Scattered thoughts on fatherhood

I’ve had a number of intense thoughts and feelings over the past week or so.
I can’t think how to organize them except as a series of short things. I can’t
even think of what to call the things. I’m reminded of an episode of the Simpsons
when Homer says something to the effect of

Oh, Lisa, you and your stories. "Bart’s a vampire. Having a new baby scrambles
your brain." Now let’s go back to the…place, where the beds…and things…is.


I
hate obnoxious new parents, but I’m the worst one. I recognize that, but here
are a few things anyway:

  • My
    baby
    could lift his head before he was out of the hospital. At 11 days old, he can
    even hold it up for several seconds before it comes crashing down onto
    whatever surface he happens to be lying on.
  • Today he received his Social Security card, so he is an official person.
  • He goes to sleep at 8:00 p.m. He
    wakes up hungry at midnight and 5:00 a.m. I have never heard of
    a newborn who sleeps so soundly and so consistently.
  • He has already developed an infinite
    variety of facial expressions. (See one of them to the right.)
  • At five days old, he spoke his first word: bahgo. He said it quite
    distinctly. I didn’t know what it meant, so I had to look it up. Apparently
    it is a chemical
    compound consisting of barium, mercury and oxygen. It plays a role in
    several important formulas. He doesn’t talk much, but when he speaks, it is
    seriously profound.

I could fill up the internet with stuff about how perfect Tater is, but suffice
it to say he is perfect.


My wife is such a stud. She has taken to mothering the way a horse takes to
running—full speed and right away. I love her more than ever.


When you hold a 10 pound, 6 ounce, 22-inch-long baby, he doesn’t really seem
that big. He’s just a baby. But when you put him alongside a bunch of other
newborns, he looks like a giant. My mother took Mrs. Happy to the pediatrician
the other day, and inquired of the other mothers how much their babies weighed
and how old they were. He really is as big as a child in his third month. It’s
a stupid thing to be proud of, but I’m so proud.


I’m
working a temp job right now. The other day, a woman in the office asked me
how much my baby weighed. I told her 10 pounds, 6 ounces. "Ha!" she said.
"I’ve
got
you
beat.
Two weeks
ago I had one that was 10 pounds"—and here she pointed at me emphatically—"9 ounces!"
Suddenly I felt very protective. Several responses occurred to me immediately:

  1. "Well, you’re 5′ 6" and already weigh 190 pounds. My wife is 5′ 1′ and
    usually wears a size 6 dress. And my baby was taken by C-section nine days
    before his due date, so if he had gone full term, he’d've kicked your baby’s
    butt.
    He probably could anyway." —I decided not to say that. It seemed too confrontational.
  2. "Your baby is two weeks old and you’ve already handed him over
    to someone else to raise?" —I decided not to say that. It seemed too judgmental.
  3. "Your baby may be three ounces heavier, but mine’s a lot more
    attractive." —I decided not to say that. It seemed too mean.

I chose to respond instead with an uncomfortable chuckle that expressed the
sentiment, "What a sad little life you must lead to care about such things."
Hypocritical, yes, but I couldn’t think of a single gracious thing to say.


I have never met a new parent whose company I could bear for more than a few
minutes. On the other hand, I have always been impressed with the heroic lengths
new parents go to in order to make sure their baby is happy and comfortable.
I have heard parents describe at length how their baby doesn’t sleep at night,
but their tone is almost always one of concern for the baby rather than complaint
on their own behalf. I had one friend in particular whose baby had acid reflux.
He wanted to make sure that if she spit up in her sleep she wouldn’t choke,
but he’s a heavy sleeper himself so he was afraid to go to sleep because she
might not make enough noise to wake him. He got even less sleep than most new
parents, but he never complained for himself—he only wanted his daughter to
be okay. I also remember my dad squashing a wasp with his bare hand after it
stung me, and my mother reaching through floating poop logs to retrieve a favorite
toy I had dropped in the toilet. This stuff is heroic. But now I know that
I should be neither annoyed nor in awe of parents who brag excessively or sacrifice
themselves for their kids any more than I should criticize or praise them for
breathing. They We have no thought of inflating the
truth or becoming martyrs for a cause. Our babies really are the best in the
world, and there is nothing to do but take care of them by any means necessary.

