This weekend, Jill and I went out with some friends of ours. We’ve been friends with this couple for years. They were some of the first people we called when Madelyn was born. As we’ve grown closer to them, we’ve talked about our marriages (good, bad, and ugly), politics, our Christian faith, and everything in between. Until recently, I thought nothing was off limits. But I may be wrong.
While we were in the car, the girls started talking about Madelyn. Well when you talk about the activities of a three-month-old, topics are limited to the basics: eating, sleeping, puking, and pooping. This particular discussion centered around pooping and the nuances thereof. They talked about what Maddie’s poop was like when she was first born – a tarry dark brown/black sticky mess. They talked about how it changed in a matter of about 36 hours to a thinner, less sticky, brown mess. And they talked about how much nicer it is now that it’s just a yellow, seedy, soupy kinda substance.
Jill was just about to describe what Maddie’s poop does a day after we feed her formula when I looked over at Matt in the passenger seat. His face was contorted and half hidden as he reached for the window button. He looked confused, disgusted, and as if he was trapped in a small space with something that was about to explode.
It was then I realized that we talked less about politics and Christianity lately. Of course, we were one of those couples that claimed that our baby would become part of the family, but would not be the center of the family. And I think we’re still working toward this, but Maddie has certainly become one of the focal points of our conversations between ourselves and with friends.
We have friends that we’ve spent less time with now that we have a baby and they do not. In some cases, the fading or complete loss of friendship has been incredibly painful, especially for Jill. On the other hand, some of our friendships with couples with kids have grown stronger now that we have this major thing in common.
But outside of both of these types of friendships are friends that are there for us throughout the changes in our lives. They were there before we got married and after we got married, before we had kids and after we had a baby. And I know they’ll be there before and after we hit major life iceberg.
It’s great to have friends that put up with how excited we get over the color of poo.
Who isn’t interested in a headline like The Joy of Christian Sex Toys? NPR ran this story about a woman who started a website geared to Christian couples who just want to have more fun in the bedroom. The site sells sex toys and other products just like many other sites, but leaves out the pornography that often comes with the territory of most sites of this kind.
It’s Tuesday of the second week that I’ve been without a job and it’s starting to bring me down already. You’d think I’d be incredibly productive since I’ve got all kinds of time on my hands. I could finish reading all of the half-read books that are lying around, clean up the lawn, vacuum, or actually get into a disciplined writing routine. But of course, no. I’m getting less done than ever before.
My self-worth, like most males I’d imagine, is completely tied up in what I do for a living. Right now I’m doing nothing, therefore, I feel like I’m worth nothing. This is an extreme point of view, I know, but it is one of the pillars of unemployment.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun to be home with Maddie in the morning, and I know that when/if I get a job, I’ll miss being the one to put her down for naps and watch her giggle in the morning. Jill teaches until about 11:00 every day, so when she comes home I try to look like I’m working on something important. I feel ashamed if I haven’t gotten at least one significant thing done while she was gone.
“How was your morning?” she’ll ask. And I’ll rattle off a list of things that I got done already.
“Oh, you know, I ate breakfast, did the dishes, changed Maddie’s diaper, applied for a couple jobs online, peed – nothing eventful.”
My friend, Al is a stay-at-home dad and he loves it. Unfortunately, this isn’t in the cards for me. Jill is part time and we’re relying on me to pull in the primary income. If I were a best-selling author, this might work. But I’m not, so it doesn’t.
It’s not a good fit for me to be down. I’m usually up. I’m optimistic and ready to take on the unexpected. But at the moment, I’d rather just go to work.
Why hasn’t anyone thought of this invention yet? Yeah, yeah, choking hazard, blah-blah, I think all pacifiers should come with elastic headstraps.
Madelyn took two naps today while I was home. In each of them she slept for the first 25 minutes. After that she woke up and slept in an ever decreasing interval of time until I was just standing over her crib replacing her pacifier and watching her almost fall asleep before she would spit it out again and cry.
So I think it would save us all a lot of time and energy if we just made sure that our little ones always have their pacifier at the ready.
Dirty diapers, baby vomit, and Friday nights at home aren’t the things that scare me (most) about my new role in fatherhood. It’s the stuff that comes sixteen years from now when Maddie thinks I’m an idiot for not letting her surf the web on her internet visor while driving her auto-pilot hydrogen fueled hovercraft to Boston for the afternoon. “Dad, you were born in like, the twentieth century; why do you think you know what’s going on today?” she’ll say.
