I am not a “joiner.” I don’t really “participate.” I can’t feign enthusiasm so if I’m not feeling it, you’re not seeing any. Unless I’m drunk.
When I’m sober, you may be able to make me do something (depending on your level of authority) but you can’t make me pretend I want to do it. I’m looking at you, North Carolina State Trooper Jurgenson.
Such rebellion can be fun and empowering, and might even occasionally bear a whiff of integrity. But as a father, it can seem more like vanity, and it has the potential to create issues with your kids. Because when you’re a parent you’re going to be forced to do things you don’t necessarily want to do, and faking it won’t work. You can’t fool children, no matter how big a fake smile you wear, and the last thing I ever want is for my son to think I would rather be doing anything else but spend time with him.
Which is how I recently found myself making animal noises and pretending to be a horse and shaking maracas and singing like a frog. All with a big, genuine smile on my face.
On Tuesday I read a great post on Baltimore Magazine’s “Learning to Crawl” parenting blog. It’s essentially a confession from a father that he is a terrible parent.
The post is largely facetious, but only because it’s written by a man who has been a parent for five years now. Had it been written by the same man prior to his son’s birth, I imagine it would have been a lot more serious. Because before he’d actually had the kid, the guy didn’t know what he was talking about.
The post is really about the futility of parenting decisions that are made in a vacuum. Kids aren’t lab rats; in fact, it doesn’t take long for us new parents to realize that we’re the lab rats. We’re the ones being tested. And, as the post enumerates, we’re the ones that are constantly failing.
Only not really.
I have a confession to make: my wife is a stay-at-home mom.
She has been home with our son since the day he was born. It was a choice we made together, for a few reasons, not least of which were the facts that a) in our neck of the woods, the cost of daycare pretty much negates that second paycheck and b) we don’t trust other people. From the start we’d made the decision to forego a nanny, which are popular extravagance here in Park Slope, as we weren’t ready to hand over daily care of our son to a stranger. So we figured we’d go the first year or two on just my income, especially since it was important to us that we were home with the kid ourselves.
At this point my wife has been at home with her son every day for almost a year and a half. And we’re happy with that decision.
“All children, even the most mild-mannered and cooperative, act irrationally on occasion.” – Your 16-month-old’s Behavior (BabyCenter.com)
A ways back, I wrote a post comparing infants to lunatics. After a few months of wrapping my son in the equivalent of a straight jacket just so he’d fall asleep and stop screaming, the comparison of my baby to an insane person seemed apt.
Little did I know that a year later I’d have even more reason to question my kid’s sanity.
I’m not going to say my son’s a genius.
I’m going to type it: MY SON IS A GENIUS.
Let me be clear: at my son’s young age, there is a lot he doesn’t know. Hell, at my age, there’s a lot I don’t know. But while my son is still figuring out how to feed himself, he’s been picking up all sorts of other knowledge and skills at an incredible rate.
So I thought I’d start posting about the new things he can do. In list form!
It was almost exactly two years ago when I discovered I was going to be a father. My level of ignorance on the topic had me pretty nervous, but the nerves are natural. And kind of pointless. Because what I’ve learned after my first full year as a dad is that the key to being a good father is simply this: don’t be an asshole.
Seriously. If you’re already not an asshole, you can skip the rest of this (long) post because that’s all there is to it. Congratulations! Go forth and multiply.
However, I was an asshole. And I didn’t have much guidance when I became a dad. So I offer the following nine-item list (one for each month of pregnancy!) to all the assholes like me who need advice on getting through the nine or so months preceding the birth of the person who will most likely be your end (Oedipus!).
2011 was a pretty fun year for me. My kid exited his fourth trimester (the first three months of his life, from mid-September to mid-December) and emerged as a little human being, with a personality, expressions, lots of incoherent babbling and, eventually, the ability to walk and say a variety of words.
Watching that emerging personality and continued discovery of new information and abilities goes a long way towards mitigating what can otherwise be a tough stage of parenting. Because babies are dumb. Not because they’re stupid, just because they don’t know anything yet. And they are the opposite of independent. Like, the-citizens-of-North Korea opposite.