Recently, Cristian celebrated his fourth birthday. For about a week, Esther and I relived our first days as parents. There is something nostalgic about birthdays.
We remembered Esther’s aunt brushing his hair into a baby Mohawk in the hospital, friends stopping by to visit, and his first days of preschool. After a few days, I sat down and put a list together of things I didn’t expect. I apologize in advance if it sounds like a greatest hits package.
Pee, Poop & Puke — I came into parenthood with my eyes wide open. I knew there would be dirty diapers, and baby-related messes. I just had no idea that something so small could make such a huge mess. Play dates and MyGym classes have given me a chance to swap stories with other parents.
We’ve spent time comparing notes. We swapped stories on getting peed on and bleaching the bathtub after the baby dropped a deuce during bath time. So far, no one has found a sure-fire way to get the puke smell out of toddler bedding. If you are considering starting a family, reread the last two sentences a few times until it sinks in. Remember, you’ve been warned.
I’m Not the Babysitter, I’m His Father – I was a Stay at Home Dad for two years, and the quickest way to piss me off was calling me the babysitter. Let me explain the difference — babysitters get paid — parents raise their children. Do I look like a teen-aged kid spending more time with their Snapchat feed than watching the baby?
These days, grandparents and older family members aren’t the only ones who can’t tell the difference. Journalists can be just as clueless. Piers Morgan recently mocked Daniel Craig for carrying his one-month old daughter in a baby carrier. Many outraged dads lashed out via Twitter making Mr. Morgan aware that Dads take an active role in parenting.
Separation Anxiety Can Be Rough – We found this out when Cristian was six weeks old. Driving Esther to work on her first day back from maternity leave, Cristian started crying before I stopped the car. I thought it was a one-time thing — silly me. He soon adapted to our feeble attempts at distracting him with Sesame Street as Mommy tried sneaking off to work, or even to the bathroom.
We thought it would pass, but it’s gotten worse — now he does it to me. Gone are the days when I could leave him in the gym’s nursery with a tablet and get in a quick workout. It’s effected how we plan date nights. These days, the babysitter meets his school bus when he gets home from preschool, saving us all from a tantrum.
Kids Will Repeat Anything They Hear – Remember how excited you were when your child said its first word? That joy fades quickly once your child starts repeating things, like a voice-activated recording device. Esther now has to worry about what both men in her life might say.
A child’s vocabulary grows exponentially, once they start preschool, leaving parents wondering where they learned certain words. I remember Cristian proudly sharing a new word with me. It had four letters and started with F. Worried, because I’d have to explain the origins of this new word to Mommy, I asked him to repeat it. I was relieved when he repeated the word, adding ribbit ribbit. Since then I’ve picked my words carefully around him.
A Sick Child Will Make You Feel Helpless – There is one thing consistent to all parents regardless of age, gender, or financial status — it sucks when your kid is sick. Cristian was fifteen months old, the first time he experienced a high fever. Crying, uncomfortable, and giving off a furnace-like heat, he looked to Mommy and Daddy to make everything better. We grew increasingly frustrated when we couldn’t. I’ve never felt more helpless in my entire life than I did on that night.
Friends Will Disappear From Your Life – Losing touch friends is a sad part of life. How many friends have you kept in touch with since high school? The number of friends we’ve lost touch with since becoming parents has been eye-opening. Things changed since the early days when friends stopped by to “see the baby,” These days we hear everything from, “It’s been tool long” to “We were giving you space.”
I understand that spending an afternoon at the zoo isn’t for everyone, Neither is spending an evening with a toddler bouncing off the walls like he’s in a pinball machine. We all have busy schedules, but I learned – some will make an effort, and others will make excuses. I never thought starting a family would make friends disappear like they were in the Witness Protection Program.
If Things Are Too Quiet, Be Very Afraid – Say goodbye to any semblance of quiet time, once your child reaches toddlerhood. A child playing quietly in the other room is not your friend. If you think you scored a chance to binge watch Game of Thrones, guess again. When things get too quiet, I immediately grab a broom and a box of hefty bags.
Spontaneity Is Replaced By Structure – Remember the days before parenthood, also known as the good old days. Being spontaneous was easy, we could go to the movies or away for the weekend at a moment’s notice. I miss those days.
With parenthood comes responsibility, or the ability to fake it for those who don’t know better. Once your child starts daycare parents start establishing routines and schedules. Vacation and time off from work revolves around school. These days our evenings are about keeping Cristian on a schedule. Although we mix things up, it’s some variation of playtime, dinnertime, bath time, bedtime. Deviating from this will have dire consequences.
Despite the Challenges, Parenthood is Rewarding – Since becoming a Dad, I’ve congratulated new parents the same way, Congratulations, your life is about to change, but it will be worth it. Being a Dad is the toughest job I ever had — and I’ve had many. The hours suck, you don’t get weekends off, and the boss is extremely demanding. Looking at Cristian playing happily with his tablet as I write this, fills me with awe. I still can’t believe I helped create this awesome little being.