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A new dad’s guide to fatherhood takes parenting tips from rock stars

Bremerton music journalist Chris Kornelis wrote a book called "Rocking Fatherhood: The Dad-to-be's guide to Staying Cool." (Da Capo Press, via Chris Kornelis)

Six years ago, Bremerton music journalist Chris Kornelis found out he was going to be a first time father. So, of course, he started seeking advice from other experienced dads.

“When I first found out Betsy was pregnant, I was the music editor at ‘Seattle Weekly.’ So the people I was interviewing in the course of my job were in the music industry,” Kornelis said. “So I ended up getting some of these really good pieces of advice.”

He started keeping track of all the tips he gleaned from rock-star dads.

“Matt Berninger from the National, Julian Casablancas from the Strokes, Duff McKagan from Guns N’ Roses,” he said.

All of this advice became the inspiration for Chris’ new book, Rocking Fatherhood: The Dad-to-be’s guide to Staying Cool.

“I just thought there was an opportunity for a fun and realistic book about what you need to know before the baby is born,” Kornelis said. “Which, a lot of men, a lot of parents, are looking for answers to that. I thought it was very overwhelming when I went through it the first time.”

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One of the rock-star dads Chris connected with is Chris Ballew, creator of Caspar Babypants and lead singer and guitarist of the Presidents of the United States. Ballew has an 18-year-old son named Augie, and a 15-year-old daughter, Josie, who inspired a lot of the kids music he now makes.

“The thing I was struck by was how much chemistry kicks in,” says Ballew. “The lack of sleep, the fact that if this baby were anything but your baby, you would kill it because it cries all the time and its a real jerk. A lot of the times you’re like, who invited this jerk to the party? This guy is throwing up, he can’t stand up. It’s like having a friend in college who got drunk, and stayed drunk, and won’t leave your house. But the chemistry kicks in and you’re like, ‘oh no, I love this little thing because the smell.’ I wasn’t prepared for how, in some ways, instinctive, lizard brain, the whole experience was.”

In his book, Kornelis, father of 5-year-old Thomas and 14-month-old Lucy, stresses that a baby doesn’t have to turn your entire life upside down.

“When I was working at The Weekly, everybody would slap me on the back [and say], ‘You know, having a baby changes everything.’ It’s just so discouraging. The whole, ‘Having a baby changes everything’ sermons made pregnancy and fatherhood kind of seem like the end of something rather than the beginning of something. That was the opposite of what I wanted and the experience I had. It didn’t change a lot of things. It didn’t change the way I feel about my wife and it didn’t change the things that I wanted to do. You have to reprioritize. But that’s good. If you still want to be doing the things you were doing when you were nineteen, 20 years old, maybe it’s not the right time to have a baby. Then maybe that’s when the ‘Having a baby changes everything’ sermons are okay.”

Ballew agrees:

“Our culture is so youth obsessed that this whole idea of changing everything means you’re going to lose the things we have deemed most valuable, like your freedom and the ability to drink until you fall down. But these aren’t things you want to hold on to for the rest of your life. Change? Why is that bad? Change is good. I mean, when my kids were little we tried to have a kegger. Everybody showed up with a bottle of wine. I was like, ‘People! it says ‘kegger’ on the invitation! Can we pretend to be 19 again for a minute, please?'”

The book is designed to help expectant dads from conception through birth, with plenty of personal anecdotes from Chris, rock and roll dads and other parents thrown in along the way

Chris Kornelis and Chris Ballew will be doing a reading tonight, May 3rd, at Third Place Books in Ravenna at 7 p.m.

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