Thursday, December 10, 2009

What I've Learned

So I've been a father for over a full year now and I've been thinking about what I've learned as a parent in that time. So here are a few random thoughts.

Nursery rhymes are a lot like action movies, about 95% of them suck horribly (like movies with Bruce Willis or Sly Stallone), but the 5% that are awesome (like the Bourne movies) you absolutely cherish that they exist.

Becoming a parent does not fundamentally "change" a person. I've heard so many people say this over the years and I found it to be a crock of shit. Breeding did not change my outlook on the world. This view that so many people have goes on the assumption that they wouldn't have become that person without having a kid and that is a specious one. I'm still the leftist, freethinking Humanist that I've always been and I'm sure my crazy brother would have still become an intolerable, right-wing, born-again, Jesus freak fundamentalist whether he had kids or not. Maybe it would have happened later, but I'm sure he'd still be that big of an asshole.

A new parent gets lots of unsolicited advice from "experienced" parents and almost all of it is completely worthless. Just because someone knows how to raise their kids does not mean they know how to raise my kid. Something to be sure to remind myself when I'm the older parent.

Most baby-care books are also full of shit and a complete waste of time. I have an especially strong hatred for the "What to Expect..." line of books. Sweeping generalizations (e.g., pacifiers are evil) not backed up by any real scientific study or any scholarship whatsoever. Basically some hippy mom thinking she knows how to teach everyone else to be a parent. Not worth the paper it's printed on, and to so many people it is their baby bible.

The stuff I worried about being hard before she was born (like changing diapers or bathing) turned out to be a piece of cake, and the things I didn't even think about (like nail clipping or planning meals once the nursing/formula/baby food days are over) turned out to be the real challenging things.

Going to the bathroom while holding a baby is a lot easier than one would think. Showering, not so much.

They say that having a kid will make you appreciate your own parents. This isn't really true if you were raised by a shitty parent. In fact, I think having a kid has made me realize even more how awful my mother was at raising kids. No matter how frazzled I've gotten, how frustrated or even angry, I have still been able to resist shaking or hitting my daughter. I step back, breathe, and remember she's just doing what kids do. My mother's inability to do the same as I was growing up, instead choosing to use the yardstick, broom, fly-swatter or bare hands to knock me silly looks even more insane to me with my new view.

Even though it is 2009, I've found that in many places a stay-at-home dad is still viewed with a fairly large amount of suspicion or weird curiosity. I'm treated great in many other situations, but I have to seek out the right groups.

I find that even though I have one now, I still don't generally like kids. Especially large groups of them. Play dates and birthday parties are going to be torture when my daughter is older, but I will have to endure for her sake. But when we start hosting sleepovers I'm going to make sure Mom gets put in charge.

I also don't really like hanging out with most other parents. I'd much rather hang out with friends of mine who have also become parents, and that was working out great in New York since my best friend became a dad the same time as me. But now that we're in Chicago none of my friends here have kids, at least yet. It's hard to know if a person was cool or not before they had kids if you don't meet them until they've already had them.

I will do anything, no matter how stupid I look, and in public, to make my kid laugh.

I think referring to raising children as the most important thing a person can do is utter nonsense. Hey, it might turn out to be the most important thing I will ever do (but I hope not). But, was raising children the most important thing Martin Luther Kink, Jr. ever did? Jonas Salk? I don't think so. There are many things a person can do in the world that are more important than raising your own kids.

You cannot describe your love for your kid to someone ho doesn't have one. You just can't. So I don't even try.

Having a kid has not made me want to have more, as so many people told me would happen. (Seems that people say the same thing about having kids that they say about tattoos, once you have one you want more). I'm loving every minute of every new experience I'm going through with my daughter, but I have no need to repeat it. Once is totally enough.

The baby supply business is such a racket it's ridiculous. There is so much shit they convince new, unwitting parents that they need to have when they really don't. The "safety" stuff is a really big one, preying on parents' fears. I'm convinced that baby monitors just cause parents to lose sleep and have never saved a kid's life. Now they even have these sensors that go under the baby's mattress and an alarm goes off if the they stop moving for several seconds. An extremely expensive way to get sleep deprivation.

If I hugged my daughter as I hard as I feel like I want to sometimes, it would kill her and her guts would be all over the floor. Maybe that's as close as I can come to explaining the level of love thing.

I can have my kid dressed in twelve layers on a moderately cold day and there will still be an old lady who tells I don't have her dressed warm enough.

I wish it wasn't against the law to punch old ladies in the face.

My kid is the cutest kid on the planet. If you think differently you are obviously a dumbass.