August 5, 2007

Fatherhood: Being in Denial

Being a father pretty much means that you spend a lot of your life in denial. When your baby girl spends another evening screaming (until she gets fed, then she only whimpers a little while), your mind gets all twisted funny and you say "she's beautiful" when strangers ask you how she is. Screaming baby is probably the worst sound ever, and that includes things like nails on chalkboard, John Phillips Sousa, squealing tires, or the words "it'll probably be fine."

I never realized this until I became a father myself, but it really makes a lot of other things come into perspective, like how after several years suddenly you say "hey, let's do it again!" I can't imagine having another child right now, Rori is pretty much the hardest thing we've ever done. But I imagine after a few years, I'll conveniently forget sleepless nights (I'm not complaining, they're worse for my poor wife), red-eye days, and the sound of a screaming infant. I'll say "you know, this was the best thing we ever did, let's do it again!" and we will. I've heard parents say it's not as bad the second time, but I'm not sure that I believe them; they must've gone through the denial process as well, since they have more than one child, so they can't really be trusted.

People with four or five kids ... or seven ... are really off their rocker. I don't know what they were thinking.

But there are other parts of being in denial. For one, I suddenly started wondering about every word that came out of my mouth. Liz spends all her time with Rori, which means that she gets ALL the screaming, which inevitably leads to new vocabulary words that neither of us intended. Me, I went the other way, worrying that the smallest mishandle could turn my child into a psycho-killer or some kind of freak, like a circus clown or a laywer or something. You never can be too careful; I don't want to scar her for life, that costs money later on for shrinks and drugs that just aren't that healthy.

Another part is that I stopped buying stuff. Ok, not true - I stopped buying stuff for ME. Who knew there could be so much crap for a baby? There's the stroller, the crib, the little seat thingummy which is neither a stroller nor a crib (papazan?), there's the high-chair, there's the special tub, the diaper genie, there's the porto-crib, the hundreds of batteries of various (and uncommon) sizes, and of course, the piles and piles of diapers. Now, we were really fortunate to have fantastic family and friends that helped us a lot with most of this stuff (ex: we have yet to buy our own diapers), but at the same time, I don't make a ton to supplement. Coldstone and the Optometrist's offices pay decent, but only in the last month or so. So when I discovered that we had to travel, I wondered how I could get there fastest without using up too much gas. Is it more efficient to fill up at half-a-tank or at empty? Which is the best place to get gas? Can we pack more food and just forego restaurants? Do we have to take breaks every hour for Rori or can Liz sit in the back and feed her a bottle of the free formula we got from the hospital?

Yeah. I know.

The hardest part is being in denial about my time. There are a lot of things I like to do; I like to write, to read, to play my guitar, to listen to music, to talk to friends online, to peruse various websites, to do dinner out, to go to movies ... and most of them I haven't done in a while. For Liz it's worse, she can't even get basic house chores done without the baby squealing about being put down (and apparently the fancy baby bjorn gizmo isn't good enough, Rori hates it so far). But I still feel a twinge about the stuff I have to give up. I miss having hours to write about whatever. I miss being able to talk about nothing with my friends for hours online (sharing dumb websites with pictures of cats). I miss being able to just go to a movie or dinner with Liz. These days I get to snatch a few minutes each day at work to add a few more sentences to a post or to edit a picture. I miss having free time.

And yet here I am. It's not like I have a huge choice in the matter at this point, but I still think I'd prefer to give up this stuff rather than send her back. I love my daughter. I didn't believe it'd happen, but there really is something remarkable about having your own child. I'm not really into kids much; I like adults, they can hold intelligent conversations with you. But put Rori in my arms and I turn into a blathering idiot who exaddurates his smiles and coos in the most bizzare fashion. I've learned the baby bounce, which consists of making up a dance while simultaneously patting her back and bouncing my arms. It doesn't always work, so then I have to make up something else (Liz has gotten really good at this).

Maybe being in denial isn't such a bad thing. Scripture says that God is such a father as well; is it that he built us with these tendencies? Did God make us guys to be fathers willing to lay down all that's important to us so that our daughters and sons could grow up to be the best they can? I think so. I'm still in the brooding stage - it's never going to be an easy thing to be in denial - but I hope that eventually this will be second nature for me. I hope that I can do as good a job as my father did; I learned so much about giving up for my daughter from him. I remember wondering why it was that when we went out to the store, why it was that even though my sister and I got stuff, and sometimes even my Mom, Dad never did. Dad loves sailing, but for my mother and sister he invested to buy a pair of horses (and not a boat). I learned about that part of God from Dad. I hope and pray that, like Dad did for us, I can tell my daughter that she gets what's best for her even when it means I have to give up what I thought I wanted.


shawna said...

That was great to read Chris...I'll keep praying for you guys! By the way its better to fuel up from empty and then only fuel up half way because the lighter your car the more fuel effiecient :)

Laura said...

Denial is probably God's gift to all new parents...heck, to ALL parents! How else would we endure poop rivers, projectile vomiting, being suddenly awakened at night by screaming that can only be described as blood curdling, lack of sleep, lack of adult interaction, lack of freedom, lack of showering, lack name it!
I think denial is how we can shut out ALL that stuff so we can still look at our adorable little monsters and love them SO much we think our exhausted bodies will explode :-)
I hope that soon she will be doing a little less screaming and a little more cooing :-). By the way, I think Rori is an adorable nickname!

Dan said...

good thoughts on fatherhood... one of these days I'm sure I will join the ranks, and like you, hope to emulate my earthly father and heavenly father.