Baby car seat update: I can’t install the stupid thing in Chicago, either. Kelly and I worked on it for an hour and a half, and I called every fire station in the neighborhood. Luckily, Emma is a city kid and Kelly doesn’t drive. Who needs a car, anyway? (My father-in-law is coming on Friday and he says he’ll do it. Thanks, Chris.)
Listen, I love Emma with all my heart, but you’re not going to hear very much gushy love stuff in this post. This post is about all the stuff that nobody talks about. I think that people get so wrapped up in their love for their babies that they don’t feel right complaining. But I love complaining. So here goes nothing.
Here are three things I’ve found to be surprising in regard to fatherhood:
I’ve always been the guy who can sleep anywhere. Give me the floor, patch of grass, or the gutter and I’m out. I can sleep sitting straight up. I’m the guy that boards a plane, falls asleep and wakes up when the plane touches down. It’s as awesome as it sounds.
But ever since Emma came along, sleep is out. I’d like to say that sleep is a dream, but I don’t dream anymore, because I don’t sleep. The power went out at work today and I found the darkness of the classroom to be such a gift. For the record, I didn’t fall asleep with 30 eighth graders in a pitch black room. But I definitely considered doing it!
I know the fact that new parents don’t get a lot of sleep isn’t exactly new information. The surprising part, though, is that Emma is a champion sleeper. She loves sleeping so much that when we started putting her down an hour earlier, started sleeping an extra hour in the morning. Since moving into her nursery (and this may be tough for other parents to hear), Emma has never woken us up in the middle of the night. It’s bizarre.
So why, pray tell, am I complaining about my sleep life? The truth is that while Emma sleeps, we stay up. Kelly and I pack a full adult day into the hours between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m. We cook and eat, clean and talk, watch TV (currently Big Little Lies), play guitar, talk, write blog posts, eat dessert, talk some more, and watch more episodes of Big Little Lies. Did I mention I’m low on sleep?
I know. It’s my own doing.
Honestly, as weird as I feel crawling out of bed in the morning on so little sleep and then stumbling around all day saying weird stuff to people, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Our nights are so much fun, and it’s our time together, alone. I honestly can’t wait to do it all over again tomorrow. I just think I might be driving myself insane.
Listen. Parenting is tough! We’ve all seen the Zombie Parent Shuffle: Pale skin, multiple bags under the eyes, still more tote bags on one shoulder, cold cups of coffee in hand, Cheerio dust all over the place.
“When I have a kid it’ll be different,” we say when we see these people. “Everything will be clean and I will be put-together.”
(Yes, I said it, too.)
The most surprising aspect of parenting I’ve experienced so far is the extreme guilt I feel all the time. Am I doing this right? Am I hugging her enough? Too much? Is it okay if we sit on the couch instead of on the floor? My back hurts! Has she been in her bouncy seat too much today? Too little? Would it be selfish for me to do the dishes or would it help to build her sense of independence if I put her down for a sec? Are we using enough new words to facilitate vocabulary growth? Am I supposed to talk at her all day or is she getting annoyed with her dad’s constant babbling? Can I check my phone just this once oh crap she fell over.
I think the hardest part of this whole thing is that Emma can’t tell me what is going on. Just imagine what she would say if she could, though.
“Dad. Shut up. Handing me stuff and letting me drop it on the floor is developing my fine motor skills. It. Is. All. Good. Also, tonight when you put me to sleep, you and Mom should immediately go to sleep too because you’re starting to act strange.”
All I care about is doing a good job. I want to be the perfect dad for her. I just don’t know how to do that yet. Will I ever? Is there a textbook for this? I think there is. Can someone just put it in my Amazon cart? And then press order and unbox the box for me and then read it to me okay thanks.
Are you guys to-do list people? I’m a to-do list person. At least I was before Emma was born. I mean, I still keep a to-do list. I just never check anything off of it anymore. My list has become desperate. The basic list now includes stuff like “get haircut,” “shave,” and “eat” on it–things that were just part of my “maintain life” section of my brain before fatherhood. Even the simplest chores have become tough to accomplish. For example, I currently have $0.01 in a random account at the bank. All I have to do is go over there and sign a piece of paper to close the account.
It’s been a month. The bank lady is going to kill me.
I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned this before, but as much as I love her, Kelly sucks at cooking. I think she could be a good cook if 1) she figured out where the kitchen was and 2) she had any interest in food. So I’m the food guy in the Larkin Household. If I had the time, I’d be all over it: kale-infused wheatgrass superfood smoothies for breakfast, pre-packed organically wholesome naturally occurring lunches and some kind of sous vide salmon soufflé for dinner. The reality for us, though, is the one-handed meal. You know: whatever you can shove in your face with one hand. We’re talkin’ about gummy bears, jelly beans, a piece of dry bread.
(Kidding. We eat better than that. But you know. It’s hard.)
Time is so tight that I needed to cancel dinner plans on our friends a couple of nights ago because we were behind on everything. Tom #1, Tom #2, Kira and Maya: we’re sorry! It’s also a new thing in my life that when I cancel plans I actually feel bad about it. I love these people. We missed Taco Tuesday and I’m to blame. I’m struggling with this new reality, but it’s 1 a.m., and I’m barely done with this blog post.
Basically, I’m falling apart! And yes, I do realize that a bunch of these reasons for falling apart contradict each other, and that the first one–the fact that we stay up too late, catching up and spending time together–might be the reason I’m so behind all the time. But I think what I’m describing here is a severe shift in priorities. I love my family so much that the rest of my to-do list has fallen by the wayside. And this Grizzly Man is okay with that.