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John Kinnear

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The 5 Dumbest Things I Did in My First Two Years as a Father

Posted: 08/16/2012 11:18 am

My little girl turns 2 next week. I write that sentence, and yet it still feels unreal -- from both directions. I can't believe two years have disappeared and, at the same time, I feel like she's been a part of our lives for much, much longer than that. I have my theories on how this paradox occurs. One is that while a baby is crying, time slows to a crawl (pun intended) and a minute lasts an hour. If that theory proves to be true, I aged about two years just during bedtime last night.

Anyway, my wife suggested that I write a blog looking back at the last two years with our daughter. Unfortunately, such a blog would be the length of a novel, so I made a list instead.

1. I worried for the entire 9 months before she got here.

I slept less before the baby came than I did when she got here. Seriously. Miscarriage, Down syndrome, Mental Retardation, Cleft Palate, Still Born, Maternal Death, Blood Sucking Spider Baby (that one was actually a nightmare from when I did fall asleep). I worked myself up about every possibility (and impossibility). I wouldn't just worry about those things. I obsessed about them. I'd imagine how I'd react if they happened. I had conversations in my head. I bathed in my worry. It was horrible. It was a giant waste of time.

What I've learned:

It wasn't a giant waste of time because those aren't serious things. It wasn't even a giant waste of time because those things are statistically unlikely to happen. (Don't worry. I Googled the numbers in the midst of my madness. They didn't help.) It was a waste of time because my worrying had zero effect on the outcome, nor did it prepare me for something to happen if it did. If our daughter had arrived with a birth defect, illness, malady, arachnid-like features, I would have loved her. And we would have figured out the next steps. And we would have loved her. And our lives would have been made better by her existence. I know this with every inch of everything I am. It comforts me. And now, with our son less than three months from getting here, I sleep well.

2. I compared our daughter to other kids.

Our close friends' little boy, born about a week after our girl, walked first. They posted a video of it on Facebook and I went a little crazy inside. Why isn't our child walking? Are we doing something wrong? Are they doing something we're not? Did they post that video just to spite me! Did they work extra hard to teach their child to walk just to prove they're better parents? I'll show them! Child, put on those ridiculously small roller blades that I ordered from unrealparentalexpectations.com. We're making a movie!!!!

What I've learned:

One-year-olds cannot rollerblade. That, and I had unreasonably high expectations for my child's first two years of life. Aside from how to keep a kid alive, you know what I've learned in the last year? No? Neither do I. You know what my kid learned? She's learned more words of a language than I learned in all of high school and college combined. She's learned colors, shapes, animal noises and names, puzzles, spatial relations, object permanence, how to get what she wants through a combination of looks, tears and sometimes poop AND how to walk. And I would look at her and think "WHY AREN'T YOUR TEETH GROWING FASTER!?"

Kids dictate their own development schedule -- not my anxiety. And parents post videos of their kids because they're proud of them, not because they want to show off what their kid can do. (Who am I kidding, we all show off. I'm the worst offender I know.)

3. I was carrying my daughter into her room and smacked her head against the door frame.

When my wife asked why she was crying, I shrugged and said that I had no idea.

What I've learned:

Spatial relations. I'm a little behind the curve. Sorry honey!

4. I gave advice to other parents.

I was like the freshman senator who thinks he can fix the entire system with moxie and gumption and sleeping on a cot in his office! Your kid isn't sleeping? Let me tell you how I get mine to sleep. Get this ... I lie her in her bed. I think the secret is the "I lie her in her bed" part. You're welcome.

What I've learned:

Being a parent does not make you "every parent." I wish I could take back every piece of advice I gave friends with kids older than mine. I was a cocky novice with a superiority complex. Most of the things I thought I was doing right were merely gifts from the gods: easily given, easily taken away. That easy bedtime I bragged about causing with my made-up bedtime skills? Now it takes two hours. That clean nursery we claimed anyone could do if they just put in the time and effort? It's simple when your baby is a paperweight. I'm sorry. Build me a time machine and I'll go back and slap myself. And kill Hitler.

5. I didn't say "thank you" enough.

This is the big one. My mother-in-law watches our kid four days a week. My sister and her husband will babysit at a moment's notice. My father-in-law and his wonderful wife have been there on numerous occasions to lend a hand, as have my best friend and my sister-in-law. My mom, my dad, cousins and grandparents are a phone call away all day, every day.

What I've learned:

We didn't do this alone. Our family and friends have formed a support structure for us that is so integral to our lives that it leaves me choking back tears as I write this. I am endlessly grateful for all of the love that is in our life, and I know how lucky (my religious friends would say blessed) we are to have it. So I promise to say thank you more. Starting now.

Thank you. All of you.

Dad

This post originally appeared on Ask Your Dad.

 

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