It was quite something to see Prince William and his wife, Catherine, trot out their newborn son this week. I mean, they looked to all the world like regular parents, with William buckling the little one and his car seat into the back of the royal Range Rover, Kate beside the baby, and then William driving off.
Just like the rest of us, right?
Of course not. But it was charming to see the royal couple acting, if only for the cameras, like Will and Kate, nervous new parents. Naturally, we assume that behind the scenes, these two will have plenty of help. But who knows? It’s the 21st century; perhaps they really will go it -- mostly -- alone.
In which case, they’ll need some real-world parenting advice. Which is where I come in. I’m a parent. I have two sons. They’re mostly grown up now, making me as much of an expert as anyone, regardless of what all those books -- and my often-exasperated wife -- would have you believe.
One caveat: I only know how to be a dad. So this is just a man-to-man, dad-to-dad talk -- words of wisdom for Will to bring up little George Alexander Louis. Call 'em the Dad Rules:
- Do not, under any circumstances, get up in the middle of the night when the kid cries. Never. Do it once and you’re doomed. Kate will wake up anyway. If you do too, neither of you will get any rest. You’ll be grumpy. She’ll be grumpy. One of you might as well get a good night’s sleep, and it might as well be you.
- Go ahead and change a few diapers, especially when he’s really little. It makes you look good, and it’s easy. However …
- … Stop changing diapers when George starts on solid foods. Just trust me. I once gave my son Oreos with his bottle of milk. What came out later closely resembled asphalt. You don’t want to deal with that.
- Start the discipline early. You give them an inch, they’ll want a Range Rover at 12. He may be a little prince, but you better treat him like a footman or he’ll be on the cover of every tabloid at 20. (Just Google “Prince Harry” and “Las Vegas.”)
- Remember, though, that parenting is a tug-of-war between you and your wife and your child. And you want to be the good guy. Let her be the disciplinarian. All boys love their mothers anyway.
- If there’s a soccer equivalent to AYSO in Britain, under no circumstances should you volunteer to coach, and that goes double for being a referee. It’s not a chance to bond with your son; it’s months of whiny kids and their whinier parents. You may both be kings someday, but as a soccer coach, you’ll be an idiot and your kid will be playing only because you’re the coach. And refereeing is the 9th circle of hell.
- Christmas, followed by his birthday, are the best times. It is your chance to buy him the toys you always wanted and didn’t get, or did get but didn’t get enough of: Remember that RC helicopter? Kate will think it’s cute, and you’ll get to play with all that cool stuff.
- There’s no such thing as too much TV, as long as it’s sports. And action movies. And inane comedies. “SportsCenter” never gets old, and neither does “Airplane!” And you can watch any of the “Die Hard” movies a million times -- just not when Kate is around.
- When he’s old enough, teach him to drive yourself, and teach him on a stick shift car. He’ll thank you for it. I don’t know why. But you’ll be his hero for life, without even trying.
- Finally -- and fortunately, this is a long way off -- as he gets older, George will get interested in girls. They will not dress appropriately. They will not remind you of his mother. There is nothing you can do about this. Except be glad George wasn’t Alexandra.