Friday, May 30, 2008

Fatherhood is wonderful, but now I have to actually be a dad.

I love babies. I love to hold them and snuggle. It's the great reward of being a dad in our generation, we GET to be fully active in our children's lives. We don't just take a sudden interest after they are potty trained, or after breeching, as it was done in the old days. Raising children is fun, and it's relatively easy, I mean there are obvious challenges, but the selfless love you have for your child and the fact that it is a part of our nature make the difficulties seem not as difficult. Parenting teaches patience. It is a joyous experience that I recommend to any human.

My best advice to new parents who are unsure of everything, scared and terrified of all the new equipment in their home as a result of baby showers and family donations, (believe me the stuff piles up and you have no clue as to how you will use it all) just take a deep breath, have fun, enjoy the love and keep the kid alive. It's easy. Babies are simple. Keep em alive and love em. My next suggestion is important as well. Get out of the house. Go out to dinner, see a movie, go camping, DO STUFF. Feed them, change them, let them sleep, but live your lives. Babies are content in their car seats, take them with you everywhere. Besides sleepless nights, newborns are relatively easy. (pray your baby doesn't have colic. I don't know what to do then) Too many new parents hole up in their homes thinking they now have to be super protective, but they might not realize that the true difficulties of being a parent are still in their future.

At first your baby is sweet and innocent, but soon, very soon they grow into fully fledged human beings with wants and needs and motivations of their own. They start to misbehave, fight with other kids, act rude in public, and run around restaurants dumping salt on the table and shouting at the other patrons. Oh it is still fun. Your kids are still adorable to you. Heck they are still adorable to most folk. There are plenty of parents and grandparents out there who will feel your pain and actually enjoy your child interrupting their meal. At this point parenting becomes more than just keeping them alive, now you have to actually instruct them, discipline them, be a hardass, make them mad for not letting them play with knives. This is where I am now. My son is three, and now I , the free spirit that I like to be, have to be stern with my child and tell him no sometimes. I have to protect him from his own bad ideas, and I have to be the asshole who dresses him when he doesn't want to be dressed. Here is a video I took this morning to illustrate. Please ignore the mess, I have no excuse for that.

I find myself more and more telling Kirk to be nice. I have to make him apologize to strangers after he points at them and says, "I don't like she." Now usually you can get a kid to behave by compromising, and making up games. I let him run from me at Target as long as he stays in the aisles and doesn't wander under the racks where I can't find him. I tell him that the carpet is lava, and he has to stay on the tile. It usually works. Lately he has gone beyond exploring his boundaries as they say, and has started to push beyond what you can actually let him get away with. "No you can't play with the hammer." We used to be able to say, "would you like mommy to give you a bath, or daddy?" But now he understands plan C. "Nobody gives me a bath." And then true parenting begins. You have to make necessary things happen with as little drama as possible, but drama happens, and after a while you get used to it. When he's crying after I did the unimaginable thing of taking off his jammies, I can listen to him cry for a long time without too much concern. I know he'll forgive me in time.

The great thing is now Kirk is becoming quite social. He loves gathering with the neighbor kids in the alley and playing. Most of the kids are bigger and I have to be there constantly, but it's good to see him interact and enjoy it. I often pretend I'm not there and just magically show up when needed. The other day he was invited by the five year old across the alley into his yard where they have a full playground and a contained ball pit style trampoline. He had a blast. He ran around, went down the slide, and even had an older girl holding his hand and helping him out. She is 5. This yard is popular so there were at least 15 kids in there, complete chaos. I just sat outside talking to another dad who was also pretending to be invisible. Suddenly Kirk came to the fence calling "daddy".
I said, "What's up buddy?"
He replied, "That kid hit me."
"What were you doing?", I asked.
"Hitting him."
"well", I said, "You can't hit kids or they might hit you back. You have to be a good representative of our family when you're in somebody elses yard. Play nice."
"Okay", he said and ran off.
Later he came back saying the kid hit him again. I asked him what he was doing, and he said, "Not hitting."
I asked him if he wanted to go home, but he wanted to play, so I basically let him know that I was outside of the fence and I couldn't control what went on. I told him to be nice and he ran off. It was like he was in a dance club, and I was outside, I couldn't control if someone pushed him on the dance floor, he needed to deal with it himself. I give him a lot of rope, but I won't tolerate him being mean himself. He had a grand time. Most of those kids are really good kids. Most. Some are strays, but we can deal with that topic later.

That's all I have to say for now. I imagine the teenage years are even more fun. Bye!


Superbadfriend said...

We adore children. Your child. Their child. Anyone's child.

See, thing is, my mom put a curse on me when I was growing up.

While in tears, she would say things like. "You'll see, just wait till you have children of your own."

So there you have it. I can't have my OWN children.

I'll show her...

Did you present Kirkie the video of himself having a tantrum? You need to film THAT!



Chris Hill said...

I heard that growing up too. "You'll understand when you're older." I remember thinking to myself that I would not forget what it was like to be a kid. I would be the first adult ever to truly understand a child's point of view. Well I don't think I remember it all, and more importantly, I don't care. I've become the big mean adult overlord. When shopping is done, you can't keep playing in the store. End of story. Actually I may be a little more considerate. I do try to play along with him. Maybe if I was rich and didn't have to work I would indulge him constantly, but then he'd probably become a spoiled jerk.

belsum said...

I don't think he's a spoiled jerk though. But yeah. Everything you said. Such a delicate balance between freedom and safety. Boundaries and lifeline. One of my TWoP friends emailed and said the tantrum video was hilarious in a way that only a non-parent could enjoy. So at least we're providing entertainment for the internets!

FEZ BEAR said...

The morning get dressed meltdown is pretty common at our house too. I see Henry not the only one who loves to look at himself in the mirror when he is crying. Some of Henry's new favorite sayings now are "I don't like you" or "You is not my friend anymore!" or my favorite -- "WHATEVER!!"