Being a dad is a weird thing.

One day you’re just another guy at the grocery line – the next day you are someone’s father… forever.

I was born in 1984, in the midst of the worst Hyperinflation in world history, which led to an economic crisis and extreme instability in Bolivia.

Food was sparse, getting gas to drive was hard, and life was basically difficult in many ways.  My parents say that when my mom went into labour, they had to steal gas to get the car going, when they showed up at the hospital the doctor had just had all his tools stolen, I was delivered in 30 minutes, 1 month early, weighing 4.8 pounds, and had to be stuffed into an already occupied incubator for lack of room.  All this at 12,000 feet above sea level.

My daughter was born in 2015, 9,000 kilometers away from my dramatic entrance, 7 pounds 10 ounces, in a very nice and new hospital where the most adventuresome part was me trying to find a wheelchair only to realize you need a loonie ($1 coin) to get one out like a feeble shopping cart so I had to carry my wife into the elevator because she was in so much pain.

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As you can see, she already has a huge head start on her dad.  She’ll have access to public libraries, parks, schools, healthcare, and even the Internet (which didn’t really exist in Bolivia until I was about 15).

After your baby is born, you suddenly have a shift in focus from just making sure they are born, to having to care for and teach them everything.  EVERY.THING.

Chewing.

How to lift flaps on books.

How to sit/crawl/stand/walk.

The proper order for Star Wars Movies. (3, 4, 5, 1, 2, 3, 7, 3.5)

It’s a pretty big shift but luckily you have time to learn because they mostly sleep for the first 3 months (so catch up on your Netflix during that time, because you won’t be able to later).

Having a baby and now having a 1-year old is extremely hard and awesome.  The hard part is 1. Not knowing what you are doing and 2. Having to totally change most everything you do forever.   The awesome part is you don’t care most of the time because you love this baby so much and eventually you figure out what to do.  You learn which creams do what, how to not drop your baby, and which YouTube clips save you when they are having a crazy crying fit.

You’ll find yourself saying things like:

Ok, I think that this poop colour is good, and it’s a nice and seedy one.

I wasn’t looking for 1 second and she just ate the whole flower.

For some reason she takes one red and one white mister potatoehead arm and puts them under the pillow, every day.

It’s your turn to put on Keith Urban and try to get her to sleep  – she won’t fall asleep to any other music, so don’t even try.

 

Some things I’ve learned along the way:

  1. Talk to your kids a lot.  They totally know what you are saying but you won’t be able to tell for a while.  One day out of nowhere she started talking back – it’s insane.  “WHhuuu you mean you’ve been listening this whole time??”
  2. Sing a lot, but not too much because it will annoy your partner.  My wife tells me I sing way too much to our daughter, it’s true.  We play piano together, guitar, ukelele, and we have a little drum. She mostly chews the instruments, but I think it’s a good start
  3. Things change fast, be ready to adapt.  One day they are sleeping 4 naps a day, the next day it’s 2, and then it’s 1 nap, back to 2, back to 1.  Crawling, walking, talking, soft poops, hard poops – it’s a constant flux.
  4. Be extra good to your partner, it goes a long way.
  5. Try to be present all the time.  This one is hard because honestly reading RSS feeds on my phone is way more interesting than building the same tower of blocks for the 200th time, but that block tower is much much more important.

I’ve also made a lot of mistakes:

  1. Take time to just talk with your partner, you can get carried away doing a lot and forget to just chat
  2. Get out of the house
  3. Don’t just be the “fun” parent
  4. Don’t sing so much, it annoys your wife
  5. If you give her a USB cord to soothe her, don’t expect it to work after

I had no idea how fun and challening being a dad would be.  Challening because you’re constantly learning and adapting to change, and there are many bumps in the road.  Fun because you get to experience life all over again, from the start.  It reminds you of how simple life is, and how you can find joy in the weirdest things, like putting Spuderman’s (spiderman + mister potatoehead) eyes in his head, and taking them out, over and over again.  Or the amazing joy of destroying the tower that dad just built, and laughing maniacally about it.  Or how hiding behind a curtain can be the best thing about your day.

I remember once a wise man named Eugene told me this: kids are a gift to teach us all the things we forgot along the way.  It’s very true.

3 thoughts on “Year 1 – dad field guide

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