Fatherhood

I've been reading a lot of Anne Lamott lately, and she very truthfully puts so many things into words that I've been feeling lately (thanks Alli for the recommendation!). I think fatherhood, at least the early parts of it that I've experienced is so difficult to describe, I'm asked questions that I either don't understand what the question is, or don't have the words to answer, or don't have the mental capability to form the sentences that would be an appropriate answer. I think fatherhood, and parenthood, are so difficult to talk about without experiencing, perhaps like explaining the joy being in love would be to explain to an 8 year old who thinks girls have cooties. Again, probably the wrong words, but fitting metaphors have never been my forte.

Even the simplest questions, "how is fatherhood?", "how are you feeling?", "aside from the sleep deprivation, how is everything?", and "I guess you just learn to function on no sleep right?". I have a blank stare, perhaps because I only have a few hours of the day when the world does not appear to be a haze, and when I'm not attending to the baby, working, eating, or sleeping. It's almost Thursday, and since Saturday night I don't think I've been to bed before 4am, and last night bed just didn't happen for me at all. Classes start at 9am each day with me having had my 2nd or 3rd coffee to try to be able to focus for the hour and a half (or this week, teaching classes on no sleep).

The only description that I have made that makes sense so far is that the experience is very "spikey", very high highs, and low lows. When she cries, and is fussing, and I'm exhausted beyond my limits, I don't remember what her sleeping face looks like, what the joy was supposed to be, or why I ever thought I could handle being a dad. When she stares up at me with a happy face, moving those little arms around randomly and kicking away while I change her poop filled diaper, those are good moments. In those moments I don't remember things ever being hard, and her face as she coos at me seems to say, "I love you dad, it's so good to see you! Listen, I'm really sorry about all that screaming at you last night, I didn't mean what I said, I promise it will never happen again, unless I poop, am hungry, or just decide to cry for a while in the night."

So many things were unexpected, they don't tell you these things in "what to expect when your expecting" because it would scare parents to much, and we need kids in the world. "You're life as you know it and your sense of control will be gone. What? You blocked off a few hours to work on a paper, sorry, the baby's awake and needs you. What? You have to use the bathroom? You can't hold the baby and sit on the toilet, I think there are laws against that, hold it in until mom comes home. You know how other things in your life involve solvable problems, and you can work harder, or learn to fix things? If you want to fix the dishwasher, you can have the satisfaction of taking it apart and cleaning the disposal blades and it will be fixed. If you have a paper to write you do some reading, and collect and run some data, write, and you will have finished a paper. With kids there is no task, there is no beginning, end, or solution. They will cry, and you will try 1,523 things to get them to stop, and they won't work. They will decide to stop eating for 12 hours for no reason, and then start up again like nothing happened. They will sleep a solid four hours, then be awake and refuse to sleep the rest of the night. You are not brilliant, you are not skilled, you will just have to be there with your child in those moments. But don't worry, they won't remember any of this. Until they have kids, they won't understand the depth of love and commitment you have for them, or the sacrifices and time you've spent with them in their pain and your pain. On the plus side, they are really quite beautiful when they sleep, and parenting will be the hardest job you will ever love."

Everyone says it goes by fast, I can see that now for several reasons. The first is because it just does, when you get older you get used to a month going by without much change in your life: things are the same this month as they were last month. Not with kids, one month they grow by a third the size they were last month and change incredibly. Another reason is that your mind is so fuzzy I can't remember the names of anything, can't remember where I put my glass of water, or why there are stains on my shirt, who I told I would email, and why I was walking down to the basement anyway? I don't remember much of anything that is happening, as Anne Lamott described, sometimes these memories are like dreams, where you experience them and you wake up knowing it was a good dream, but can't for the life of you remember what happened or why. Perhaps this is why I was inspired to write a few things down, so I remember, and maybe someone else remembers what these moments are like. Maybe that's why people take so many baby pictures, they change so much, and you can hardly remember your own phone number let alone the events of the day or what your daughter looked like when they made that silly face or grabbed her toes.

When we came to Pittsburgh I was most grateful for the community of friends we became a part of, they have been wonderful and have showed us the love of God in so many ways. We've loved being with them, laughing with them, crying with them, and marveled at the beauty discovering with them the journey and paths of our lives. In this past month, I've come to appreciate our friends tenfold. This week I had one of the worst days I can remember having in a long time, and after venting some in the car (to put it lightly) I just said a brief prayer for something redeemable in this day, for some strength to get through the week without losing my mind. That night exhausted I dragged myself out of the house to our guy's night I had one of the best times I've had in a long time spending time with some dear friends, laughing until my stomach was soar and I thought my Yuengling would come out my nose. Prayer answered.

What a season of life. I find myself smiling when I see parents and their young daughters laughing, running, and playing at the library, at the park, or at church as I imagine what Sophia will look like, what her smile will be like, will she have brown hair, dark hair, will she be tall, short, will she still be wearing those adorable headbands when she's 8? But as Lisa has reminded me our friend BB told her and I strongly agree, "don't wish any of this away, this is hard but this is short, she will grow up soon enough and you will wish for these times again." She will not always fit like a football on my forearm, or flail her arms and legs wildly, or stare into my face for 10 minutes at a time. I love fatherhood, I love my daughter, I dearly love my wife, and I don't wish to be anywhere but here, now, in this time, in this place with the family I've been blessed to call my own.