Dad stuff

What They Didn’t Tell Me about Fatherhood

It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything.

Aside from a homily for Isla’s baptism, I haven’t written anything but grocery lists and emails for almost 9 months. For some, that’s no big deal, but for someone who used to get paid to write, that’s a serious gap.

When I stopped that gig, I told myself I’d keep writing. Lie…

Even my computer knows I haven’t written in a while. I tried (for twenty-ish minutes) to get Evernote to load, but to no avail. It’s like the program was trying to shield itself, me, and any potential eyes from what ever garble I pounded out on these rusty fingertips with this mushy mind.

Evernote won (or it thought it did) because I’m scratching this out old school on pen and paper. But even the paper didn’t want to be found. Options are limited on paper/pen hunts when your wife and daughter are still asleep (along with the rest of this timezone).

But at least I’m writing.

But, why am I writing? The immediate reason is my daughter’s cries at 3:54 am. She couldn’t find her pacifier. Once she did, she cried off and on for the next hour, during which I thought about how hard it is to be a father, at least for me. More on that in a minute.

The other reason I’m writing is this may be the only way I can work through my life (not $$, more existential wrestling). I’m holding out hope this is absolutely not true. I’ve tried a number of other things that haven’t hit the spot in the last ten months, so what’s one more? Writing is like that old friend who you just tolerated, but keeps hanging around and wants to play, until you slam the door in his face. 

These ten months of being a dad (and likely the eight before) have been some of the most difficult of my life. I thought grad school was tough, but it pales in comparison.

Back to the present, I can dig up more ghosts in future posts.

I tried to go back to sleep for an hour. Nope. Not a chance. This wouldn’t be particularly remarkable except that we just got back from vacation. And it was wonderful: we didn’t do much of anything, just hung with some good friends from out Durham days in South Carolina. I kayaked, paddle boarded, lounged in and around the pool, drank, ate, rinse, wash repeat. Seven glorious days.

But as relaxing as all that sounds, I‘ve never come back from a vacation more exhausted. My wife asked, “What about Paris?” (We went a year and a half ago, sans enfant). The whole time in the city of light, we went non-stop: sight seeing and touristing every spare second that week. Still, I’ve never been more exhausted than right now.

Aside: This is the point when the old version of me would back pedal and make comments about how I know I don’t work as hard as other people. Or, say my life is really effortless and for the most part, or I know it’s an unbelievable luxury that I can go on vacation at all. But that pretense feels as dead to me as my writing has been. All those things may be true, but I can’t live that self-flagellating existence right now. This is me, this is where I’m writing from.

Aside aside, as I lay in bed hoping for sleep, thoughts of writing about being a dad jumped from one sleepless part of my mind to another. I had toyed with the idea before. People around me prodded me to give it a shot, but I couldn’t imagine what I might say:

“Divine Daddying: Theological Tips to Parent like your Abba Father” or “Your Best Kid Now: Claiming the Fatherhood You Always Wanted.”

But in my fitful early morning, I kept thinking of things they don’t tell you as a soon-to-be father.

The only one I could think of that sounded half original: Vacations will never be restful again.

Seasoned parents and Hollywood comedies may joke and warn about sleepless nights in early infant days or no sex after you have kids, but no one ever told me about vacation.

Notice I didn’t say vacations won’t be fun, enjoyable, a great chance to spend time with your family outside of whatever normal daily routine dictates the other fify-one weeks of your year. The last week has been one of the best for me as a dad. My daughter is ten months old. She plays and smiles, throws herself on my chest and cuddles. I loved taking her to the beach and pool, experiencing the world through her eyes. I have probably been more patient and caring (read: less selfish) in the last week than at any other point as her father, but it didn’t gain me anything in the rest department.

How I used to do beach vacation:

  1. Sleep until I couldn’t anymore.
  2. Run
  3. Drink coffee
  4. Swim suit/sunscreen/pack cooler with brews/margaritas for beach
  5. Sit on beach til lunch
  6. Repeat earlier routine
  7. Dinner
  8. Sleep

How this vacation went:

  1. Wake up when daughter wakes up
  2. Wife nurses daughter (I make coffee)
  3. Change diaper
  4. Feed her solid food
  5. Play with her until nap time
  6. Go to pool downstairs, praying she takes a long nap
  7. She wakes up
  8. Apply sunscreen to every square inch of her body/put her in swim diaper/put on rash guard
  9. Go to pool and be constantly vigilant she is happy and doesn’t hurt herself.
  10. Eat lunch
  11. Put her down for another nap
  12. Repeat earlier routine
  13. Play with daughter while wife gets ready for dinner
  14. Go to restaurant and hope you have enough toys/distractions packed
  15. Be constantly vigilant she doesn’t melt down and ruin other patrons’ dining experience
  16. Eat fast, try to enjoy your food/cocktail
  17. Go home and put her down
  18. Enjoy too many evening hours of freedom
  19. Go to bed
  20. Wake up too early
  21. Do it again

This account misses all the splashing and fun, but it does highlight just how unrestful is vacation as a dad.

So, consider yourself warned dads and dads-to-be: When you put in vacation request at work and look forward to that coveted break, know it will be a wonderful time with your spouse and child(ren), but it will not be restful.

Starbucks is finally open, I’m going to get coffee.

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4 thoughts on “What They Didn’t Tell Me about Fatherhood

  1. He’s back! I love it…
    BTW…in my few years at attempting to parent I’ve learned that you vacation with your wife…you take trips with the kid(s)!

  2. You have it figured out. For me, four kids and 19 years of parenting brought 15 years of vacations without the luxury of ever closing one’s eyes while on the beach. But vacation times are the most wonderful times with kids. They just cease to be restful. Thanks for sharing and good luck adapting to the changes.

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