If dadding were a college, I’d be the freshest freshman; the wide-eyed, panicked kid dropped off at the curb wondering if I should race back home or not. And like most college freshmen, I am awkward, lost, oblivious, and always unsure what exactly is driving me to drink (just kidding…but maybe not).
When my eight-month-old son cries in public, I shrink in awkwardness while darting my cringing face back and forth to see who’s judging me. When my wife is asking me to grab the Boopy or the Boppy or the whatever-baby-contraption-that-people-tell-us-we-absolutely-need-to-successfully-raise-a-child, I’m lost. And when it comes to raising a baby that will someday be a child and then a teenager and then a man, I feel pretty oblivious…and that’s when I grab a beer (just kidding…but maybe not).
A NARROW PERSPECTIVE
Sitting in the delivery room at the hospital, holding my screaming wife’s hand, and before the angels dropped the epidural down her spine, my jaw was clenched so tightly that apparently the only thing strong enough to open it was the pecan roll I ate when I nearly passed out. After the epidural, man, my wife and I were max chillin’ and pining for another hit just for fun. Then a nine pound baby slipped out easy peasy and we got the members-only treatment for two nights at the hospital inn.
Ok, it wasn’t easy peasy. My wife was absolutely amazing and I have such a deep respect for women now that I firmly believe I don’t deserve to celebrate my own birthday (“Take it, mom, take it! This is your cake! YOUR CAKE!”). It was easy in a sense though; we had a beautiful chunk of human and it made all the sleepless nights in a saltine crusted bed with a weeping wife worth it.
Then, we brought the thing home. We were literally the wide-eyed, panicked kids dropped at the curb wondering if we should race back to the hospital or not. And with him returned sleepless nights and a clenching jaw. This time, no pecan roll. The currents of stress and chaos that apparently flowed after him, trailed us home and threatened our enjoyment of our beautiful baby boy. It was a rough time and I often mourned the passing of my fatherless days. Looking back at the early months, I realize now that I wasn’t thinking of this baby as a human. I was thinking of my baby boy as only a screaming, crying, pooping thing and, to be honest, I resented him for interrupting my life. I had books to read, shows to watch, and things to scratch, kid! It was a narrow perspective.
A BABY IS ACTUALLY A TINY HUMAN
One night, I had a dream. I HAD A DREAM. My son, Isaiah, was about twelve years old, no longer the screaming, pooping thing I pegged him to be. I watched dream-Isaiah run toward me with the apparent intent of flying past. When he got close, I grabbed him in a strong, loving, and fatherly way. With my hands clenching his shoulders, firm enough to communicate care, I bent down so close to his ear that I felt the moisture of my breath return to me when I whispered, “I love you.” And then I let him go; sent him off to keep running. He was gone.
This dream was a gift. The nocturnal experience pulled me out of the moment in which this thing was just a crying thing and reminded me of my first impression of him when, through tear-filled eyes, I whispered only loud enough for him to hear, “You are my son with whom I am well pleased.” And the dream blessed me with the valuable gift of foresight. I realized: someday, this baby is going to grow up into that dream-Isaiah. This baby is actually a human!
I’m not a typical make-your-dreams-come-true kind of guy, at least not the Disney sort. Nonetheless, I want this dream to come true. I want to be that dad. To get there I need to learn how to better embrace the moment with a deep sense of foresight; practice the ability to anticipate and build our future relationship in the now. As I’m sure most dads can relate, a chunk of human is scary and I’ve learned enough to know that raising one is pretty difficult. But that chunk is going to grow up someday and, Cats in the Cradle, we’ll be old farts desperately wanting to have a place in our child’s life.
LIVING IN THE MOMENT FUELED BY FORESIGHT
So, as a freshman at Dadding U, I am learning to embrace my son rather than get stressed and overwhelmed by him or plain frustrated with him. He is going to grow up. I am sowing seeds in a garden from which I hope to gain much fruit. A lot of dads don’t understand this. Without foresight, it’s easy to get overwhelmed or feel like you’re drowning in spit-up, poop, and boppies in the wailing noise of a screaming baby on zero sleep. That’s when dads ditch, either physically or emotionally. But with foresight, you look into your baby’s eyes and see an actual human being and you hope that he never looks at you like maybe you once looked at him. As just a thing.
I will be a blob of wrinkly, stinky flesh and I will want him to see me as as a kind, patient, loving father, rich in relationship, and humble in manner. I am building my future relationship with my son now.
So fellow dads, live in the moment; embrace it and let it be fueled by foresight. Just like college, fatherhood is an investment. Invest well.
Still not convinced your baby is a human or have any other questions, comments, concerns? Tweet me @DaddingDepressd or comment below!
Photo Credit to Studio53