My First Father’s Day: Notes From An Expectant Dad
I keep wondering when I’m going to freak out. All the people in my life are treating me like I’m flying to Mars in a rocket-powered rowboat. “Are you ready for everything?” “It’s the toughest thing you’ll ever do.” “It’ll change your life forever.”
All of what they say is probably true, because we’ve been planning this for nearly a year. Soon, my wife is going to give birth to our baby daughter, and I’m pretty sure I should be more nervous.
We’re going into this as prepared as we can get without breaking the laws of time. Willow’s room’s all ready. The car seat was fitted last week by a retired police officer. I’ve even been taught how to give an infant CPR, even though I’ve never been taught how to do the same to an adult. My wife brought me along to a bunch of birthing classes and “centering” classes, and they all bounced around the same idea: don’t freak out.
It must happen, given how much time midwives, doulas, and doctors spend telling us that all the weird stuff about to happen is on a wide sliding scale of normal. Despite learning way more than I cared to know about the exact process, I’ve been pretty chill about everything so far. My daughter is due literally any day now, and I’m still sipping coffee and writing my novel without a whole lot of stress hanging over my shoulders like an overcoat full of angry hornets. I’m cool. I’m relaxed.
I’ll probably freak out sometime soon, when Willow is still young and floppy-headed. She won’t be able to tell me when she’s hungry, or if she needs to be changed, or anything. She’ll just cry different ways until she picks up my stitched-together vocabulary of literary mannerisms, geek references, and off-center witticisms. Until she can tell me that she’s hungrier than a hippo, I’m just going to have to guess. And I’m really, really bad at guessing things.
I’m not so worried about stuff after that. I want to show her the world, in all its shining, shimmering splendor. Lots of folks go bald worrying about money and charter schools and puberty and all that funky jazz, but I don’t want to be the Dad that’s always coming home late with a scowl on his face. I want to be the Dad that plays Minecraft with her in the mornings, brings her to interactive museums with cool dinosaur bones, and sings Hakuna Matata with her as I make Buffalo-style penne with meatballs for dinner. Logic says I won’t have the time or energy to do everything, but then again logic and fun don’t like to sit near each other in the cafeteria. If my girl is going to take on the world, I want her to know how to have a good time while doing it. Maybe that means punching logic in the face sometimes.
So I won’t freak out while she’s walking and talking, despite all the numbers thrown at me every day about child abductions, school shootings, and anti-vaxxers. That’s stuff that I will have to think about and find the right words for when the time comes to talk to her about the stupidity of the world, but I also will have to trust that she’ll be smarter than I realize. Our kids are always smarter, tougher, and more inventive than we give them credit for.
I hope Willow goes on to do great things for the world, like building the first matter replicator, or naming a bunch of new species, or developing a comfortable fabric that doesn’t get stinky after being worn for a few weeks straight (my Paleontologist friends would hand over an honorary doctorate just for that alone). Even with those high hopes though, I enter fatherhood with the understanding that people are often happy just playing Cards Against Humanity with a tight-knit group of friends, or snuggling up with a loved one and watching Game Of Thrones, or playing some kind of sport.
I never got the sports thing, but if she wants to be a lacrosse champion, a badminton MVP, or wrestle professionally then I don’t have the iron surrounding my heart to stop her. The truest sign of love is unconditional support, because if someone you love tries something and fails, you’re there to help. If they succeed, you helped them attain it. Love is all about building each other up to be better people. Pointing at the world and telling her to figure out the whole thing by herself isn’t as helpful as the bootstrap-loving folk would believe. Been there, done that, not fun.
The point is, I’m actually looking forward to this parenting thing despite all the warnings of little sleep and tight schedules and yadda yadda yadda. All of that is necessary, like burning metric tons of rocket fuel to get to space. It takes a lot of energy, sure, but how else am I going to give the sky to my little girl?