Sunday, August 17, 2014

What No One Tells You About Becoming a Dad

At 9:01 p.m. on July 9, I became a dad. Since then, I've been doing on-the-job training. I think God makes babies adorable to make this training more bearable. Honestly, some days are a joy, and just as honestly, other days are hard . . . really, really hard. Some nights, Laurin and I are amazed at his ability to sleep for so many hours in a row, and other nights, we argue over whose turn it is to try to soothe the beast and stem the screaming.

But I've learned something from this new chapter of life. That's not to say I've got everything figured out—or anything figured out. Mostly, what I've learned are the things no one tells you about having a baby.

1) When a baby is born, his stomach is full—really full—from being in utero. That means that for the first 24 to 48 hours, new parents get to think they have the most well-adjusted, content baby on the planet. They are also free to think about every other parent they know and feel superior. I remember Jonah just lying there in his hospital-issued bassinet looking out at us without making a sound. My baby is definitely cooler than all those other babies in the nursery. Then, of course, those hours of feeling full dwindle, and the baby experiences his first real discomfort: hunger.

I am now proud of my baby's incredible, almost supernatural, lung capacity.

2) Babies steal. I know you wouldn't think so because of their soft, squishy exterior and their sweet doe eyes, but babies are the biggest ripoff artists ever. The first time I held Jonah, he stole my heart. Now, I am irrevocably attached to the little guy. I love him more than I could have imagined. As a result, I can't bear the thought of any harm coming to him. It's so bad that I think it's ruined me for any television shows or movies where children are harmed or put in danger. We've had a long run, Law & Order: SVU. I will miss that *dum-dum* sound you make between scenes.

3) Having a child fills parents with fear for the future, and also with hope. For as long as I can remember, I've always said I wanted to save a newspaper from the day each of my children are born. I think it's because of that song "Levon" by Elton John. Anyway, on the day Laurin went into labor, I asked my brother James to pick up a paper. He kindly picked up an Atlanta Journal-Constitution, our local paper, and a copy of The New York Times. The New York Times has a picture of an explosion on the front page: Israel and Hamas had just begun fighting. The AJC has details about the VA scandal. Both papers featur an article about the crisis on the border. I'm sorry, Jonah, but there were a lot of bad headlines on the day you were born. There still are.

I am afraid of the kind of world that Jonah will inherit. Will there be much of it left? And I wonder what America will be like during his teenage years. It almost certainly will not resemble the country I grew up in.

At the same time, Jonah is a blank page, innocent and new, and he has been sewn together by a loving heavenly Father for just this moment in history. He may be one of the people God uses to bring about good in this world. He will undoubtedly get to see things in his lifetime that I have only dreamed of. He can really be anything he wants—or more hopefully, anything God wants. And that thought fills me with excitement.

Nobody tells you these things before you have a kid—and it's probably because you wouldn't believe them if they did. Oh, and the poop. There's so much poop.

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