What I’ve Learned About Parenting – Year One
Looking back, I realize that the first year of your first child’s life is all about simple survival. If all three of you make it intact to Day 366, Mission Accomplished. Pat yourself on the back and kick off your slippers – it’s Miller Time.
The Man Cub turns one today, Sept. 5, 2006. My God, has it really only been a year, not a decade? An epoch? This may have been the longest year of my life, and I have a few pretty interesting years to compare it to. If this was a “Tick” episode, there would be a clear moral to mark this milestone, illustrating what we’ve learned so far in our time together.
Speaking for The Man Cub, he’s learned to chase the dog and crawl with a pronounced John Wayne swagger. He’s also learned that baths are fun, but getting dried off after is the pitts, man.
What have I learned?
I’ve learned there may be nothing cooler than having your own kin fall asleep in your arms. The tiny eyelids flutter, droop and eventually just drift together. The breathing evens out and the muscles relax. It’s like one of those lame “Trust” games that therapists and motivational speakers play that I usually wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole. But this one… this one kinda kicks ass.
I’ve learned you must learn to ignore the screaming. It’s not about you. And even when it is, fuck it, what are you supposed to be? A mind reader? Until the child can find a more articulate way of explaining his needs, he’s just gonna have to scream and you’re just gonna have to live with it. I recommend multiple oscillating fans in the bedroom to facilitate sleep while your partner is dealing with the shrieking bundle of joy at the other end of the tiny apartment.
I’ve learned to take my anti-anxiety shit as prescribed and that 3-5 hours of sleep in any given 24-hour period for days on end frankly doesn’t cut it anymore.
I’ve learned that everything in the apartment, especially Daddy’s office, is dangerous; and ten seconds out of my sight is more than enough time for our turbo-powered crawler/climber to get himself – and/or me – into a hell of a lot of trouble. So far the worst has been when he’s gotten his hands on the remotes, and re-programmed my beloved ent-center back into the stone age.
I’ve learned that babies really do like to fall asleep to reggae. I have a disc that starts with two white-boy reggae numbers, an all-girl “Hard Times Comes No More” and Kris Kristofferson’s “Holy Creation,” and the little dude is usually sound asleep by the second or third verse of “Hard Times...” The Kristofferson tune is for me.
I’ve learned to breathe in through my mouth and out through my nose when changing soiled diapers. This point cannot be emphasized enough.
I’ve learned to appreciate every phase as it comes by, because they’re all so fleeting and no matter how much the day-to-day irritation of it drove me crazy at the time (What fucking ‘separation anxiety’? I’m standing right the fuck here in front of him?!), I miss them all already.
I’m also learning that I have to be careful how I speak in front of the boy so his first words don’t get us in hot water with CPS, the DHS or the WCTU.
And I’ve learned that if I remember to pay attention, I learn something every day. The trick, of course, is remembering to pay attention to the stuff that matters, not the stuff that distracts.
Mostly though, I’m determined to make his second year about more than simple survival. Somehow, The Missus has managed to flourish as an artist, a professional and a mother this past year while Daddy… well, Daddy has been a handful.
Sorry honey. Some day, it’ll all seem funny – I swear!
Happy first birthday, son. Some day — maybe soon — I hope to be able to start teaching you some stuff...