7 Things No One Told Me About Being a Father In the 1980s
Editor's Note: My father finally wrote a post for Lies About Parenting! Happy Father's Day, Dad, and sorry about those teenage years. ;-) Love you.
Advice vs. Experience
Free advice is generally worth what you paid for it, so this is not advice. It’s more like a reality check and what I’ve experienced that I hope might be shared with prospective fathers stepping into the minefield of raising a family.
Not that I’m cynical or making the slightest suggestion that having kids isn’t worth the effort, I’m just saying that if you know what you’re getting into, you’ll handle it better and be prepared (like ‘handling’ drugs or alcohol). Here's 7 lessons learned as the parent of a millennial.
You Have a Choice (Sort Of)
So guys, first there’s the “Big Decision.” To have or not have kids? If you can’t assess the pros and cons of timing a family, you probably won’t be reading this anyway.
Just one thing ; give input, but let your partner guide the decision. She’s the one with a ticking biological clock and the womb, not you. She’s the one who will agonize about balancing time away from career vs. time with baby.
The Trip Home
Almost forgot - when bringing the baby home, even if your wife insists on going into the pharmacy because she needs to walk a bit, do NOT step out of the car to stretch while leaving the baby inside. Especially when you borrowed a large car because you can’t get a baby seat into your two-seater convertible (mental note: buy new car), and you’re unfamiliar with power locks….
Your first solo parenting decision should not come down to breaking a window thereby traumatizing the newborn, or looking for a coat hanger. (We found a coat hanger at a nearby dry cleaner. The baby was fine. It was the 80s, so relax.)
The First Months (and Years)
You’re sure something terrible is happening in that crib in the next room. It isn’t. Don’t be gripped in a continuous cycle of fear (like me) which only lessens after thirty years (a bit).
The fear walking out of that baby’s room and turning off the light can best be compared to night combat in dense jungle. You both will survive. Converting fear to simple worry is the goal, and great for your stomach.
This also applies to first nights when the kid is out with the car, away at camp, traveling as a roadie with a rock band…
Picture your hard earned savings as a pile of cash in a big box as opposed to a neatly printed 401k statement.
Now picture the wand of an industrial vacuum cleaner, like the ones they use in theaters to pick up popcorn containers, sucking up the contents of your hard-earned box.
This is the only financial information you will need, unless you have a daughter, which is a whole different level of financial pain. Comparing raising boys to girls is like comparing the life cycle maintenance cost of a Kia to a Bentley. Names? We considered Bentley and Hatteras.
We were lucky. We lived in Quebec and received a Permit to Conceive from the Provincial and Federal Governments. Our essay submission was good, and being upwardly mobile professionals, we were delighted to learn that the authorities granted permission for not one but TWO kids.
Editor's Note: He's kidding, sort of. The province of Quebec, Canada, fought to an independent country for many years. Quebec did not want English-speaking residents.
Yep, you read that right.
French lettering on signs had to be larger than any English wording, and a Certificate of Eligibility was required to send children from English-speaking families to English-speaking, French-immersion schools (figure that one out).
Our family moved to the United States in 1991 due to the very real (and scary) discrimination and hatred towards English-speaking residents. Bomb threats, protests, and more.
Discrimination isn't always just about color or religion.
The Terrible Twos
Fact, not fiction - you can run, but they will find you. When my wife was in our new, not completed home and the power went out for days, I consoled her by phone and gave tips on managing firewood consumption (away for work and still unsure if I've been forgiven).
Fireplace cooking with a newborn and a two year old is a skill everyone should learn if you live in a cold climate that sometimes loses power.
The Teen Years
Way too painful to recount. Skipping this part. Just keep going.
Was it worth it?
Yes, Hell YES, although I sometimes consider it in the context of how my Dad described being a combat infantryman; "I wouldn't do it again for a million dollars, but I wouldn't take a million dollars for the experience."
"I wouldn't do it again for a million dollars, but I wouldn't take a million dollars for the experience." - WWII soldier #fathersday
But I'd do it again. This time I'd be the Perfect Dad with the Perfect Kids.
Believe that? Then I have some real estate opportunities -- we need to talk.