As Sophia’s mom is getting ready for work, I can’t help but dread the thought of her departing. Yes, I love Kelly and will miss her while she’s at work, off to her “easy” job. For the real full time work is done at home with Sophia. New dads should actually be awarded some sort of “chip” or “medallion” like the various 12 step groups around. I could totally picture this, “Any new dads here celebrating 30 days of intact sanity? 60 days? 90 days?” New dads look purely astonished as a dad walks up, smile intact, hair done just right, clothes matching and accepts his 1 year medallion for not only staying sane with a “little one” at home but for keeping his child alive and safe for a whole year! “No friggin way,” the new dad yelps! “How can any new dad keep from going crazy or losing it for a whole year?”
Moms are a different breed compared to dads. New moms seem to fall into motherhood so naturally. New dads are in a constant state of anxiety and low grade fear when left alone with their baby or toddler while mom heads out for the day to work or god forbid an over night event with the other new moms. However, I must admit we play it off pretty darn good. Yet I find myself glancing repetitively at the clock while mom is getting ready to depart. “Ok,” I think, “15 minutes and counting until I am SOLEY responsible for Sophia, who just happens to be the most important thing in Kelly’s life! Anything happens on my watch and I mean ANYTHING to that little miniature goddess and I’m toast!” Dam! 5 minutes, 2 minutes, 1 minute, then the phrase leaves my lips with a sense of urgency, “Why don’t you call in today and we could all spend the day together? Maybe go to the park? A drive? A walk?” What’s really racing through my head is, “OMG, you can’t leave us alone in this deathtrap of a house! All the pointy obstacles! The slippery wooden floors! The ever elusive uncovered electrical outlet! And that killer animal that roams the house like a lion roaming back and forth in his cage ready to devour little children (Chuck our sweetheart of a cat who wouldn’t hurt a mouse)!” “I can’t just call in,” she says. My heart rate just catapulted from a baseline low of 60 beats per minute to 140, with an occasional palpitation just to remind me of how important my “watch” is.
Sound a bit extreme? Well, it may not be far from the truth for a lot of new dads out there regarding their alone time with baby. We just don’t think or behave in the same manner as new moms or moms in general. Kelly thinks, “We’ll read books, play with toys together, maybe go shopping, and so on.” While I’m considering if Sophia might enjoy a ride around the block sitting on the gas tank of my Kawasaki ninja! Well, maybe not that exactly, but close! This is how dads think.
I recently got a ‘wild hair’ one day with Sophia and we ventured out to our local Von’s to do some rather rapid gathering of food items required for her continued survival. Granted we live in a small mountain community, where pretty much all the locals no one another. As Sophia and I waited in the check out line, numerous moms and even the checker said “hi” to Sophia and me. They commented on how cute and adorable she is. As we headed out of the store, I couldn’t help but have a sense of accomplishment! I looked at little Sophia, “We did it! Mom will be so proud!” I thought, “Maybe being a dad isn’t so tough after all!”
The following day as I was at my “easy job” and Kelly was working her “tough job” with Sophia, they went to Von’s to pick up some milk which I neglectfully forgot the previous day on my glorious outing with Sophia. They were waiting in line (the great social outlet and gossip/rumor breading grounds of any small town) and the checker commented how she saw Sophia and “her father” yesterday and how she almost didn’t recognize Sophia! “Her hair was a bit amiss, and she wasn’t dressed like she usually is, and I think she had chocolate cookies for breakfast, at least that’s the story her shirt said,” the checker commented. Needless to say, Kelly was aghast! Here I thought we were “stylin” yesterday, looking like we had it all together. “We’re looking good Sophia!”, I remember saying to her as we proudly entered Von’s yesterday. And in my eyes, we honestly did! Once again, the difference in genetic makeup between moms and dads rears its ugly head of deceit!
Well, back to my eight hour shift. “So far so good! Sophia’s happy! No compound fractures yet, no third degree burns, no having to use the heimlich maneuver,” I think to myself,“I can do this! This isn’t so bad!” I glance at the clock, it has been TEN WHOLE MINUTES!!
To all you new dads out there, my advice to you is to just relax, chill, use common sense and your alone time with your half genetical self will be some of the most looked forward to time that you can spend as a new dad. Another tip to new dads is to recognize and appreciate this time of amazement, wonder, gratitude and love of your child. That’s what has happened to me and I’m sure it will happen with you too, sooner than you think. We just need to enjoy our kids because they grow up so so fast. It seems like yesterday that Kelly’s step kids, my children, were taking their first steps, learning to navigate the “death street” without training wheels and now are excelling at everything they set out to accomplish. I even have a seventeen year old who is a hopeful for joining the U.S. Olympic Snowboard team! And I never had a protective “bubble suit” for him as he grew up. Yes, I’ve made plenty of mistakes as a parent, and you will too. We just learn as we go without instructions or a manual. We stumble along as dads, as moms seem to have a perfect stride for motherhood. I truly believe the child knows this too. As they watch mom head out the door your child has got to be thinking, “Now it’s time to @#$% with dad!” I swear they are! As the front door closes behind Kelly I quickly look at Sophia, her bright blue eyes locked with mine and I swear she says her first words, “Hahaha, you’re all mine!”
It seems to be “new dad syndrome”. This disorder can only be fought with the medicine of faith, courage and the immense love we feel for our children. How can our brains go from “you are the spawn of satan” to “you are the love of my life and I can’t wait for my alone time together Sophia!” Time, practice, patience, a lot of deep breathing, and prayer never hurts.
So tonight my friend gets his one year chip for new fatherhood as I got mine some two months ago. He is proud, relaxed, confident and his heart is full of love as mine is for both wife and child. Life is good! Life is short! So my advice to you new dads out there is to stumble along as I did and do, keep your chin up, wipe the butternut squash from your brow, change that diaper with pride, and enjoy the ride of being a new dad!
Just clean her up a bit before going to Von’s!
Next week, back to medical topics!
Brett Davis, Physician Assistant