Incredible to think that, just three months ago, we sat in on that couch in the living room thinking about the many ways that our lives were going to change. We’d talk about the sleepless nights. I talked about how I was always fearful of baby puke. They all told us what was going to happen. What should happen. They write books on what’s going to happen and what to expect. The nursery was ready. The pediatrician had been arranged. We stockpiled diapers. All we needed was a baby so we could get this show on the road.
Now, close to three months in, I’ve determined that there are things that no one could expect in the madness of raising a little baby. For instance, the fact that our eldest beagle Jackson would turn on the family and threaten to lurch was a bit unexpected. We knew he wishes it was just me, my lovely wife and him all over again. In fact, he probably rather I not be here at all and it was just him and my lovely wife. I didn’t expect the colic. That’s for sure. We read about almost everything in the world except for colic. I wonder where all you “justwaiters” were then? Kinda dropped the ball there, kiddo. Could’ve used you regarding something like, I dunno, uncontrolled and unexplained outbursts of crying that last up to two hours. That would’ve been a “just wait” well spent.
I was thinking the other day, though, about seven unexpected delights of becoming a father. Things I truly wasn’t expecting and no books or neighborly advice could prepare me for.
YOU ALWAYS HAVE AN EXCUSE
My buddy Clint first hipped me to this generous benefit of becoming a father. Essentially, you’re never without an excuse because you can blame virtually anything on the new kid. And it’s the ultimate finishing move. Say you owe someone a thousand bucks over something stupid. “I can’t pay you right now, man. I gotta kid.” And if they raise a fuss, turn it on them. “What, you want me to take food out of my baby’s mouth? You’re a real jerk, man.” All of the sudden, you’re in the driver’s seat of the conversation. Say you’re late for work, “Sorry, I’m late. I gotta kid at home. She didn’t want to cooperate this morning.” They flare up a little and start complaining about your constant tardiness. “What, you want my kid to go to day care with crap in her diaper? You’re a real jerk, man.” You wanna use it sparingly, but when used appropriately, it works like a solid choke hold. Just sit and watch the entire dispute disappear into thin air.
YOU REKINDLE YOUR LOVE FOR COFFEE
I don’t know if surviving parenthood is possible without coffee. At least not for a guy like me. I used to have a love affair with coffee. So much so that my lovely wife had to intervene and put me in check. I was drinking too much. It was screwing with my nervous system. I was grinding my teeth at night. I felt like punching strangers. And it was pure addiction. There was no medical or spiritual reason behind drinking so much coffee. I just insisted on drinking a ton of it. Now, I drink because you have to. You savor the benefits of drinking coffee. You truly look forward to having some. It’s necessary to your performance as a new parent. Mad respect for those who can do without it. I can’t do it. Coffee is a fantastic thing. To truly enjoy the taste and lift of a good cup of joe is wonderful. I’ve taken a liking to Dunkin Donuts’ Dunkin Turbo. Great stuff. I was an Ugly Mug guy until my local grocer pulled it from the shelves. Shame. Dunkin Turbo has filled in nicely. I take it with a splash of milk and spoon in a few squirts of honey. Perfect.
These guys must’ve had twins. Look, you don’t know know what changes your body’s going through when raising an infant until you go to turn a door knob and it snaps off in your hand. Your arms are toning. In some cases, they’re growing. As Ellison grows older, it’s like gradually adding weight to the dumbbell. It takes a good bit of exertion to haul a growing kid around. Car seats with a little tike inside ain’t featherweight. They’re freaking heavy. I’ve never worked much on my arms, but Ellison’s proving to be just the weight I need. Gradually getting heavier. I had the chest, shoulders and back of probably a twelve year old before becoming a father. Now, I’m at least a fifteen year old. In a couple of months, I’ll be arm wrestling for money like Stallone in Over the Top.
You’re gonna see your fair share of sunrises as a new parent. Those serene moments are priceless. I suggest finding a place to hang out in the mornings with your little one or even without on the eastern side of the house to enjoy watching it happen. It makes mornings much more rewarding and brings the frantic pace of parenthood down to healthy gallop. I’ve never paid too much attention to them and, in fact, have largely taken them for granted. Now, those picturesque panoramic sunrises jump my morning off just as well as two cups of coffee. Breathe. Take it in. If you can’t enjoy the simple things, you’ll find parenthood hard to grip onto.
I might still be slightly out of range of the target market for National Public Radio, but I’ve discovered that, in the morning and at bedtime, NPR is possibly the best entertainment that money can buy and, best of all, it’s absolutely free of charge. It relaxes me. Two hours of NPR a day, one in the morning and one in the evening, just rips the fighter out of you and makes for a much better day. Their music programming leaves much to be desired. I mean, they don’t have a funk hour which I think they could really benefit from. Like instead of “All Things Considered,” perhaps they do “All Things George Clinton.” The news programming, however, and non-news features are spectacular and mad entertaining. I’ve found myself infusing a snotty british accent into my voice any time I’m talking about world news events. That’s NPR.
NPR’s dope and that’s real talk, son. B’lee dat.
GOING FROM CREEPY BEARDED MAN TO ADORABLE FATHER WITH A BEARD
The beard is a pretty polarizing wardrobe choice. Some people, like my father, can wear a beard and he looks like a million dollars. My dad looks great in a beard. Some people wear beards that shouldn’t. Like it was the one thing that could make them look like a terrorist or a molester and they insist on wearing it. Otherwise, they appear rather harmless. I rock a beard because I’m lazy. That’s about it. I mean, I like my beard, but in reality, it’s functional and it’s functional because it provides time for me to do other things. The problem with me in a beard is that, for close to a decade now, my beard is apparently one that reaps fear in the hearts of mothers and fathers everywhere…especially in grocery stores. Parents shun away. They block their kids from approaching too closely. I’m a good guy, but the beard communicates otherwise. Some parents even glare at me like, “Why do you hate America?”
Pop a baby in my arms and I go from Fidel Castro to Santa Claus immediately. Older women goo in my direction. Parents are asking me to babysit their kids. I just become a dad with a beard. In that way, the baby is the perfect accessory. Ellison’s like a good bowtie or fedora. It’s like I have Ellison’s public endorsement. By her sleeping soundly in my arms, it’s like she’s telling everyone around me, “It’s alright, everyone. He looks a little weird, but he’s a sweetheart.” Thanks, Ellison.
STOMACH OF STEEL
Without a doubt, becoming a father gets rid of any fear or trepidation in dealing with bodily fluids (or solids). After peeling back the first diaper, the rest are just conversational. You’ve seen one poo, you’ve seen them all. Of course, my brother has proved that not to necessarily be true. I’ve seen some monumental earthcrushers come from my nephew. I’ve stared death in the face and, after a couple of dry heaves, I’m fit to go. I remember flexing at a burping baby like she was going to unleash some nondescript fluidy projectile upon me. Now, I hold them over my head like Superman fearless of what might come out their mouth. I can take anything.
It’s Wednesday. Humpday. High five for all the fathers who can now rock a creepy Merlin Olsen beard without public backlash. Rock it, daddy-o.