Friday 27th August 2010

dad-voice practice

the timing of this entry is fitting, given the topic of my last.

anyway. you GUYS, have you heard the news? of course you have, because it was such a shock to everyone that they couldn't talk about anything else for weeks. remember?

so. i'm a little stressed about the whole thing. big surprise, i know, but listen. the more we do in preparation for the little guy, the more we get thinking about all that's required to keep him alive and functioning (not to mention, to keep us alive and functioning), and i have to say that a couple times i've had to consciously pull myself back from the verge of a panic attack. i've heard the transition from living baby-free to having a baby described as passing through the event horizon of a black hole. (you may understand why i like this analogy.) when you're on the outside, there's no way of knowing what's going on inside, because there is no way allowed by the laws of physics for the information to reach you. you can speculate and hypothesize and extrapolate, but you really just have no idea. and as your lifeless spaceship hurtles inexorably down the gravity well and space-time is torn apart around you, you only then begin to understand.

it disturbs me how something so physically small can have such a huge set of needs. i thought we were this advanced, capable species with large brains, or something? apparently no? elephants can hold their heads up immediately. horses can run the day they're born. baby cthulhu was inducing madness in entire civilizations in his first star-cycle. what's wrong with us?

i find i'm having to change my mind about a lot of stuff, in addition to changing habits. i've done a disservice over the last few years in my joyful mockery of my friends' tribulations with their own children. i'll tell you where i'm coming from. first of all, they'll repay in kind, because they're awesome. secondly, as a result of my actions they'll surely never give us a minute of free babysitting. but most importantly, and seriously, i've made light of what is basically the grandest struggle there is—turning babies into people—in a way that has probably trivialized it in my own mind, or at least my subconscious. i certainly don't mean i think it is trivial, which it certainly is not and i don't mean to say that at all. i'm saying that within my mind i've reduced it to just a source of humor without ever appreciating it or even really trying to appreciate what the experience meant to them. and i'm not sure how to feel about this, because they were living their lives just as i was, we were just at different stages in our respective lives. their lives involved the raising of a child. mine involved acting out my chosen social role, viz. making fun of that. but as i face the bizarre prospect of imminently having a son of my own, i'm seeing it a bit differently. as you might imagine.

you guys, my son is going to be a challenge. he's going to be a stubborn, slippery little trickster, and worst of all, he's going to be really damned intelligent. he will of course be quietly cerebral, and when for this reason he goes hours or days without willingly talking to us we will panic and feel like he's shutting us out of his life. beginning the day he's born i'm going to begin filling his head with nonsense but before long he will figure out my game and realize just how full of shit i am, and from that day forward my wife will love him more than she loves me. he's going to have a sense of humor unintelligible to everyone except himself; in fact he will have vast worlds in his head to which no outsider will have access, robbing us of the ability to understand the greater part of him. he's going to be a prodigy with the ladies, so all the parents at the pta meetings will always be bitter toward me. chelsey will try to turn him into the quarterback for the denver broncos and because she's his favorite (and also just to spite me; ref. comment about being full of shit) he'll actually do it, and because he's so intelligent he'll be really good at it and become a superstar and move to bermuda or wherever and we'll never see him again except in signed pictures his publicist will send us at christmas.

so of course i'm stressed. the hell of it is, though, it's not altogether justified. sure, it will be work, hard work, and plenty of minimal-sleep nights and full diapers and colic and fevers and spit-up on my new shirt, but taking care of all that is just mechanics and actually pretty straightforward. later comes the frustrating part: the inevitable teenage rebellion crap when he'll think no one understands him and blah blah. but even that is basically predictable, and even a little boring—even amusing?—from the perspective of having gone through it myself. ('oh, you've become a nonconformist, how original.') it will seem to him as though the world and everything in it is unfair, and to him it will be for a while, but he'll survive it just as we all do and he'll get to experience the absurdity of the next generation at that age, thinking they're the first ones ever to feel angst.

so where does this leave me? who knows. i often say to my co-conspirator in this matter that i'm afraid, and i suppose i am in a way, though it's not truly fear that i'm feeling, mostly just unease. at the idea that soon, this powerless monster is going to invade and turn my life on its head and demand that i keep it alive, and inexplicably i will appease it. a dear friend of mine once said, 'the secret to parenting is to remember that your goal is to raise capable adults.' i imagine i'll be repeating that to myself rather often over the next twenty years, especially when it's my turn for the nighttime diaper shift.

posted by mAtt @ 19.07 (gmt+0000)
to /happiness/humans


[+] Comment by goblinbox

1. I'm an expert on parenting because I never did it.
2. You're thinking WAY too much. It's a baby, not a particle accelerator.
3. You don't know he'll be smart. He might come out with only moderate intelligence and the sense of humor of a drunk rhino.
4. You WILL get fluids on your clothes, you're right about that.
5. He will not-love your wife as much as he not-loves you, just not at the same time.
6. If you made fun of your breeding friends, you're right: you WON'T get any free babysitting. Sucks to be you, man.
7. Baby-raising is easy: idiots do it all the time. Just sit in the Walmart parking lot if you don't believe me. (Srsly. You're gonna raise the bar without even trying. Breathe.)

Congrats again on the little zygote. Blastocyst. Embryo. Fetus. Whatever. I hope his gestation and birth are easy and wonderful, and I hope when you meet him that you'll quit thinking so much and have that most desired of experiences, that transcendent silence of the mind and fullness of heart that will make you humble and capable all at the same time, and I hope he doesn't pee on your shirts too much.

[+] Comment by Ted


The upside to all this? You're almost a member of the secret order of awesome dads. And we take care of our own. Plus, you now you have carte blanche to buy a ton of legos ("for the little guy").

Sorry, all my real wisdom ended with "buy Eneloop batteries," and that was stolen from Heinrich!

[+] Comment by Hathor

I don't have enough deep thoughts to respond to all of yours. So . . . if we survived, I'm sure you can, too, with panache. And I still volunteer to babysit, even if you made fun of us when we were sleep-deprived and spit-up covered.

On the bright side for your wife, if the baby spits up on all the shirts she hates, you'll have to throw them out, 'cause believe me, you won't want to wear them again, no matter how many times they've been washed.

[+] Comment by CëRïSë

I occasionally verge on panic attacks on behalf of my friends about to have babies—not because the friends aren't capable, simply because it's so scary. For that reason, I try not to think too hard about that, and any manner of other frightening topics. But I certainly think you guys will do smashingly! Keep the posts coming (while you can!).

[+] Comment by second red

You won't be alone. If you survive the first 3 or 4 years then there is a legion of us teachers trained to fill his head with basically the same stuff as you are trying to fill him with.

[+] Comment by oxytocin

Whoa. Congratulations on the transition from smug married to neurotic soon-to-be-parents.

And hey, don't sweat it too much. As with Rome, the crushing enormity of raising an infant to a capable adult isn't done in a day. Take it one day at a time, over and over, for the rest of your life.


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