PBS recently ran a documentary called Growing Up Online that featured a number of parents struggling to get a grip on their children’s internet use. The show described a variety of internet abuses including cheating on homework, spending every waking moment online, and even one middle school boy who committed suicide after the bullying that he got at school carried over into online social media outlets at home and overwhelmed him. (Join the discussion on my Next Generation blog.)
The generational gap that Growing Up Online claims is widening with each new generation is what scares me most. What if there’s a gap so wide between my daughter and me that we struggle to have any sort of meaningful relationship at all? Or worse, what if Maddie makes a string of bad decisions that spiral her life into a tailspin? What if she’s not happy and I don’t know how to help her?
Last week, I sat down with the senior pastor of my church, John, to talk about the sermon series on Proverbs that we began at in January and will continue through Palm Sunday. Before I could even ask a question, John started talking about fatherhood. He told me that he’s grown to love wisdom literature in the bible more and more as his kids got older, because it helped lay the groundwork for teaching them some common sense principles that would help them avoid a tailspin.
“We live in a decreasingly common sense world,” said John. “The media paints a picture of the Donald Trump life we’re supposed to live where to accumulate possessions and wealth by any means necessary is called success.”
I glanced through Proverbs after my conversation with John and was comforted by the thought that people have been looking into this book for fundamental wisdom for almost 3,000 years. The gap between my generation and my daughter’s isn’t going to change that. In a world where new technologies become obsolete in a dozen years or fewer, and what you need to know changes every five or six years, the wisdom of Proverbs has stood for 3,000 years and will stand for 3,000 more. This wisdom doesn’t change.
Sometimes a person’s life is less like a walk down a path and more like waking up in the current of a surging river. When the landscape around you is changing faster than your eyes can focus, wisdom that doesn’t change may be the only thing keeping you from getting swept away by the fear of being a father, being a husband, or losing your job.
I don’t know how single parents do it. I’m embarrassed to confess the rage that surfaces in me when my eight-week-old baby daughter won’t stop screaming her head off. The thoughts that go through my mind after listening to an hour of non-stop wailing would get me arrested if the authorities knew. There are times that I’m pretty sure our daughter wouldn’t have survived if my wife hadn’t walked in the door at the very moment that I was about to throw the kid through a window.
Should I feel guilty about these feelings? Does everyone feel like this? I know that at least one writer/parent does. Anne Lamott writes about her son, Sam in her book, Operating Instructions:
He’s so fine all day, so alert and beautiful and good, and then the colic kicks in. I’m okay for the first hour, more or less, not happy about things but basically okay, and then I start to lose it as the colic continues. I end up incredibly frustrated and sad and angry. I have had some terrible visions lately, like of holding him by the ankle and whacking him against the wall, the way you “cure” an octopus on the dock. I have gone so far as to ask him if he wants me to go get the stick with the nails… I have never hurt him and don’t believe I will, but I have had to leave the room he was in, go somewhere else, and just breathe for a while, or cry, clenching and unclenching my fists.
When I first read this book while Jill was pregnant, I thought, “Sheesh, can’t you be the rational adult in the situation? Babies cry. That’s what they do.”
Now, I say, I feel you Anne Lamott. I feel you.
It’s 3:00 in the afternoon, I’m sitting in my office at work, and my wife and I have not exactly been firing on all cylinders lately. Due to the arrival of our first little bundle of joy (the doctor’s words, not ours), we haven’t had the energy for, or even an interest in sex for a couple of months, and I think we’re starting to feel the effects. Here’s how I know:
- I have lost much of the itch that I used to have to scratch quite often
- The patient, amused husband that my wife used to live with is gone, and has been replaced by an edgy, condescending roommate with little interest in anyone else’s daily life
- My wife tells me that we’re not “connecting”
- My wife has dreams of me cheating on her (in the morning I usually have to apologize for behaving badly in her subconscious)
All of these and a few others, are signs that it’s time to amp up the love juice, to turn down the lights and turn on the Marvin Gaye, to bring home a bottle of wine and just get crazy. This is a motivating thought and a noble challenge, and the only thing standing in the way of me filling my wife’s love tanks to overflowing is… I don’t feel like it.
Apathy and complacency are a huge threat to any relationship because they’re so hard to beat. It’s like the weapon in Batman Begins that evaporates all of the enemy’s water supply, only this weapon evaporates your very will to fight it.
So what do I do? I don’t know, I’m not brilliant at this sort of thing especially when my romantic motor isn’t running on it’s own and I’ve got to turn the crank manually. It’s going to seem forced, because it is forced. But I’m pretty sure that’s the only way to get the wheels turning again.