I recently had my first son. It’s been a real rollercoaster of sanity, I’ll tell you what, and the verdict is out whether it’s a good experience. I mean, is he going to end up with a swastika tattooed on his forehead, or is he going to be volunteering at a homeless shelter in Swaziland? I guess that’s the real determinant of what kind of experience it is.
Of course, everyone expects you to say it’s an amazing thing. We’re all convinced parenting is peak adulting. But is it, really? It’s just a thing. I don’t think every couple really needs to involve themselves in it. Especially if they have their own hobbies they’re satisfied with. Once you have a baby, kiss your hobbies goodbye. Or at least you’re going to put them on break for a year or two. You need to understand this and accept it. “Life is pain, other people’s lives are even more of a pain,” to misquote the Buddha.
“Life is pain, other people’s lives are even more of a pain.” – the Buddha (close enough)
I was thinking, “Not me, I can juggle everything, I’m a master of organization.” Nope. I’m a master of being exhausted.
So, here are my general thoughts on being a new father, or rather on babies and poop. Next week, my thoughts on being a foreign father specifically in Georgia.
1. The first three months: “Bundle of Joy” is a lie!
This is our first child. And during the entire first three months, I kept wondering, “How the hell do people have two children? Like, why?!” Most fathers-to-be ask other fathers what their experience is like being a dad. Of course, they say it’s wonderful. But I think there’s some buyer’s remorse in those statements of fake awe and lovingkindness.
If you’re a soon-to-be-dad reading this, this is what to expect: Three months of no sleep. Doesn’t even matter if somehow you’ve conned your poor wife into all the nightly diaper changes. You’re not going to sleep. You might as well contribute. If this is your first baby, it’s also possible your wife is going to need assistance on those diaper changes anyway, so man up. It's gonna be a lot of crying, sighing, and peeing. Usually at you.
If have to have a sleep schedule, get flexible real fast. I get that you probably have a 9-5 job (I had a 7-8 hour work day myself), but your wife doesn’t want to hear it. She’s been feeding and soothing this roaring baby all day long and is looking forward to that moment when you come home and she can hand off that hell-fiend to you. I believe Snoop Dogg had a song about that, “Drop it like it’s hot”. It was definitely about babies.
Developmentally, mostly the creature has learned to be angry and scared. The thing just spent 9 months in a cozy little bubble where nothing ever was really wrong (that it knew of) and it just got to float around blowing bubbles and playing snake. And then BOOM! suddenly it’s got to come out and face this world of light, pain, and suffering! And such a big world it is! So yeah, I’d be pissed too, I can’t say I blame the little bugger.
Sitting at the family farm the other day, I watched a cow give birth. The calf was almost immediately walking. Humans? We’re useless sacks of stem cells until about age 1. We’re not really accountable as a human being until we’re walking or at least crawling. So that complete uselessness of being an external embryo, must also be pretty dang frustrating.
2. The second three months: Okay, maybe not entirely a lie
The baby has learned to laugh. He giggles, smiles, finally lets me know I'm doing something right. It’s not all just angry cries now. He’s sleeping more. He squeezes my finger. Plays peekaboo. Poop is becoming a little more regular and normal. We did have some fecal tales to tell on that, but I'll reserve that for next week, as it's more country-appropriate.
Okay, I’m starting to get this “little bundle of joy” thing. He really does seem happy and glad I’m around and he’s alive. He’s starting not to regret having come out of that cozy beanbag of amniotic fluids.
He learns to roll over. That’s hilarious. Once he figures this out, that’s all he does. About 500 times a day. Really working on those core muscles, good for him! That’s a lot more exercise than my sleepless ass has been getting.
Then he learns to get on his fours. He wants to crawl. He’s determined! So he gets on his fours and swings back and forth, 500 reps a day. But he hasn’t stopped rolling over either. It’s now impossible to leave him alone on the changing table (not that we were ever doing that, ahem – shut it, you’ve done it too).
He gets super frustrated with not being able to crawl right away. He growls, cries, screams. “Augh, I will do this!” he seems to say. It’s cute though. I get it. We’ve all been there.
Vato's first crawl
Once he’s mastered crawling, he quickly starts looking to the next thing: standing! But he’s still crawling and rolling around and also taking up alpinism on daddy’s face.
3. The third three months: Yes, it is!
The teeth start coming in. Then the crying returns. Angry about everything. Throw it on the ground! Here’s a toy. Ground! Food. Ground! Hot baby girl? Ground! This dude cares for nothing except throwing things on the ground and crying and biting on things.
And he gets too tired to sleep. What the hell is that man? But apparently sleeping is a learned thing. Again, back to animals, momma cow doesn’t have to give baby calf any lessons on sleeping. How did humans make it this far?
However, despite all this anger and disappointment at being born, he’s figured out how to stand on his own by doing pull ups. Again, more exercise than dad. At first this meant he was doing hundreds of squats, up-down-up-down-up-down. This guy is a dream for any personal trainers out there.
Now he wants to walk, and he’s back to his frustration. “How come I can’t walk yet?”
“Dude, you’re just 8 months, relax.”
“How come you won’t let me drink coffee?”
“Dude, you’re just 8 months, relax.”
"How come you won’t let me touch the power outlets?" – every baby ever
“How come you won’t let me play on your cell phone and slobber all over it? How come I can’t crawl across all that broken glass over there? How come you won’t let me touch the power outlets? How come I can’t put that knife in my mouth? Can’t I just stay in my poopy diaper forever, why do you have to change me? Actually, poopy diapers suck, but why do you have to change me?”
Of course, he’s not actually asking these things, just shooting looks of accusation and crying non-stop.
Things start to get easier though. He's able to be managed by one person now. Which means my wife can go off and get her eyebrows done and I can go take my accordion to the bar with my friends.
Baths are fun too, he loves baths. And mirrors. And selfies. He’s a man of his times.
And poop just teleports. I kid you not. The boy is perfectly happy at one moment, and then you pick him up, revealing a giant, swarthy turd underneath him, though there’s no sign of leakage from his diaper. It’s a mystery.
It's not all mystery poops though.
This is also the time when he is starting to recognize me. When I enter the room, he brightens up and gets happy. He reaches for me even when he’s in his mother’s arms. When others try to grab him, he cries. It’s like he truly knows how awesome I am and how much everyone else sucks.
That’s when, I guess, a baby really begins to break into a man’s heart.