Fatherhood isn’t for every man, but it’s not as frightening as we think it is.
I wish I spoke newborn.
With Week Five of the Life and Times of DoomzToo wrapped up, I’m happy to say that fatherhood’s nothing to fear. Sure, there’ll be moments that make you want to pull your hair out (but balding is a very serious problem and this action is not recommended),and sure, your life changes — a lot — but soon enough, you find your groove and things starting falling into place. You learn how to change diapers. You figure out what you need to do to put your kid to sleep. Feeding them from a bottle gets less awkward — nothing in parenting is insurmountable.
But don’t for a moment confuse it with being easy — there’s the inexplicable 3 AM fits of hysteria for seemingly no reason whatsoever. Or learning that it isn’t the poop that makes changing diapers difficult — it’s the resistance they put up with inhuman baby strength, even though they’ll feel ridiculously better once their butt is clean. Or there’s always my favourite new game — Act Like I Want a Soother and Then Spit it Out Onto the Floor Five Seconds Later, which leaves parents hilariously scurrying around the home in search for another one before time’s up and the baby starts testing their lung capacity.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and fall into a rut when you enter fatherhood. Transforming from mere mortal man to the superhuman father that your child relies on is a lot more sudden than the transition to motherhood, and many men (myself included) fail to prepare themselves sufficiently for the things that come ahead.
It’s exciting in the beginning — you get an outpouring of love from family and friends, and you have an entirely new person in your life to love and care for. You can prepare all you want, but it changes everything. Your sleep schedule. Your priorities. Your mindset. Anything’s up for grabs as soon as a baby’s in the picture, and you never know how you’ll react.
Fatherhood is definitely an experience, my friends — every baby’s different, and every father’s going to approach it a little different — but not so different that you can’t learn from others’ experiences.
A Concise Word on Advice
Advice is very easy to give, and even easier not to follow, so I don’t fool with it.
–Randy Pausch, Carnegie Mellon Commencement Speech, 2008
From what I’ve seen, one of parents’ favourite pastimes is tormenting expecting parents with horror stories about their kids and the things they’ve had to go through.
If you get nothing else as a new parent, one thing you’ll never be short on is advice. When DoomzToo was born, I got tons of advice on what I needed to do as a father — much of it from people without kids of their own.
Originally, I took others’ advice with a grain of salt. Misery loves company, and it doesn’t take much for parents to relate to each other — kids aren’t exactly the hardest thing to make. But despite everyone feeling instantly qualified to parent my child, there’s some truth behind the scare tactics that veteran parents rely on so heavily!
But you only start to understand when you’re worrying about screwing things up; figuring it all out as you go, wishing that all the baby books didn’t give such conflicting advice; and being there for your kid instead of just about anything else in your schedule. You shuffle your priorities, you learn new lessons every day on the job — ultimately, parenthood is a compromise between you and your child, the both of you trying to get as much as possible out of your relationship.
And that’s what keeps many men from taking the plunge into fatherhood — this mistaken belief that they need to somehow diminish themselves by becoming a father; that all the time they devote to their child, the man they were before is gone.
But must it be that way?
Fatherhood — Rising Up to the Challenge
Sarah was ready for a baby well before I was. Much like the dozen weddings I put her through before we tied the knot, a photo album I have called “Sarah Holding Other People’s Babies” shows evidence that I did much the same when it came to entering parenthood. She’d light up when holding a newborn, likely thinking of what it’d be like to have one of her own while simultaneously staring daggers in my direction for not giving her one already!
Kids weren’t even on my radar before DoomzToo — it wasn’t part of what you’re trained to think about before you become a father. Think about it — when’s the last time you saw a Pampers ad with a father prominently playing with his newborn son, or a Similac ad with a father proudly bottle feeding his daughter? All I knew is that I didn’t want to change. I remember telling friends that I don’t want to turn into one of those parents who only talk about their kids. The ones who post shots of a first potty trip on Facebook, or have albums filled with dozens of blurry cell phone shots of their kid in moments you’d only understand if you were there. I wanted more in my life than just my kid.
But I’m starting to get it.
It’s hard to avoid talking about your kids all the time when they become so much of your life. I underestimated it before — how much attention, affection and stimulation a baby needs to get through the day. I mean, if you had to go through a day unable to move, feed or change yourself, you’d want someone to step in and improve your quality of life, right?
Things will blur together as you deal with distressed shrieks, projectile pee-pee and the stench of garbage bags loaded with soiled diapers, but these are all just tasks that take less time the more you do them. With a newborn in tow, you can still make time for the things you liked doing before you were a father — you just need to learn how to do it while keeping an ear open for the warning signs that your baby needs you.
Fatherhood isn’t impossible — it doesn’t even have to ruin your life! The rules of the game will change, and your life will too — but you’ve faced challenges before, and you will again.
The whimsies of a baby are simply another obstacle to overcome.
This Post is Dedicated to Chris Collins, RIP.
On a more serious note, I’d like to dedicate this post to a buddy, Chris Collins. A father of two and fellow Twitter user, I met Chris at an After Work Drinks Toronto event last year and we hit it off. In the time since, we had beers, talked parenting, dreamt dreams… he was just a really stand-up guy in general.
He passed on Monday, December 2nd, drowning in Thailand’s Sai Yok Yai waterfall after getting caught in a current. He’s survived by his wife and two kids, and his celebration of life was yesterday, with family and friends sending outpourings of love from every direction.
Anyone who knows Chris knows he called Thailand a second home, and his friend Andrew, the last person to see him before he died, can attest to the fact that he was in a good place in his last moments:
We’ll miss you, buddy. Thanks for all the advice and being part of my life.