Crowdsourcing Our Child’s Future

It has become increasingly clear to me that I am going to be an awful father.

(hold for applause)

I am only marginally capable as a human being. The very few things I am good at are simply not things that will help me raise a kid. Way I see it, I’ve got a 15-minute window daily where Daddy can kick a little ass — I’ll be top of the pops when it comes time for the wee one to lay down and be transfixed by the weird magic of storytime. I’ll probably be good at that. The rest of the time? Eeeesh.

In part, this is why I wanted a girl. Because then Daddy can just be Daddy — he doesn’t have to teach the girl how to be a girl. (I recognize that this is a little myopic and perhaps even mildly sexist. But the father-son and mother-daughter axes are still prevalent, for good or evil.) But a son? Oh. Oh. Oh, shit. Oh, no. One day my son is going to look into my eyes and seek answers. He’s going to want to know something about something, about anything, he’s going to ask me “Why?” or “How do I do this?” or “What do I do now?” and I am likely to stand there, jaw beslackened, my mouth forming words that have no sound.

What the hell am I going to tell him?

“Son, here’s how to write your way out of this problem. Bully at school? Punish him in your fiction!”

“My boy, to fix this problem, you must go, go be snarky on the Internet.”

“Problems at school? Uhhhh. Here’s how to make an omelet. Did that fix anything?”

I don’t have any of my own answers. In fact, as I get older, I am increasingly bewildered. My once rock-solid certainty in things is turning to liver mush.

I’m clumsy. My practical skills are minimal. I’m an idiot. I’m lucky I don’t piss myself in public. I should wear a bucket on my head so I don’t damage the soft fontanelle of my skull.

I don’t expect the child to realize it right away. I mean, I can fake it for a number of years. It’s not like my son is going to be playing with his toy du jour at the age of five and realize Daddy put that shit together wrong. But over time, the reality of my overall incompetence is going to seep into his daily life and there will one day come a kind of illumination for him, a critical moment of revelation where a flashlight clicks suddenly on and highlights a spot on the wall that had before been cloaked in shadow, and on the wall will be written the words: “Daddy is a dipshit. Adults are suspect. Trust nothing.”

You know what I did yesterday? I painted the nursery. It is, quite literally, the color of Winnie the Pooh. The end result? Whoo. Yeah. We should’ve just hired a chimp to paint it. I came out of that room looking like a paint bomb went off. No telling how much paint I actually ingested. (Answer: at least 8 ounces.)

This isn’t going to go well.

Daily the boy shows deeper signs of his existence. He’s punching and kicking like you wouldn’t believe. Weeks back, I’d feel my wife’s belly and the wee one’s movements would be minimal — not more than a muscle twitch here, a nudge-nudge there. But now he’s developing. He’s got room to move. He’s breaking bricks with karate chops in there. He’s an action hero. I put my hand there, it’s like that scene in Jurassic Park where [insert dinosaur here] tries to break through [insert object here] and [dents it, damages it, breaks it]. You can see the flesh move as he pivot-kicks off my wife’s bladder and Ki-yaaaa!

So, we are now receiving daily reminders that this is real.

This is happening.

I’m going to be a Daddy, and I am woefully unprepared.

I figure that, in order to fill in the gaps of my striking lack of knowledge, I’d better turn to you, the brain trust, the hive-mind, the group-think, to figure some shit out.

Today is fairly light, but it’s really time to start hunkering down and procuring the mountain of objects reportedly necessary to have a baby. We have a crib, but we don’t have much else. No high chair, no car seat, no play pen, no nothing. Dipping our toes into the waters, we are learning alarming truths: did you know, for instance, that car seats have expiration dates? As if the car seat were a jug of milk? True fact.

So, what I’d like to know is whether or not you have any advice — anything at all — to share regarding our preparations for the baby’s upcoming existence. It’s a daunting task just trying to buy the objects that the baby will use for like, 10 minutes (“This high-chair is good for ages 3 months to 3 months and 7 days”). It’s just as daunting trying to figure out the items the baby won’t need. You go to a place like Babies R’ Us and it is truly overwhelming. I don’t need that many objects to survive. They have like, 50,000 strollers available. It is awesome, and not in the “Dude, Bro, Awesome” way, but rather in the, “I have seen great Cthulhu rise from the ocean’s depths to consume us all and lo it is awesome.”

Any help is appreciated because, well, as noted earlier, I am doe-eyed and confused. But the truck is coming, and no matter how hypnotized I am by the pretty lights, I have to get cracking.

61 comments

  • From the little I’ve read here, I think Julie’s advice is sound. Others have said it more eloquently than I can, but parenting simply changes you. I am not who I was 5 years ago before my boys were born. You’ll probably be this guy for a while, but even that’s OK. It’s a process, like much of what we do.

  • Oooh, lotsa comments. You know what you will be? His best friend in the whole world. Who will he want to show off his drawings and paintings to? Who will he want to cross the crocodile infested kitchen with? Who will he want to crew his cardboard pirate ship?
    Don’t worry so much man. I don’t like “advising” other folks how to raise their kids, totally up to them how the mess them up, (I have my own special recipe) but about the best advice I could give? Be there for him, listen to him and talk to him. These can be pretty hard, especially when they have just used the freshly painted wall to “express themselves” with a colourful mixture of pen, mud and shit.
    And the feeling when they make their appearance? Magical. And they only get better. Favourite part of my boys lives so far, has to be the 2 to 4 years old stage. I haven’t laughed as much. Best of luck to you both. You’ll be fine. Just think of all the English homework you can help out with. ;-)

  • As a new mom (to a two-week old), I’m still not sure what I’m doing, but the part of my brain that isn’t overwhelmed with hormones (seriously, I almost cried reading these comments) recognizes that the core bit of advice being given here is the most important thing: you’ll be fin. You’ll (I’ll) figure it out.