9 thoughts on “Scattered thoughts on fatherhood

  1. Long time, no see.

    Having babies are such a joy. It changes your life so much though. Remember the freedoms you had as a single guy, but you watched them dwindle a little as a married guy? You gladly gave up those freedoms because of the wonderful things that came with marriage. Same way with having a baby. There are still a few more freedoms that leave. But it’s all more than worth it. But in the last 4.5 years I bet I can count the number of mornings I’ve slept past 9am on one hand. And still have a few fingers left over.

  2. At this rate, Tater will be finished with high school next week, won a Pulitzer prize before the end of the year, married a supermodel before next February, and been elected President of the Universe on his first birthday. I’d say you’ve done a good job with him!

  3. I think it is important that you change your About Me facts – you are no longer in the “no kids” category.

    And by the way, I think it’s fair for you to be a bit of a proud daddy, because your kid is actually way cute.

  4. You sound like such a proud dad. I know you are normally a kind and mild-mannered person, but that ultra-protective instinct is kicking in. Big babies are great because they are so cuddly, and you don’t feel like they might break.

    As the proud mom of two plus-sized babies, I just want to add that you may hear some bizarre (bordering on rude) comments about how big Tater is. I have heard many, and have forced myself to plaster on a smile and not say something rude in return. It’s the weirdest thing, because I would never tell the parent of a small baby how puny their child is.

    Go figure…..

    Babies rock.

  5. How good of you to hold your tongue with that woman. I don’t think I could have held back on possible-response-#2.

    Tater does sound perfect. My first one was a good sleeper, too. It is so easy to enjoy a good sleeper. I got proud and thought she was good because I was a good mother. God destroyed that illusion by bringing along her little brother 18 months later. But, you know, you love them when they cry, too.

    How cool that he can already hold up his head. I think it’s such a shame that they make you put babies on their backs these days. It slows down their development, impedes the building of upper body strength, and gives them odd, flat heads. My chiropractor says it messes up their cervical spines, and there will be lots of work for chiropractors in the future. Whenever I see a strong, alert baby with a nicely rounded head, I know that there is a renegade mother who is letting him sleep on his stomach. (Once I made this observation to a mother of a beautiful baby, and she turned red and freaked out–”How can you tell???”)

    But I didn’t say that, and I am not liable if anybody’d baby dies of SIDS.

  6. Never before visited, but I just had to post a really loud laugh!!! *wahhh ahha hahahhaa* I loved what you posted about your baby, please by all means tell us more! Im going to have my second in april. Hopefully this one will be smaller than her brother who weighed in at 8lbs 12 oz. Nothing on your 10 3!! Boy Im glad my baby wasnt that big!!

    Nice site,

    Meg Logan

  7. Aw, I’m still bragging about my 10lb. 3oz. baby and she is ten years old now. It really doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things, but he’s your baby. Your own personal gift from God. Babies are such a blessing. Each one is a perfect little soul. Was I any less proud of my 8lb. 7oz. baby? Hardly. And yeah, it’s cool to brag that one of them walked quite efficiently at eight months of age. Can all of her other age-mates walk today? Of course. Don’t apologize. If I had a blog thirteen year ago, I would have been the most prideful blogger on the Internet.

  8. My mom saved every tooth—EVERY tooth–and let me put it under my pillow for the tooth fairy. But one time, I accidentally swallowed a loose tooth and was hysterical crying. A few days later, after going in a pot every day, my mom, um, retrieved, and cleaned the tooth and I had an unbroken streak with the tooth fairy. Sifting through cr@p on a daily basis–that’s not heroic….that’s SUPERheroic, and the sort of thing I don’t know if I’d do for my own children. :( Maybe being a parent changes things though; who knows.

    It’s funny the things people judge about other people. I was speaking with a woman today about a friend, and she asked if the wife worked or was a stay-at-home mom, then tsked about her not working and said something like, “well, that’s their decision I guess” or something to that effect in a tone that sort of implied she thought the idea of only one breadwinner was risky and mad in today’s world. All different sides to things I guess, but 2 weeks DOES seem rather fast to be back at work. Doesn’t it take time physically to recuperate? Could she have been joking? That sounds like a crazy short maternity leave.