Daddy Boot Camp
Steve Crew has been a proud father for about a year, but he didn’t have the same confidence in the weeks before his son Sebastian’s birth.
"I was apprehensive before he came," Crew says. Sebastian is his first child, and as any father knows, there are fears and questions that no book or instructional video can answer. Sometimes you just need to talk to another man who’s been there or is going through it. That’s why Crew attended Parkland’s Boot Camp for New Dads®.
Boot Camp for New Dads, or "Daddy Boot Camp" as it’s known, is a program where veteran fathers orient rookie dads on the realities of fatherhood. It helps men like Crew come to grips with their fears, questions and worries on becoming a dependable father and partner.
Don’t be dissuaded by the "boot camp" moniker; there aren’t any drill sergeants and you won’t be doing hundreds of pushups, says Carlos De Oliveira, program instructor and Parkland chaplain.
"It’s more like a support group," he says. "It doesn’t feel like a class."
Soon-to-be fathers in their 20s and soon-to-be grandfathers in their 50s all come and listen to one another talk about the responsibility of raising young children. Attendees discuss what their own fathers were like – some were fantastic, others weren’t around much or they simply never seemed to say "I love you."
No matter their childhood experience, every man at boot camp wants to be the most loving, caring and affectionate father possible. The men see an example of just that later in the program, when a veteran dad comes in to provide some extra guidance. He offers advice on all kinds of questions, including how to pick up babies, what to feed them, and of course, every detail of diaper changing.
"We work on what it means to be a father, what it means to be a husband of a new mom and how to take care of them at home," says De Oliveira.
He has worked in the program as an instructor since it began in 2007. In that time, he has counseled hundreds of men like Crew who feel unprepared for the responsibility of fatherhood. De Oliveira teaches special techniques for holding, feeding and calming their baby while showcasing the importance of creating a bond with their child from the beginning. The course also instructs men on how to help their partners during pregnancy, the post-partum period and beyond.
Naturally, the boot camp is focused on men. "It’s in the male language and in the male environment," De Oliveira says.
Having dads learn from each other provides a new perspective on fatherhood that men would not hear from experts, researchers, parenting coaches or even family and friends.
"Daddy Boot Camp helped prepare me for the responsibility of being a dad and how to deal with this life change," says Crew, who now helps teach this message in boot camp sessions as a veteran dad.
It’s a message that can be passed through the generations and helps Crew be a good father to his son, Sebastian so he can grow up to be like his father and his grandfather, Carlos De Oliveira.
By Jared Porter