Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Survivor dad



One year!

One whole year is in the books. It has been, hands down, the wildest trip of my life. Here's how I would describe it: happy, sad, anxious, eager, angry, frustrated, annoyed, lethargic, amazed, ACCOMPLISHED.

I've been meaning to write about this since Jacob turned 1, but I haven't had much time since I started my new job and living temporarily without a computer.

Now that I have a year of parenting experience under my belt, I'd like to share some thoughts, feelings and advice to those other dads still wet behind the ears (as if the backs of mine are anywhere near dry).



At Jacob's birthday party, my friends congratulated me on "surviving the first year." I laughed at the time, but then I began to think about the truth behind that statement. Early parenthood really is a game of survival. Just like being lost in the woods, you must adapt your knowledge and resources to your new environment to help find your way back to a more comfortable setting.

Once that baby is here, it's go time. There's no turning back. There's no more sitting around. There's no more going about life on your own accord, at your own pace. You are forced to change your habits in order to protect this new life, as well as your own. Your life is no longer about your wants and needs. It's all about what's best for the baby.

When he's up, you're up. When he's hungry, he eats. When he cries, you better figure out what's wrong and fast. When he's ready for bed, you go home. When he sleeps, you sleep. But then there are days you must forgo your nap to get stuff done during your elusive free time. You learn to schedule your days around feedings and nap time.

Oh ya, how could I almost forget one small detail: Babies are freakin' expensive!



For some parents, like Erin and me, survival becomes more intense when you don't have others to rely on. We didn't have that luxury of dropping off Jacob at the grandparents when we needed to get out for a night as our nearest family, my parents, are a good five hours away. We had to learn to calm ourselves during peak frustration levels. Sometimes our annoyance with each other made the situation more difficult than what Jacob was doing, but we always managed to work through it and talked about how we could make it easier the next time.

Sure it's every dad's dream to watch his son catch his first fly ball, score his first goal, touchdown or basket, take him to the rodeo, the air show and monster truck rally. But those thoughts are furthest from your mind when your son is only six weeks old and can barely roll over.

***

A few weeks ago, one of my good friends from college asked what it's like being a dad. I told him it's hard, tiresome and frustrating. It's nonstop work from the sleepless nights to the early mornings, to the incessant crying and abundant diaper changes, to the round-the-clock feedings and back to the crying.

Quick anecdote: When I was watching Jacob during the day, I remember one time my friend, on his way out of the office, called me a slacker as I strolled into work at 5 p.m. My quick reply was as such: "Please, this is my second job. I've been up since 7 a.m. watching a 9-month-old. Who's the slacker now??" But I digress.

Raising an infant is a full-time job. It's ain't easy. But I told my friend there's no greater feeling than when Jacob flashes that first smile in the morning, or when a pat on my leg in a crowded area indicates to everyone I'm his dad or when he gives me a quick hug as he walks around the room, or when he smiles and runs to me as I call his name.

***

More than a year ago, I wouldn't have felt comfortable talking to a baby, let alone touching it with a 10-foot pole. There's a story Erin vows to never forget that I'll voluntarily share with those who have kept reading this far.

Around Christmas time one year, I was in Kroger when a little girl sitting in a shopping cart said to me "Merry Christmas!" I turned around, looked at her, opened my mouth to say something, but couldn't muster any words. I awkwardly stood there for a few seconds until the mother wheeled the girl away. I quickly walked back to Erin. She couldn't believe what had just happened.


I blamed it on my upbringing. Not everyone is Christian so don't wish everyone a Merry Christmas. Erin insists she was just a little girl, and that I was afraid of kids. Needless to say she was embarrassed... for me, she said.

So here we are, more than a year later. Erin and our friend Rebecca went shopping last weekend during Jacob's first trip to Lawrence, Kan. I stayed home with Jacob. Man, did that kid tire me out. For an hour straight we ran around the house. I chased him. He chased me. I would catch him and tickle him. He would laugh and squeal, and run away. I would sit down. He would pat me on the leg, and run away.

From the den to the hallway to the dining room to the den to the kitchen to the den to the hallway to the den to the kitchen to the den to the kitchen and back to the den. He was a little Energizer bunny. I finally put up a baby gate to corral him inside one room.

He absolutely loved being chased and playing peek-a-boo. The giggles and smiles were endless.

***

So let's recap. Babies are a loud, smelly, tiresome, life-changing bunch, and only doctors and lawyers who live next door to their parents should have them.

Looking back, though, I wouldn't trade any of it.

Parenthood will only get harder with Jacob's evolving tantrums and curiosity. But the fun is just beginning.

Here's to waving and pointing. Here's to more hugs and kisses. Here's to whispers of "da da" and "ma ma" becoming shouts of "daddy!" and "mommy!" along with a growing vocabulary.

Oh, and here's to that little baldy growing more hair!



I love you, lil buddy.

2 comments:

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  2. Rebecca A. (Nate's cousin)May 30, 2010 at 12:52 AM

    Nate...
    Who new you could speak so deeply from your heart! Beautiful words, and can't wait to see Jacob as a one year old! Hope we can visit really soon!

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