Being a first-time father is a rather scary experience. It’s nothing like facing down a Grizzly Bear with your bare hands or having your in-laws come to stay with no departure date, but it’s up there on the scary scale.
Since I was the youngest in my family, I had no experience with babies. When I was growing up babies were very little people who smelled funny and were quickly given to your sister when they started to cry. Babies didn’t seem like such a difficult thing back then. Babies are miniature terrorists When my lovely wife, Leatrice, was pregnant I had dreams of how my family would look. There I would be, holding my child with my wife by my side. We would frolic and have fun, enjoying the ultimate in family experiences. The three of us would be a Norman Rockwell painting and a Hallmark greeting card all rolled into one.
I soon realized that cards and paintings don’t accurately depict fathering.
Far fewer greeting cards would be sold if they pictured parents with bloodshot eyes mistakenly putting diapers on a stuffed animal in the crib even as the bare-bottomed child relieved herself all over the sheets. And nobody wants to see a painting of a parent frantically rocking a crying baby in the fervent hope that it will put her to sleep.
The thing I noticed most when we brought my daughter home from the hospital is that the daily activities of babies are very limited. They cry, they eat, they relieve themselves, they sleep. But I never realized how much time these activities can take until we had a child. My daughter’s itinerary didn’t have much variety, but her schedule kept us all busy.
I quickly realized that babies can be miniature terrorists. They refuse to negotiate and will extort clean diapers and formula by any means available to them. I tried to see if I could talk to my daughter and see if I could explain the virtues of not crying so much. I made her an offer I thought was more than fair.
“Sweetheart, if you can let Mommy and Daddy get some rest tonight, I’ll buy you a sports car for your 16th birthday.” In a true gesture of father-daughter bonding, my wonderful daughter looked up at me, burped and went to sleep.
Another interesting phenomenon about having a baby is that it’s like living with a little celebrity. Once your child is born, friends and family descend upon your home with cameras, camcorders and every other piece of photo-taking equipment known to mankind, and the parents are quickly pushed out of the way.
“Who are you?”
“We’re the parents.”
“Could you please move out of the way, I’m trying to get a picture of the baby.”
Having a baby changes you in many ways. My wife developed an advanced radar detection system which enabled her to pinpoint when our daughter needed to be fed or changed. In the middle of the night, our child would start crying and my wife would say, “She’s hungry and needs to be changed.”
When I asked how she knew this, my wife would go into a scientific explanation. “Because I do.”
The scariest part of becoming a father was that the whole mystique about parents started to make sense. I suddenly felt their emotions and knew their fears. It was like a religious experience. Once, when my daughter was fussing, I stepped back and said, “You keep this up and you can forget going out tonight with your friends.”
Then I looked around for my parents. It was almost like I was possessed.
But in time, your child no longer needs as much and no longer screams at night. I was looking at a picture of the three of us the other day. I grinned as I showed it to my wife.
“Don’t we look just like a Norman Rockwell painting?” I asked.
She smiled and said, “No. I think we look more like a Hallmark greeting card.”
Who says dreams don’t come true?