    Or, failing that, have a partner that’s done this before.

  • There are so many comments and lots of stuff to buy, but the best advice is don’t buy it until you need it unless you live in a massive house with three rooms of just storage space for all this crap.
    I agree that the Boppy is a must… a few clothes (but not too many as they change sizes before your eyes)… the rest can be bought in a store open 24 hours : )
    As far as not knowing what to do… get some friends who are already parents on speed dial… and wing it. All parents wing it…
    Also as they get older, time outs are not only for them… I take them regularly and I am convinced that this has helped my sanity with one toddler and a 3 month old!
    Oh and the best advice I got for newborns who are crying for no apparent reason… not hungry or wet… turn on the hairdryer or vacuum… the noise calms them immediately!
    My hairdryer is still my best friend…
    If you want more specifics on traveling with little ones (my son has been to the US from France 7 times and to Senegal twice in 3 years), hit me up with an email because I could write novels on traveling with them : )
    Sending my best!
    Cara

  • Running a marathon is hard. Removing a brain tumor is complicated. When Mar was pregnant, I thought being a parent would be complicated, but it wasn’t, really. It was HARD. Like the marathon. The marathon isn’t complicated, you just put one foot in front of the other… for 26 miles. Parenting? You just change the baby and feed it cuddle it, as needed, on call, 24/7 for a year or so.

    All the complicated “Why?” “Where do babies come from?” “Why shouldn’t I poke my brother with a pencil when I know Jesus will forgive me?” questions will come along when they do, but as a professional writer, that stuff is EASY. For real. You just babble some half-baked bullshit and they accept it as parental wisdom. Also, hope for a boy. I’m not being sexist: They are simpler. With boys you do not have the glitter princess beauty industry monster in your house telling them about anorexia. I had two boys and so far they haven’t asked me anything I can’t answer. Or if they do, I just say “I’m not answering that. I’ll tell you when you’re older.”

    Also, controlling your temper is the single most important thing.

    -G.

  • I second the burp rags comment. You need more than you think you do, then even more than that. Also you don’t have to buy them, if anyone you know has a sewing machine they can just cut a big square of fabric and trim the edges and boom, there you go, nice big ones in whatever patterns you want. Heck, make blankets out of them if you want.

    Also, I second the Goodnight Moon recommendation. It is never too early to read to them. Like, seriously, I hope you’ve already started.

  • I admit that I only skimmed the rest of the comments. Sorry everyone. But, the single most important thing to remember is:

    There is a good chance that shit is going to go wrong. Not just ‘whoops we ran out of diapers, going to the store now’, but serious problems. It’s okay. It happens to almost everyone. My wife was in agonizing pain every time she breastfed, and after a month we had to give up on it entirely (and holy hell formula is expensive; the switch to whole milk was amazing). My sister in law had to be hospitalized repeatedly due to birth-related infections. My niece was vomiting and wouldn’t eat.

    All three kids are perfectly fine, normal, healthy babies. My son is the best, of course.

    When you get home from the hospital and you have to actually take care of the kid all by yourself, it will be terrifying. But you’ll do fine.

    Like pretty much everyone, don’t worry about high chairs or pack n plays yet. My son would never allow being contained but we use the pack n play as a mobile crib (which he just barely tolerates) when we go places.

    There are things no one tells you. Like, for instance, if your baby is breastfed they might spit up blood at some point. I imagine this would be the scariest thing possible, especially because it would of course happen at 3am. If he does: check your wife’s nipples. Are they cracked? He probably just swallowed some of hers and it’s fine. (Also, do not get frustrated with a diaper not coming off in the dark and decide to rip it open. All those moisture absorbing beads are like napalm and will stick to every inch of your kid and you’ll have to wake up your wife to have her help you. Hypothetically.)

    And finally, everyone is different and there is no one way to do things. We have a Diaper Genie and I think it contains the smells perfectly. I bet we also could have used another method and it would have been fine. Same goes with stollers (we used a ‘travel system’ and liked it a lot), what kind of diapers, etc. You won’t raise your kid the exact way we raised ours, but they’ll both be fine as long as we do our best and give a shit.

  • I’ve only just started reading your blog, and I haven’t bothered to read the other commenters on this, because frankly I don’t really care what they said. Here’s what I know from being a parent, and it was admittedly a long time ago, but it still applies. Until your kid is about twelve he will think you walk on water, it doesn’t matter how much of dork you really are. From twelve to, oh, about 24, he’ll think you’re the biggest asshole on earth, and it wouldn’t matter if you were the smartest, coolest, richest man in the universe — nothing will change his opinion. From that point on, whenever the adulthood epiphany occurs for him (at the age when your certainty turned to liver mush) he will see you as a human man with talents, failings, skills, and assholery aplenty. Pretty much the way you see your dad, or yourself for that matter.

    BTW it would work exactly the same way for daughters, except that during the period where you’re the biggest asshole on the planet, they’ll love you anyway. Kinda like they would love a retarded dog.

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