When Matthew first came home with us, I couldn’t help but have the feeling that I was a fraud. I had no idea how to be a parent and I was sure that I would be found out any day. I thought about my parents and how they seemed to have it all figured out. And then, I slowly began to realize that they probably started out just like me. Doing the best that they could, and figuring things out as they went along.
I have found out that having a child teaches you to try to adapt and overcome. Like the Marines, only with adorable little socks all over the house. Luckily, Matthew has one very capable parent. And while I know that Jen is figuring it all out too, I am definitely the one bringing down the curve. I’m just hoping that Matthew gives me a “Pity D,” so that I don’t have to repeat this last semester.
The last two and a half months have been a crash course on being a Dad. Since I have had virtually no hands-on baby experience in the last 38 years, I have been learning on the job. Preparing bottles and changing diapers one-handed are not tasks that I had prepared for. In the first few days, I was a clothes-pin-on-the-nose away from looking like I was in an 80’s baby movie montage.
When it comes to great motivators for learning, you can’t beat the threat of being pooped or peed on. Who knows, that may have helped me to learn my times tables in school. I still can’t answer 7×8 without first slowly repeating the question and then giving a significant pause.
Aside from my lackluster math skills, one of the many traits which I hope to not pass on to Matthew is my ability to sweat more from my head than Bjorn Borg by just doing laps around our coffee table until he falls asleep. Adding a baby who is essentially an overnight bag filled with baked potatoes to my seemingly superhuman ability to generate heat produces enough BTU’s to defrost the windows of a Civic hatchback.
As you walk a screaming baby around the house you can’t help but think that there has to be some kind of secret technique or phrase that will quiet them down. All I know is that repeating the phrase “It’s all right buddy” like I have Tourette’s is not that magic phrase. And then, just as quickly as the crying started, they pass out like you flipped a switch.
Being a baby must be a lot like being an alcoholic. You pass out, and you wake up in a different room. You pass out, and you wake up being held by a stranger. You pass out, and you wake up wearing a sailor suit.
I guess that most parents never really figure things out and just learn to do what they have to do. And right now that means learning to go to the bathroom, start the laundry and eat lunch over the sink all within the ten minutes that he is content to sit in his bouncy seat.
I was thinking recently about a non-air conditioned road trip that my family once took to Florida. My little sister had gotten a green balloon at a Burger King along the way and, as with most kids, it was immediately the most important thing in her world. So when Greeny, as it was affectionately known, was sucked out the window into the humid Georgia air, she screamed like a banshee and pleaded with my Dad to stop the car. In an effort to appease a 4-year-old, my parents thought on their feet and promised her that we would stop on the way back to find Greeny. And they were as good as their word. My Dad stopped at a random spot on the Georgia Highway and walked into the woods for ten minutes, only to come back crestfallen at his inability to find the balloon. They did what they had to do to keep the peace and figured things out as they went along.
I know that what it means for me to be a parent today is going to be totally different from what it means a month from now, and even more different a year from now. It will never stop evolving for the rest of my life. So I need to enjoy every moment and trust that I will know how long to stand in the woods when the time comes.