So you’ve got little kids. Everything — every single, stinking, thing — is a hassle.
You miss hanging out with other adults. Another family invites you over for a simple dinner, but getting out the door is a logistical nightmare on the order of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Procuring a babysitter requires more energy than a “date night” seems to be worth. You can’t go anywhere, even out for a quick coffee with somebody, without lengthy, Kissinger-esque negotatiating and bargaining over who’s really due the time “off”.
Dinnertime through bedtime? The Witching Hour. Brutal. You want to bail with your laptop, and let your wife handle things.
I know how this goes down.
But it gets better. I’m serious.
1. Suck it up. This WILL pass. In the meantime, embrace it. Commit to being Dad.
I once had a friend who was dad of – get this! – sextuplets. They were all 18 months old. Think about that: SIX 18 MONTH-OLDS, constantly toddling about, searching, pulling, opening, crying, falling, toddling about again. It’s actually a decent idea for an M. Night Shyamalan script.
Anyway, between the two of us, he was despondent. I told him, “Man, you’re either going to be a hero, or a scoundrel.” You’re either going to step up and be a legend of a man, or a fink who walks away from six desperately needy little ones in need of their daddy.
Hero or scoundrel. And then it dawned on me: That’s true of all of us dads, I’m afraid. Every one of us. Hero or scoundrel.
Choice is yours. Go for it.
2. Change diapers – lots of them. There’s no better time to tickle a kid. They can’t squirm away. You’ve got ’em. (Tip: Put your face on the baby’s stomach, and make big raspberry noises with your mouth on his tummy. He’ll go crazy. Another tip: He won’t let you do this when he’s 13.)
The dirty diaper smell bothers you? You’ll get used to it. Don’t be so queasy. Be an actual man. That smell is the smell of a child who’s alive. A beautiful, complex, messy organism who just happens to be God’s gift to you.
3. Help your wife chill. Keep injecting humor into the chaos. This time does not last. It gets better, I promise. She’ll positively love you for this, and she won’t forget it, either.
4. Don’t be a traitor and blow your marriage, either. For some reason, I’ve known several guys who picked THIS time of life to cheat on their wives. Yes, home is stressful. Yes, your wife is busy and tired and maybe cranky. She’s in a battle. HELP HER, man. It will get better. Tell her that, too.
Put the kids to bed early. Give her time to think. Waste time together. Sit on the couch and laugh about stuff. I’ll give you some ideas: Laugh about your kids, your job, your weird relatives, your weirder neighbors.
5. Ignore the “Just wait until…” people. Tell them to shut their big yaps.
Everybody told us., “Get your sleep now! Just wait ’til that first baby is born!” Yeah, just wait. Just wait! Then, it’s “Just wait until they’re able to crawl around — THEN, life gets really hard.” And, “Just wait until they’re two years old…” and “Just wait until they get verbal skills and can sass back,” and “Well, just wait until they’re pre-teens, because…” and “Well, just wait until you have TEENAGERS, because that’s when it REALLY gets tough, and…”
Yeah, we’re on on the flip side now. And lo, the teenage years were awesome, too. So there. Punks.
(New theory: Those “Just wait until…” people? They were the brats.)
Every stage has been a better stage. No stage lasts very long. Savor them, man. Having a kid is not an 18-year long haul. It’s a series of little hauls. That kid you have now? Goodbye. She won’t be the same kid six months from now.
So tuck your newborn’s head under your chin and let her sleep on your chest. Because, I’m telling you, as soon as her pudgy little arms get the strength, she’ll start pushing off. That’s in a few weeks, sir. That’s what they do. They’re rockets, and your chest is a launchpad, and they push off, a little further, and a little further, and it never stops, until they’re quite literally out of sight.
They’re launching, and from the first separation stage to the blackness of space, it’s all good.
Change diapers. Quit whining. There’s hope. Honest.
It gets better, for sure.
But remember this: It’s already really, really good.