In a few days Ella will be seven months old. It’s truly amazing to see how quickly she’s grown — not in the “it goes by so fast” sort of thing you hear parents say all the time, but in the sense of just a few months ago she used to be a little blob of a human and now she’s babbling, kind of crawling, knows her name, recognizes things and so on.
It’s also amazing how much I’ve grown and learned as a first-time parent. The moment you think you’ve got something figured out, things change. Wonderful. I can’t wait to see what it will be like when she’s a teenager.
But there are some things I definitely figured out and the following is a list of the Top 10 Things I’ve Learned in my first six months as a dad.
10. Six hours of sleep is usually enough. It’s not ideal, but it’s usually enough. And it doesn’t have to be in a row. Largely it’s interrupted a few hours at a time. Basically, you’re living with a human rooster. If you can get six a night — aside from the feedings and the waking up to attend to crying, so really you try and go to bed at least seven hours before you want to wake up — you’ll be fine. You certainly miss the days of your mid-twenties when you could knock out nine-10 hours, but with six you can function.
9. Crying is kind of tolerable. All you’ve got to do is turn up whatever you’re listening to (TV, radio) and try and drown it out. You get used to it.
8. Don’t poke your baby. Remember when you were in college and someone would pass out insanely early? What would you do? Check and see if they were breathing, right? (Well, if you didn’t then people shouldn’t have partied with you.) Whether it was looking at their chest rising and falling or holding your hand under their nose, you figured they were OK, then went back to raging. Because of the fear of SIDs, you’re constantly checking on your child. Only thing is, your baby is so small and always wrapped in blankets you can’t always see that their chest is inhaling and exhaling and you can’t always tell if air is coming in and out of their little noses. So, what do you do, moron? You poke the kid like it’s a real-life Pillsbury Doughboy. And what does that do? It wakes the kid and then the kid starts crying. When the kid starts crying, see No. 9.
7. Babies are easy. Because everything they’re consuming is so new, they are almost like a retarded kid responding to something shiny. Oooh, look over there! So when the kid is being a pill, just clap your hands or snap your fingers or make fart noises with your mouth and the kid gets distracted. Problem solved.
6. Babies are difficult. Take everything you just read and then do it again. And again. And again. Until it’s mind-numbing. If you want to distract your kid from crying or something, clap your hands. Moments later they’ll forget about the clapping and go back to crying. Remember that whole “it’s easy to distract a child because they’re taking in a ton of things but then quickly forget about those things” from above? Well, they quickly forget why they got distracted and you end up looking like a clapping idiot making fart noises while in the grocery store.
5. Your hands will get raw. You will wash your hands a lot. I mean A LOT. Better buy stock in Palmolive. I feel bad for my dogs. All they want is a little attention; a pet here, a scratch there. After you pet Fluffy you’ve got to wash your hands if you’re going to touch your baby. Or after you’ve used a sponge. Or touched a keyboard. Or basically lived life. Why? Because babies have almost no immune system so you can probably kill them with the germs from your remote control, so you’re always soaping up. You’ll wash the skin right off your hands and go through Purell like you’re drinking it.
4. The word “silly” is code for something else. When your kid is being a turd, you can’t just say Ella! Stop being a turd! Or when she craps her diaper right after you change it you can’t say Dammit, Ella! Control your bowels! and when she won’t stop crying despite sleeping well and eating well, you can’t say Don’t be such a butthole! Nope. You have to say things like Don’t be silly! or Silly girl! all the while you’re thinking you have an asshole kid who only gets enjoyment out of torturing her parents.
3. You can’t rationalize with a child. During a 3 a.m. diaper change you think C’mon, kid, quit squirming. Lemme change this thing through half-opened eyes and then stumble back to bed. A normal person would think that is a nice compromise. An infant isn’t a normal person. While you’d love to be able to have your baby understand where you’re coming from — like, please go the fuck to sleep so that I can watch 20 minutes of television uninterrupted — she’s not going to get that. No matter how much you plead with her. Ella! It’s the bottom of the ninth and the game is tied and there’s runners on second and third with one out … please just let me watch this for three minutes. Three MF-ing minutes, that’s all I ask! — she only cares about two things: drinking from her bottle and drinking from her next bottle.
2. Don’t look your best. One of the most underrated things about having a newborn is that it gives you a “Get Out of Jail Free” card when it comes to your public appearance. Even if the shirt you’re wearing has a stain that isn’t from your child’s vomit, you can get away with wearing it because people will think you just got barfed on. If you don’t do your hair, most people will understand. If you look like a homeless person with mismatched clothing, it’s OK. Why? Because you’re dressed. Toting around an infant gives you an excuse to look like you just rolled out of the house after a meth bender.
1. Being a dad is awesome. Really, when it comes down to it, all of the above is totally worth it. There is no real description of holding your child, or making her laugh, or watching her learn things like Oh cool! There’s feet down there attached to these limbs! It will only get better once she lets me sleep, stops crying and understands the importance of sports’ late game situations.