time at work, time with my wife and time with my kids.

I learned that there is no stronger feeling of guilt than realizing you have put your child in a dangerous situation. And I learned that there is no better feeling than when your baby lays her head on your shoulder.


I’m thankful that my children have taught me so much about being a better parent, a better husband and a better person, in general. Dads like the ones in the video below don’t always start out that way; it takes a lot of work to learn to be a good father. I’m thankful that I’ve had fantastic teachers who give me new opportunities to learn every day.

I have partnered with Life of Dad and Pampers for this promotion. Use the hashtag #ThanksBaby across all social media platforms to honor dads all over the world for Father’s Day. Also, check in on Twitter at 8 p.m. Saturday, June 17, for a one-hour #ThanksBaby chat with Pampers and Life of Dad, with a chance to win a $250 Visa gift card.

1. My wife, who was nearby getting cleaned up and starting her recovery from the birth, finally said to me, “Well, what did you think it was going to be?”

2. Mission accomplished. Just wait until Shayna starts doing it.

Every Little Bit Helps

Quick note: there are a lot of links in this post. You can click on all of them or click on some of them or don’t click on any of them. But if you’re going to click one, please click on the link at the end.


I’ve never met Oren Miller.

I’ve read his writing. Oren is the man behind A Blogger And A Father and the founder of the Dad Bloggers Facebook group. His blog is a collection of stories he’s found in other blogs, plus musings about his own experiences as a father raising two kids with his wife, Beth.

I’ve heard his voice. He was a guest on the Life of Dad After Show,1 so I’ve heard him speak in his thick Israeli accent that is so strong it makes me wonder how a man whose first language was Hebrew gained such an incredible mastery of English writing. I remember being surprised when I found out that Oren was originally from Tel Aviv because his writing flows so effortlessly that one would swear the words were put down by someone born and bred in the U.S.

I’ve seen his face. The twinkle in his soft eyes sets off his tanned skin and the rugged stubble on his cheeks. His sense of humor and love for his family come through in his smile that sets everyone at ease with its warmth.

I’ve never met Oren Miller, and yet, I feel like he’s one of my oldest friends. It’s an odd thing about bloggers; we write stories about ourselves and our families and send them out into the ether, effectively releasing any control we might have had regarding the types of people who will have access to them. We open ourselves up to the world, sharing our successes, but also our insecurities and failings as parents, spouses and as people. I’ve never met Oren, but I know about his mastermind idea to expose his kids to art and his struggle with explaining celebrity behavior to his son. I know about his passion for helping to improve the ways that fathers are perceived in popular culture and for giving dads a space to collaborate regarding their experiences as parents.

I know that Oren has cancer.

I wrote last week about how there’s nothing more important in parenting than having a community around for support as you talk on the most important job there is. In Oren’s case, the Dad Blogger community has been his support. One of the other bloggers – who has met Oren – set up a fundraising website with the idea that we could all contribute to help Oren and his family go on one last really nice vacation while Oren still can.2 In less than a day, the money raised had almost doubled the initial modest goal of $5000. Within a week the total had reached $25,000 and it’s still climbing. The story of Oren’s diagnosis and the fundraising efforts that followed were featured on the Today Show parenting website, which has helped immensely, but Oren and his family need all the help they can get to pay medical bills and to find some way to get through this ordeal. I don’t consider myself much of a pitchman, but I hope you’ll consider making a contribution to help Oren out. Click here to donate.

Every little bit helps.


1. Yours truly was a guest on a later episode of that podcast.
2. I’m not going to go into the details of the diagnosis here. I’m still kind of in disbelief about the whole thing and how terrible cancer can be. Let’s just say it’s really bad and leave it at that.

Life of Dad Podcast

For those of you who weren’t aware, Life of Dad is a website that was created originally as one dad’s personal blog and evolved into a social network for dads. It’s in the tagline and everything: “The Social Network for Dads.” Anyway, the guys who run the site have a ton of podcasts that they publish on a regular basis, or that other guys put out and they sponsor, including the Life of Dad Show, Super Dad Show and Bobblehead Dad Parenting. One of their other shows, the Life of Dad After Show, focuses specifically on interviewing dad bloggers about their families, their blogs and anything else that might come up in a free-flowing conversation. They had me on earlier this week and I figured I’d post it here for your listening pleasure.


Life of Dad After Show – Aaron Yavelberg – Sleeping on the Edge