Alright baby, if all goes as planned, you will be here in 4 days. You will very well be sitting here in this house with us in a week’s time. The weather peoples tell us that your birthday will likely be a rainy morning, which is good for south-central Alaska right now, currently sitting under a dismal blanket of smoke. It’s incredibly difficult to wrap my head around the idea that you will soon be… here.
I have done plenty of evaluation trying to grasp this reality, and I have sought out plenty of advice, but I think it’s time to just face myself for a moment. I want to speak to the Dad me before I “officially” become a dad. I know I am about to be overjoyed and overwhelmed by your entrance to the world, and I’m ready to be humbled. That said, I know there is perspective I have right now that I will be clamoring for a year from now, for better and for worse. I want to offer myself some advice from my naïve, yet wonderfully optimistic current viewpoint. Remember Chud, this is who you want to be as a dad.
Let’s see if I can make this into a list of sorts, since that’s what the internet does these days for people who pretend to write and read (people like myself).
1. Keep pushing for adventure.
I know you’re tired and you have legitimate excuses for why you don’t want to go climb Pioneer Peak this weekend. You’re impressed with yourself for walking to Fred Meyer for diapers rather than driving. Stop with the justifications and take your baby with you. You are creating norms for that small human that will stick with your family forever. You will have a family culture regardless of what you do, but remember that you have the choice to create the kind of culture you want. Don’t be a recipient or a bystander of culture; build it. Strap that baby to your chest, fill your Camelbak with milk (but probably not), and hit the trails… or make a new one. Don’t let your baby be an excuse for your non-adventure. Let him/her be the empowering of the adventure.
You will share in the responsibility of this new life as best you can, and in various seasons you will probably even carry a heavier load. However, you will have never carried the actual baby in your own body, or had it demand food of that same body on beck and call. There are going to be a lot of days, especially early on, when your wife may be upset with you simply because you don’t have milking capabilities. Just bite your tongue, nod your head, and apologize for being boobless. There are a lot of other things you can do to let her know that you recognize she’s doing the vast majority of the work. Do them.
3. Never offer advice to new parents as if their experience will be exactly like yours.
You are probably going to learn some helpful things you can only gain by experience, and certainly some lessons that new moms and dads can glean from. However, this whole reproduction thing has been going on for some time, and there is yet to be a single human being that emerges exactly like another. Any time you offer advice, make sure you do it with the caveat: “…but that was our experience, and yours may be entirely different, so don’t take that as the only way.” And by the way, show other parents around you the same courtesy by not shaking your head when you see them doing something you disagree with. You think you’re impressive because you managed to successfully have one baby? Come on now, give others the same grace you will most definitely need yourself. Be proud of your child, but be humbled by your fatherhood.
4. Breathe in the absolute, unparalleled, fathomless miracle that is this child.
It will be easy to forget the way you wondered over that clichéd digital picture of the size of the fetus growing throughout the past 9 months. When you’re exhausted and unable to form cohesive sentences, stare at your baby for a minute and remember the fact that he/she emerged out of nothingness into living, breathing, gurgling being. Try your hardest to wrap your head around that fact, accept again that you never will, then go on with your day. You should probably practice this exercise often.
Don’t feel like you need to get everything perfect; if your child knows he/she is loved, you have done well. Life has dramatically changed, eh? Well, it’s going to dramatically change again… once another baby comes. Or once your current baby can tie his shoes on his own. Or you’re sitting at the hospital in shock that your child is still in one piece. Or she slams her door because you told her she couldn’t go out. Or once he’s leaving home and you cry and he smiles while waving goodbye. Or when she falls in love with someone you suspect she cares about more than you. Or once he hands you your first grandchild and your life flashes before you. The place you’re in right now is just that… now. Embrace it for what it is and don’t force something that just isn’t going to be. There are certain aspects of life that are just going to be different, and while you should most definitely push for the life abundant (see point #1), you should also recognize that life is most abundant when the present collides in your heart’s understanding of the past and the future.