Fatherhood… One Year In: Lessons Learned, Sleep Lost & Lives Saved
The following was originally published in “The Good Life Men’s Magazine”
Photo credit: Urban Toad Media
At about 7 p.m. on July 29 — after thirteen hours of refilling ice waters, holding vomit bags at the ready and fighting my natural instinct to joke about all the probing going on — I became a father for the first time. In no way does it feel like it’s been that long, but I guess time flies when you’re barely awake to notice it.
Soon, we’ll be hosting friends and family to celebrate Macklin’s first birthday, but somewhere mid-party planning, I realized we’re also marking my one-year #Dadiversary — the perfect time to reflect on the few things I’ve learned during this first year of fatherhood. Not exactly lessons, so don’t worry about taking notes. Nothing profound, either. Just a few observations about what parenting has brought to my life.
Fat Camp for Your Ego
I admit, I think I’m the greatest. At least I used to. As I tweeted out about a month ago, I have since realized that my son is, in fact, the greatest. Why? Well, he’s a baby, and babies come into this world with a measurable GAF level of absolute zero, automatically making them the coolest person in the room.
I’m in constant awe of Mack’s ability to literally care nothing at all about the way he looks, smells or sounds. Got company over? Let me show you how I can fart on your boss’s lap! Posing for family portraits? Watch how I can smile through a face full of spit-up! He’ll stare you square in the eye, while unashamedly grunting his way to a full diaper… and you can’t help but happily cheer him on (more on the cheering later).
How liberating must it feel to wake up and never look in the mirror or give your pants even a cursory sniff before slipping them on? Macklin doesn’t care. He’s a baby James Dean. His inborn chill level keeps my ego in check, especially when he points his cute little finger at me and smirks as I wipe his butt.
Everything’s a Huge Deal
When was the last time you flailed your arms and giggled like an idiot when a dog looked in your general direction? Do you often lose control of your vocal cords when eating pancakes? Do you get so excited about the speed at which you make your way down the hallway that you require a change of pants? Of course not.
For babies, however, everything is a huge deal because everything is new. All of it. And because their memory and attention spans are adorably undeveloped, everything continues to be new. You’d think we parents, being the adults that we are, would be immune to such misplaced excitement, but we’re not. We become live-in cheerleaders for our kids, celebrating each tiny milestone like they’re splitting the atom. Last night I applauded my son for peeing in the tub simply because he did it standing up. (I think he may be a genius.)
My God, the Emotions
I cried a little during this year’s Espy Awards. That’s right, a sports awards show made me cry. As the Aurther Ashe courage award was presented to the mother of a 15-year-old who took a bullet to save the lives of his two friends, the whole theater of all-star athletes broke down in tears. So, it wasn’t just me.
At concert a few weeks back, however, it may have just been me. A quiet song, sung solo by Brandi Carlile about her wife and their new baby girl made an already still summer night motionless. Emotionally motionless. A year ago, I doubt my emotions would’ve been so raw, but on that night my heart was pierced — effortlessly — by a simple love song.
Being a parent makes these stories, songs and experiences of other parents more personal. Before Macklin, I understood their emotions on an intellectual level… now I feel them.
The Worst Roommate
Yes, babies are adorable. They’re also loud, smelly and completely incapable of telling time or recognizing imminent danger. It’s easy to forget that we humans come into this world entirely unsocialized and without regard. Any regard. For anything. Not even their own lives, which I’m constantly saving.
Most of us have lived through a bad roommate experience at least once… but it was over in the blink of a lease agreement. And in worst case scenarios, you had legal recourse. I don’t think I can take my son to small claims court to recoup wasted food costs or sue him for excessive midnight shrieking.
Over the last year, I’ve learned that having a baby means choosing to live with the moochiest of moocher roommates. The upside is worth it, however. A gentler heart, a more patient disposition and a little less self-absorption. I’m still the funniest person I know, don’t get me wrong… but I’m rooting for my son to take that burden off my shoulders as soon as possible.