When I was six-years-old my first little brother was born (I had two older brothers and two younger sisters). Christian showed up 7 weeks premature and was placed in an incubator for ten days so his lungs could properly develop. When he finally came home healthy, I joined the ranks of boys who love the idea of their “first baby brother.” That didn’t prepare me for what happened next.
I was holding Christian when my mother gave him to me. Let me explain. My mother turned to me and very matter-of-factly said something along the lines of, “He’s yours. It’ll be your responsibility to take care of him. I’m giving him to you, to be your little buddy.” Most readers are probably thinking, oh cute, I was thinking oh crap. Well, I probably didn’t think the word “crap,” but I perfectly recall my emotional response–I was scared. I was still little. How was I supposed to take care of someone else? Retrospectively, it reminds me of Bill Cosby’s comedy bit, where the Lord asks Noah to build a ship and stock it with two of every animal, and all Noah can respond with is “riggght.” I’m sure my mom was just being cute, encouraging her 3rd son to take an active role in the life of her 4th son, but I took it all very serious and very literal. In my mind, it was my job to provide for Christian, to protect him. Whatever I did, he did, wherever I went, he followed, and I was okay with it. I even taught him karate lessons (a great excuse to practice all the moves I learned from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). I stopped calling him my little buddy when he grew taller than me, joined the navy, got ripped, and then covered his muscles in tattoos, but I still consider him to be one of my best friends. That life experience, and my response to it, was close to home when my first child (Claire) was born.
From left to right: my friend, Jeremy “Dangerous” Warner, Christian, me.
Claire was ripening inside my wife for 286 days (5 days past her due date) and labor was 30 hours long. It could be said that she was long-a-coming. [Read full birth story here.] I was more excited to meet my daughter than I was to see Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows – Part 2. When I held Claire for the first time I didn’t know what to feel. I was happy, but she wasn’t mine yet. I had just witnessed her dramatic entrance into the world but I didn’t feel like a dad yet. I went with her to be cleaned and it was there that it hit me–I was this beautiful creature’s father. And she was beautiful, even though she kept sticking her tongue out (definitely my kid). As I observed them wipe her off, put her in a diaper, and then had the opportunity to wash her hair, I knew–she was mine; it was my responsibility to care for her; she was my little gal.
If I felt little as a kid, when my mom told me to care for Christian, I felt miniscule when I took the freshly cleaned Claire in my arms. I felt like the Little Drummer Boy, anxious to present my best gift, but doubting the worth of anything I had to offer. However, feelings of inadequacy melted away as quick as diapers needed changing, baby needed comforting, and mother needed love. I took to fatherhood like crows take to rotting roadkill. I’m not saying fatherhood is easy or that I am particularly good at it, and I still find myself muttering what were You thinking sending her to me?, but all in all, I feel great (thanks largely in part to Claire’s awesome mother, Rinda).
People love to say “your life will NEVER be the same,” and they’re right (to a certain extent), but what they forget to say is, your life will never be the same and you won’t want it to be (90 percent of the time). There’s something incredible and inexplicable that happens to your life and home when a baby is a part of it and it’s worth the differences. Still, be ready for your house to smell like baby poo, no matter how often you take out the trash full of baby tacos.
I plan to write a future post that goes more in to detail about my at-home adventures with Claire (including examples of my teasing or “terrorizing,” as Rinda would call it), but for now, I’ll leave you with a photograph of Claire (it was her idea).
UNFUNNY HUSBAND MOMENT: I firmly believe that only Robert Redford and people with dark hair should grow facial hair (the 70’s was a different story). The rest of us look like schmucks. I have dirty blonde hair. My unfunny husband moment for the last 4 months: a beard. I’ve always wanted a beard and it literally cracks me up every time I look in the mirror–I look terrible in a beard. Sweet Rinda makes sure to drop little hints about how handsome I look clean-shaven but it’s not working, this joke is too good. I promised not to shave until after Christmas (for no real reason). Maybe this fall time beard growing can become a lasting tradition. Either way, I’ll be sad when It’s gone, my funny points will go down drastically.
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- Lessons of a Mom (housewifesutopia.com)
- Taye Diggs Says Fatherhood Is A Little Scary – But Easy and Romantic (theindustrycosign.wordpress.com)