Posts Tagged ‘fatherhood’

Parenting isn’t easy. Some days you just feel adrift in a sea of tantrums and teething and stanky diapers, with no end in sight.

But there are also moments when you realize it’s all worth it.

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For a long time, I’d been curious about learning American Sign Language; I enjoy learning spoken languages, and something like ASL represented a different dimension to that.

However, unlike living in Italy, working in France and Holland, visiting Japan and taking Spanish in high school, I had no real impetus to get the process into gear. As such, I’d learn a sign here or there, and most likely forget it again. So most of the signs I actually retained were the ones used for communicating with incompetent drivers with whom one is forced to share the road.

Along came L – a seemingly very bright miniature human. Learning to talk is a fairly slow process for the vast majority of miniature humans. However, he is in possession of increasingly fine motor skills. We learned that most babies can sign words before they can say them. And so there was a reason for the whole family to learn to sign together.

A friend of ours recommended the Baby Signing Time series of DVDs, and we picked up the first two. L now watches one of these each evening, and has amassed a healthy sign vocabulary. We just ordered the third and fourth DVDs, and I hope there will eventually be more in the series. Each DVD is a series of catchy songs written so as to teach a set of signs, and since we have been watching them so often, it is fortunate that the songs are sufficiently interesting and well-written as to not drive us crazy!

L’s most frequent signs are to ask for milk or food – very often ‘more food’ – but he also signs ‘all done’, ‘drink’, ‘sleep’, ‘please’, ‘hat’, ‘wash hands’, ‘brush teeth’, variously ‘signing’ or ‘time’ (when he wants to watch the DVDs) and a few others. He will often combine them in a logical fashion (the other night, when he was tired, he signed ‘please sleep’ at me). He has also signed ‘daddy’, ‘sorry’, ‘where’, ‘ouch’ and a few others, but only once, so it’s hard to say whether those were more than just coincidental… but he’s definitely able to express way more than he would be with speech alone by this point.

I’m immensely proud of my little boy, and I cannot recommend these DVDs highly enough. Hopefully I can keep up with him as he learns more and more signs!

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What about Dad?

Laughable though this may sound, this blog is by a married, heterosexual white male, and I’m pushing for some equality around here.

I am blessed with a three-month-old son, in whose life I am extremely involved. I love every moment of being his Daddy – notwithstanding the occasional screaming, the loss of sleep and the sometimes very icky diaper changes. As such, it has become very bothersome to me that so many businesses out there are catering to mothers with babies. Parenting magazines advertise their contents as being the things Mom needs to know, caf├ęs have facilities for diaper changing in the ladies’ room only, books and DVDs and baby-care advertisers all target Mom as the primary decision-maker and nurturing influence in baby’s life.

What about DAD?

There are single fathers out there doing the best they can in a world which barely admits their existence. There are couples out there including loving dads like myself who genuinely want to do their share in raising their children. There are moms who need a break sometimes and need Dad to be able to take over. Maybe it’s time to reward the people who support the role a father can play, if only he is allowed to do so.

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On impending arrivals

Baby. This has, unsurprisingly, been very much at the forefront of my consciousness of late. Not necessarily anything specific, just Baby.

All things considered, I’ve been dealing with the impending changes pretty well, making sure that things are in good shape ahead of time. I have occasional moments of Eep, particularly when there are new developments – sharper contractions and the like. And I know that at this point, most events are going to be in the ‘new developments’ category. So there will probably be a little more Eep to come.

I can’t say I’m completely unconcerned – I sometimes wonder about the what-ifs. What if there are complications during childbirth and something happens to either D or to the baby. I can comfort myself with statistics showing how unlikely it is that any given thing will happen, and with the knowledge that so far there’s been no indication of anything negative, but such questions do still flit across my mind. I want to be prepared for absolutely everything, and not all of it can realistically fit in my head – or anyone’s.

The idea of being a parent is also a little daunting at times. I wouldn’t go so far as to say scary, but definitely daunting. There’s a lot that I don’t know – indeed, that I can’t know – and a lot of situations to come wherein I will have to make on-the-spot decisions about what’s OK and what’s not, things where I won’t have time to Google things and do a bunch of research. Sometimes I worry about missing ‘firsts’. First steps, first tooth, first words… so many things that I feel duty-bound to be there for, and I worry that it’ll happen when I’m not there – even if I’m just taking a shower or something. I can handle things like feedings and diaper changes and so on, but missing a ‘first’ would make me feel terrible.

I don’t have as much as I would like in the way of a frame of reference for fatherhood. My Dad is a wonderful guy, but in order to make sure the family could have everything they needed, he worked long hours and traveled a lot. There were school events that he missed, there were times when I’d have liked to have him there and he wasn’t. The gift of a new toy at the end of his being away for three weeks in Japan was a neat thing at the time, but in the long run it didn’t make up for him not being there. Nowadays, I understand why he worked the long hours, and I have nothing but respect for his dedication to keeping food on the table and allowing us the luxuries we enjoyed, but I don’t want to short my son on Dad-time to do the same. I want to know that I can be there for everything, and still not neglect other responsibilities like working. If he plays in a Little League game, I want to be sitting in the bleachers cheering him on with all the passion of being at an England soccer game at Wembley Stadium, and yet with that much more because That’s My Kid Out There. If he’s in a school play or playing kiddie songs in a piano recital, I want to be there enjoying it like the greatest Broadway show, and yet that much more because That’s My Kid Up There.

I want to be able to guide him through the traps and pitfalls of growing up, and find a balance whereby I’m not overbearing and making him resent that I’m not letting him do things for himself. I want to keep him safe from injury, but not deny him the right to go out and climb a tree with his friends if he so wishes. I want to show him that I’m proud of him without embarrassing him by making too big a deal of things. I want to allow him to push his limits and be experimental, and yet watch like a hawk for anything that might be bad for him. I want him to succeed, but I don’t want to push him so hard that he ends up hating me for it.

Ultimately, what this amounts to is that I feel like I’m walking a tightrope, but he’s the one who’s going to fall off if I lose my footing. And logically I know I can’t do everything, that there will be some mistakes and missed opportunities, some things I’ll say or do that I wish I could take back, some times when there’s a right thing I could say or do and I don’t. Every parent has moments like those, and it’s not realistic to expect that I won’t. But I still want everything to be perfect, because That’s My Kid In There, and this is not something I can get a do-over on.

Basically… I want to be a great Dad. Not just an OK Dad, or even just a good Dad, but a great Dad. And I fully believe I have it in me to be that, but I worry about goofing it up. I also want to continue to be as good a husband, friend and employee as I can be, as applicable, without that taking away from Dadness.

Those of you reading this who are parents are probably chuckling at this point, and have probably all felt this way and wanted everything to be perfect. And each and every one of you seems to be a great parent. I just want to be sure I can be a part of that too.

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