When Kids Start Noticing

July 19, 2011 in Fatherhood Insights  

When Kids Start Noticing

I have a four-month-old son, named Levi. He’s our first, which means I’m learning everything on the fly. I try to keep up with each stage he’s in so I know what he’s supposed to be learning, gauge how he’s progressing, and finally do the normal new dad evaluation, inevitably ending up believing my kid is at least a little “advanced.”

OK, maybe he’s not, but what dad hasn’t thought that?

The thing I’ve noticed most about Levi over the past few months is his new-found understanding of my wife and I. He recognizes us now. He watches us walk in and out the room. He laughs when I do something goofy (like dance and make fart noises). He sees what we’re doing.

And that’s starting to scare me, at least a little.

A few weeks before Levi was born my wife was going through the crap-we-need-to-get-done-before-he-arrives checklist. The car seats were the only thing left.

I had heard bad stories about installing car seats from just about every parent I know. And, frankly, these tiny seats with all their buckles and straps and circumstance always made me a little uncomfortable. So I had resisted the car seat purchase as much until the very last moment. But now the day of reckoning was upon me, I needed to man-up, get one for each car, and install them both… like a boss.

The first one surprised me: easy as pie. I was pumped. I think it was manufactured by kittens and kissed by angels before it was delivered to the store.

The second one was a different story.

As I was installing the second one the backseat of my car started to shrink, the temperature rose, all of my fingers turned into thumbs… I started to get pissed. None of my usual mechanical skills were working. After an hour of bending in awkward positions, sitting on the car seat base, pulling the seat belt tighter than Superman himself could pull it, I had my wife come out and read the directions.

Fail #1. If you ever have to have your wife read you the directions to make sure you’re doing it right, just stop. It’s not going to get any better so you may as well call it a day.

But I didn’t. Another ten minutes went by and it still wasn’t tight enough. I flamed out and gave up at that point… started violently unstrapping the car seat as my wife continued to sweetly read the directions.

Wife: What are you doing?

Me: What?

W: Why are you taking the seat out?

M: No reason. (Oh, but there was a reason, friend. I picked up the car seat base, literally pulled it over my head and then launched it as hard as I could into the middle of the yard.)

Me: There we go.

If they had the event, I would have definitely won the silver medal for Olympic Car Seat Base Shot-Putting. I’m not sure if it caught a warm air draft across my lawn but it went further than I expected.

My wife and I had a good laugh. It was funny. I wonder if my neighbors saw it. If they did I wonder if there’s a picture of me on the interwebs throwing a car seat base titled “Idiot in my neighborhood.”

Remember how I was talking before about how my four-month-old son, Levi, is starting to notice what I’m doing? If he can notice me walking in and out of a room, soon he’ll be able to pick up what I’m doing, what I’m saying, how I’m saying it and basically every other action or reaction I have.

I’m not simply living my life anymore, I’m influencing. In the past, any stupid actions I committed would just get me a look from my wife. Now I’m getting to the point where my son will start imitating me, start learning from what I do, not just what I say. That’s a new kind of revelation for me: “oh yea, my whole darn life is going to be part of shaping my son, my reactions, my actions, my words… the whole shebang.”

So, I’m not beating myself up over the car seat, but this little story does remind me that soon all the good, the bad and the ugly that comes out of me will be seen and probably imitated by my son.

The good news is we don’t have to be a perfect dads to do a great job. And I don’t have to pretend to have years of experience when I only have a few months. I can do it one day at a time. I can learn how to be a better dad as Levi learns how to speak, crawl and walk. We’ll learn together, and hopefully I can stay one step ahead of him.

Chris Neiger is a brand spankin’ new dad, writer and felt-tip pen collector extraordinaire (I’ll let you decide which one’s not true). He blogs about being a new dad, faith, and life in general at ChristopherNeiger.com.

Photo credit: LLewleyn Williams

Please Comment & Add Your Voice!

Dan K. July 19, 2011 at 8:23 am

Nice article and thought-provoking message. Thanks for sharing this, it’s definitely a good reminder.


Chris July 19, 2011 at 9:51 am

Thanks Dan!

Jon Stolpe July 19, 2011 at 8:34 am

Great post, Chris! I’m seeing this more and more as my kids get older. I’ve been especially mindful of the fact that they will be driving sooner than later (like in the next two or three years for my oldest). The example I set as a driver (and as a father) is not always great – I’d be lying if I said otherwise. Posts like this help to remind us that we are being watched. I also think that it’s important to seek out face-to-face accountability – another man who will call me on the carpet and keep me focused on being the best dad that I can be.


Chris July 19, 2011 at 9:59 am

Jon, my driving habits could use a little fine-tuning as well! I like your idea of being open to others telling you if you’re doing it really wrong or suggesting where you need some help. Sometimes it’s hard to step out of our own situations and see how we’re acting.

It’s a big responsibility knowing we’re being watched, but it’s a good one. Thanks for your thoughts!

Ben July 19, 2011 at 10:03 am

I would even go as far as allowing them to see failure, but resolve. I think that’s also pretty important, so they know how and what to do should they not succeed the first time.

Good word man.

Oh, and good luck with that “staying one step ahead” stuff…


Chris July 19, 2011 at 12:02 pm

Great thoughts Ben. Teaching him how to deal with conflict, anger and resolution is something I’ve been thinking about recently. We’ll see how it goes when I get to that stage!

danny July 19, 2011 at 10:26 am

Nice article, Chris!

Being a Dad is often the best (and sometimes the most exasperating) thing I’ve ever done. My lil guy is just over a year and he’s a sponge…now soaking up my actions, words and even mood. We can only do our best to set a good example for our kids as we experience this adventure together. Thanks for the reminder! :)


Chris July 19, 2011 at 12:23 pm

Thanks Danny!

So true, we can only do our best. It’s amazing, and sobering, that we get to teach them how to live life and make decisions. It’s pretty awesome.

kd sullivan July 19, 2011 at 12:50 pm

What a light and fun way to remind us that we have eyes watching us everywhere, whether they are children’s or our neighbors and co-workers!


Chris Neiger July 19, 2011 at 3:44 pm

Thanks kd, I’m glad you liked the post!

Tyler Trotter July 19, 2011 at 3:38 pm

Did you write this because I cussed in front of Levi a few nights ago? Jk. Good post.

I’ve googled “idiot throwing a car seat in my neighborhood” and didn’t get anything.


Chris Neiger July 19, 2011 at 4:10 pm

Ha! I need to start curbing your interactions with him.

Oh, and you need to put my neighborhood in the Google search instead of yours. I’m sure it’s there. Thanks for checking out the post!

Brittany July 19, 2011 at 4:35 pm

Great article! I feel like a lot of these are usually from a “mommy perspective”, but it’s nice to get both sides.


Chris Neiger July 19, 2011 at 5:20 pm

It’s time for the dads to represent!

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