Was there really a time when Paul Blumenthal didn't know which way to fasten a diaper or how best to lull two squawking babies to sleep at 3am? Bathing his children, teaching them to take turns, building sand castles with them near their coastal Connecticut home - it's all second nature now.
But before the birth of his dynamic duo 28 months ago, Blumenthal was overwhelmed by the prospect of fatherhood. His jitters subsided, however, and like a long-distance runner he found his rhythm fast.
Parenting experts tell us that each of our children's accomplishments, From walking to feeding themselves to tying their shoelaces, helps to fuel their self-esteem. Similarly, success breed success among dads.
The first time he quiets a colicky baby or soothes a sore gum, a father starts to feel pretty good about his nurturing capabilities. As his confidence continues to swell, so too does his level of involvement. And the best advice from veteran dads for building self-confidence is to start participating in your child's life as early as possible.
"Just get in there and do it," says Randy Mergler, who teaches a class for fathers in Fort Collins, Colo. "Try to get the mother of your newborn out of the house for four to eight hours. If she's nursing, have her bottle her milk so that you can begin fathering on your own."
"There's a myth that moms know what to do instinctively," says Mergler. "But given the chance, fathers are just as nurturing," says this father of two, who co-founded the support group for dads called La Pa's Transformations of Fatherhood.
Chris Jones of Manhasset, N.Y., credits the two-week leave he took following his daughter Elizabeth's birth two years ago with cementing the relationship he enjoys with her now. "I was able to stake my claim, so to speak," he explains.