By: Mark Simone
Just about 4 years ago my wife and I found out we’d be welcoming our first child to the world. Naturally, we were ecstatic. We went the entire pregnancy not knowing the gender…we truly didn’t care. Between buying a crib and a car seat, getting gadgets left and right, that we never knew existed, stocking up on baby wipes and diapers and taking CPR classes, we went about the next 9 months meticulously preparing ourselves to care for our baby. You know, all the normal stuff soon-to-be parents do to make us feel like we were somewhat in control of what was to come. Occasionally, we’d get some awesome, unsolicited advice from some know-it-all, been-there-before parent that I would typically dismiss and move along with my day.
My favorite of the unsolicited advice was “Your life is about to change!” Is that even advice? Maybe it’s my favorite unsolicited warning. Regardless, the reaction in my head was always something along the lines of, “No shit,” but I always kept that to myself. The good ol’ smile and nod became my go-to response. However, it was that annoyingly accurate warning that stuck around in the back of my mind, taunting me every step of the way as I embarked on fatherhood.
What people really don’t talk about (at least I never heard it being discussed when we were expecting) is the loss of spontaneity. My 20’s were spent entirely living downtown with no kids. Life was filled with work, restaurants, watering holes, networking events, trips to Camden Yards and long days of tailgating for Ravens games, really whenever I wanted to. One day, overnight, everything changed, as we knew it would, but it still felt like a swift punch in the face while tripping over your own feet and choking on your drink all at the same time. Did I mention we loved our baby from the moment we laid eyes on him? It still didn’t change the sudden and sometimes brutal shifts in our life as we knew it.
I’m not entirely sure what I expected from fatherhood. I was well aware that my sleeping habits would change and that there would be a child who I’d love like no other. I knew it was going to be a lot of work. I just didn’t understand what an understatement that would be. There’s just no way, prior to becoming a father, that I could have appreciated my ability to really do whatever I wanted to, whenever I wanted to do it. The spontaneity of life as I knew It was lost on me the day I looked into that squishy newborn’s eyes. I don’t mean that in any extravagant way like travelling to far off places or spending money frivolously. I mean something way, way more simple than that. I mean that prior to having a child, when I wanted to sleep, I slept. When I wanted to go out with friends, I went out with friends. When I wanted to read, I read. I didn’t even know that I desired to go to the bathroom alone, because prior to becoming a parent, that was just a given. I went to the bathroom alone, without a sticky toddler tugging at my ankles, whenever I damn well pleased. It was glorious, and it was simple. The simple stuff that I absolutely took for granted.
My wife and I spent the first few months doing our best to take care of our baby, with little to no indication from him that we were doing anything right. We spent what felt like forever, but in reality was just 3-4 months, with no more than 2 hours of sleep at a time, sometimes just 30-45 minute clips, with my wife and I splitting up the night time hours into “shifts.” Finally, we got to the point where our little guy began to smile and giggle and laugh. That’s my love language right there! I finally got a sign that maybe I was doing something right. This sweet spot of parenthood quickly led to what my wife and I refer to as “newborn amnesia,” and we decided it was clearly time to do it all over again with a second child, but that’s a whole new level of love and craziness best saved for another time.
I’ve come to realize that recognizing the signs that we’re doing something right is really the most rewarding thing about parenthood, at least fatherhood (I’m a results-oriented dude). Whether it’s holding his own bottle, crawling, taking his first steps, speaking his first words, going on the potty for the first time, each milestone is celebrated as success for all of us. However, with every rewarding success comes a healthy dose of fear. Understanding the power we have to shape the mind of another human is perhaps the scariest part of parenthood for me. It’s the kind of responsibility that can be overwhelming at times. How much screen time is too much? How many chicken nuggets are considered excessive? Which behaviors to let slide and which to immediately correct? How will my wife and I influence him with our day to day conversations and actions? The list could go on and on. These are the things that inevitably, every parent must self-discover and rediscover through the years of parenting the same little human.
It’s incredible how we go through life learning and studying in school and, for many, college and graduate level studies to prepare for the workforce. Yet, for the most serious and impactful job one will ever have as parents, we’re left with little to no training. We just wing it, love fiercely and hope that our efforts create little human beings that go on to be strong, self-confident, well-adjusted and successful adults themselves. No big deal, right!
Besides helping you not feeling alone in your own vast, chaotic life inside parenthood, I hope this read at least gave you a break from Paw Patrol. Now, go back to eating your kid’s leftover mac and cheese and clean up your living room…those toys don’t pick up themselves!