One of my favorite bloggers contributed to an article at The Morning News about fatherhood. It's a roundtable discussion featuring several people funnier than I am. I wasn't invited.
Well, we don't need them. I'll ask and answer my own questions right here, somewhat inspired by The Morning News questions, but specifically tailored to paint a picture of me as the perfect father. Take that, funny people!
What was the biggest surprise about parenting?
I had no idea how hard children are to entertain. Just when you figure out what entertains a one year-old, the kid turns two. This vicious cycle will continue until I embarrass her so thoroughly in front of her schoolmates that she refuses to have anything to do with me.
Maybe my kid was just extraordinarily difficult. Perhaps other children get off on shaking a rattle or tickling Elmo, but my daughter had much higher standards. I had entire slapstick performances choreographed, merely to elicit the tiniest smile from her.
Then, as she grew older, and my bones grew brittler, the slapstick got shelved, replaced by "playing". My daughter loved pretend games, but they all had the same basic format. She'd want to pretend that she was some sort of baby, and I was some sort of daddy. The fact that she WAS A BABY and I WAS A DADDY didn't seem to detract from her insistence that we play this "pretend" game. Of course, we couldn't be regular babies and daddies. We'd have to be a baby kitten and a daddy kitten, or a baby aardvark and a daddy aardvark. At some point she ran out of animals, so it seemed like we'd be pretty much any random baby noun and daddy noun. Have you ever tried being a daddy coffee table? It strained my knowledge of the Stanislavski method.
Are you a good dad?
How would I know? I know she's a great kid. She's well-behaved, and smart, and fun, and creative, and loving. Can I take credit for that?
I make sure that her cryhole gets stuffed with food on a regular basis and that she doesn't get too filthy. Her clothes mostly fit and she seems to regard me with affection. I also keep the kitchen clean. Is that good enough?
I'm not so good at the whole emotional part of parenting though. When my daughter is crying, I'm likely to respond by merely asking her why she's crying. Meanwhile my wife scoops her up and gives her the sympathy and nurturing that human children seem to enjoy. Silly humans.
What's the worst part of parenting?
I hated being the father of a screaming infant. She screamed all the time for the first four or five months of her life. The screaming would start even before she opened her eyes in the morning and would continue throughout the day, sporadically ceasing during an hour of sleep here and there. It was a horrible horrible time in my life. I went from being a generally amiable guy to being referred to as "Mr. Surly" by my coworkers.
As it turns out, if you give me only three to four hours of sleep a night, for months at a time, I turn into a complete asshole.
What's the best part of parenting?
That's probably a tie between the enthusiastic greeting I'll get if I haven't seen her in a while (a while being more than 8 hours) and the tremendous joy I get watching her do something new.
I remember the first time she made it across the monkey bars, and the first time she jumped rope, and now I'm watching her learn to read. I don't understand exactly why this makes me proud. It's not like I'm the one scampering across the monkey bars. Nor is she doing something extraordinary. My understanding is that all kids eventually learn to read, at least the ones in the blue states (just joking, red states! I know you wouldn't leave your children behind). It is, however, inexplicably thrilling to watch.
Will you have another kid?
Can you promise me that the next one won't cry so damn much?