Gotham’s ‘papa grizzlies’ go above and beyond to keep their kids safe

Papa don’t panic!

New York City can be a terrifying place to raise kids, so some devoted dads are fighting their fears by disinfecting subway poles, logging the weights of poopy diapers down to the ounce, and keeping the plastic surgeon on speed-dial in casejunior gets a bad boo-boo.

Heard of helicopter moms? Consider these hovering pops Black Hawk Dads.

Pereyra (r.) and Brandon Garcia, with 6-month-old son Benjamin.

Aaron Showalter/New York Daily News

Pereyra (r.) and Brandon Garcia, with 6-month-old son Benjamin.

“It’s just better to be safe than sorry,” says Doug, 35, who hand washes cups and plates because he fears the dishwasher releases harmful chemicals, thoroughly cleans shopping carts before letting his 4-year-old daughter sit in them, and stocks his New Jersey home with only non-chemical, white vinegar-based cleaners.

“I was not raised this way,” the midtown commuter admits, “but why subject yourself to those chemicals if you don’t need to?”

Andy Battag, 43, considers himself a laid-back dad now, but when his 9-month-old was a newborn, he anxiously logged every ounce of milk his son consumed — and digested.

Somerfeld with his 4-year-old son Jake. Somerfeld created the group because he wanted to be around other men learning to be dads.

Aaron Showalter/New York Daily News

Somerfeld with his 4-year-old son Jake. Somerfeld created the group because he wanted to be around other men learning to be dads.

“I took copious notes on exactly what time he ate, how much did he spit up, when did he poop, how much did he pee. We had pages of notes!” says the upper West Sider.

All that data didn’t wow the pediatrician, who told Battag to put the pen down. “He didn’t even look at them,” he says. “I learned that we tend to stress out more than the pediatricians.”

These papa grizzlies have their hearts in the right place, but psychologists say they need to back off — for their own mental health and their kids’ peace of mind.

One dad named Doug washes all the dishes by hand because he's afraid his daughter will be exposed to harmful dishwasher chemicals. 

Business Wire

One dad named Doug washes all the dishes by hand because he’s afraid his daughter will be exposed to harmful dishwasher chemicals. 

“In New York, there’s this drive to be the best in everything, and some dads are parenting their kids in hyper ways,” says Dr. Timothy Verduin from NYU’s Child Study Center. “They’re competitive about researching what kind of car to get, what their apartment’s property value is, and they also want to make sure their kid’s experience is the best.”

But disinfecting playground equipment or keeping kids in sight 24/7 can make them fearful and co-dependent, rather than confident and self-sufficient.

“It gives a sense that it’s a dangerous world out there,” says Dr. Alec Miller, chief of child and adolescent psychology at the Montefiore Children’s Hospital. “Heaven forbid a child forgets his wipes one day — he can’t go on the swing set now?”

NYC Dads Group now had 815 devoted fathers who see movies together, arrange play dates and share ideas.

Aaron Showalter/New York Daily News

NYC Dads Group now had 815 devoted fathers who see movies together, arrange play dates and share ideas.

He suggests these overprotective dadzillas vent their fears and frustrations with other fathers. “If parents notice they are going well above and beyond what their parental peers are doing, that should be a warning flag,” says Miller.

The NYC Dads Group is the perfect place for papas to ground themselves. Lance Somerfeld created the group five years ago because he craved the camaraderie of other men learning to be fathers, and now has 815 devoted dads who see movies together and arrange play dates to share ideas.

“New dads are afraid of everything — of breaking the baby, or being able to afford it,” says the upper East Side stay-at-home dad. “But we can be just as nurturing and capable — and sometimes just as scared — as new moms.”

Somerfeld (from l.), Pereyra and Garcia, along with their children, enjoy the time they spend together.

Aaron Showalter/New York Daily News

Somerfeld (from l.), Pereyra and Garcia, along with their children, enjoy the time they spend together.

And even he has panic attacks over his 4-year-old son, who’s needed stitches three times. Somerfeld now keeps the plastic surgeon on speed-dial. “You’re not thinking about dollars and cents,” he says. “You go into fight or flight when your kid gets hurt.”

Just ask upper East Side dad Brandon Garcia, 40, who’s been in a cold sweat all summer thanks to the heat. He now refuses to go outside with his 6-month-old son until the mercury drops.

“God, a couple of weeks ago, I thought I gave him heat stroke,” says Garcia. “I took him to the park, and he started shaking. Now I’m afraid to take him outside at all if it’s near 90 degrees.”

Somefeld says he keeps his plastic surgeon on speed-dial after his son has needed stitches three times.

Aaron Showalter/New York Daily News

Somefeld says he keeps his plastic surgeon on speed-dial after his son has needed stitches three times.

And then there’s the germs. Self-described borderline germaphobe Sat Sharma, 41, totes Purell to protect his 4-year-old girl from Manhattan microbes. “The subway poles are slimy and disgusting,” he says. “And we went through a phase of nail-biting that drove me bananas. Your fingernails are disgusting!”

He’s eased up a bit, but the Battery Park dad isn’t fully cured. “I say I got over it, but I ‘tolerate’ it is probably a better word,” he says. “But what are you gonna do? I tell myself it built her immunity.”

Rich Robins from Merrick, L.I. taught his 6-and 8-year-old daughters not to touch anything in public restrooms — but now they’re on their own. Not that he’s stopped worrying. “They’re too old for me to go with them into the bathroom anymore, and I just know they’re not using paper to cover the toilet seat,” he frets.

"New dads are afraid of everything - of breaking the baby or being able to afford it," Somerfeld said. 

Aaron Showalter/New York Daily News

“New dads are afraid of everything – of breaking the baby or being able to afford it,” Somerfeld said. 

Ed Greissle, a single dad from Washington Heights, keeps his son out of trouble by keeping him busy. That means Swedish classes, violin and piano lessons, karate, basketball and soccer practice. “It’s not safe for kids to play in the street anymore,” says the Nysingleparents.org founder. “Every minute has to be scheduled.”

Experts say parents need to factor in free time to let their kids’ imaginations run wild — and accept that skinned knees, bruised egos and even subway germs are a healthy part of childhood.

“You want your kids to have a certain amount of bad experiences in their life,” says Dr. Verduin. “By transcending small failures as children, when they are adults hopefully they can transcend much bigger crises.”

So why stress the small stuff when they’re small — can’t it wait until they’re old enough to date? “That perfect parent does not exist,” says Dr. Miller. “So why not just then drop the facade of perfection and relax?”

With Jonathan Forani


Health – NY Daily News

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