Recently, I found out that a good friend was going to be a father. When I heard the news, I smiled. I thought about how wonderful my son is and what a big part of my life he has become, and I was genuinely happy for my friend. I rushed out to congratulate him in person. While sitting and chatting with him I could see the look in his eyes. The same look I had when I was a soon to be dad. That look of uncertainty mixed with slight panic and excitement all rolled up into one. His brain on overload as he plans for the future.
When I was in his shoes there were people there to tell me it was going to be great, that everything would work out, that I would be great at being a dad. They were all correct. Part of me thinks I should tell my friend the same sorts of words.
But I’m not going to.
Instead, I’m going to give him a little advice on what to do with the time he has left. My friend’s life is going to take a wonderful turn in a few months, but for now there are plenty of things he should do. This advice is for him and anyone else who will be experiencing parenthood for the first time.
Get outside. Spend the summer hiking, biking, swimming, running, camping and doing all those other wonderful activities. It will be a few years before your child is old enough for you to enjoy all these activities with them, so get a few extra weekends in now.
Listen to loud music. Crank up your favorite grunge albums in the house, go see local shows, spend the extra money to catch your favorite summer tour when it stops in Boston. Just remember not to plan any of this for when your wife is getting close to her due date. You won’t want to miss holding her hand because your crowd-surfing at a Muse show.
Take your wife to the movies. Do it often. Buy popcorn, sneak in candy and catch the big summer blockbusters. Go even if there is nothing good playing. But don’t go to the sketchy theater with the uncomfortable seats, or to anything longer than two hours (your wife will appreciate that).
Have expensive beer when you are out at dinner. Actually, have two (you have a driver for the next 9 months).
Read pregnancy books so you at least have an idea of what that demon you planted in your wife’s stomach is doing. But don’t read them before bed. These books are all the same. Each chapter starts with a few bullet points of how your baby’s development is going, then it goes on for 20 pages about all catastrophic shit that will definitely be wrong with your child. It’s enough to keep you up for hours at night worried your child will come out with two tails and their heart on the outside of their chest.
Don’t spend a lot of time deciding on a middle name. No one will use it and it doesn’t matter very much. Think of it more like the mistake name, or the runner up. I spent weeks thinking about my son’s before going with the middle name Stone. I love the name but I never use it. So don’t worry about it. That family name that you hate inserts itself very nicely in the middle. Or have a little fun. For a girl go with Rain, Meadow or Ke$ha. For a boy maybe something like Megatron or T2R9.
Buy all the stuff you need to baby proof, but don’t put any of it up. Your kid won’t be able to hold its head up, let along run down a flight of stairs or drink dishwasher detergent fresh out of the womb, so you have time. Plus, cabinets that don’t open and baby gates are annoying so you will want them up as little as possible.
Say the F-word a lot. Get it out of your system.
Go to your favorite restaurant twice before your child is born. Go once and have a great meal with your family, friends and wife. Then go once just before your child is born and order something off the menu you hate. If you like everything, then order your steak overdone. This will help you to not miss it so much all those nights you’re eating cold cereal at home in between diaper changes.
Go to parenting classes. If for no other reason then to look around the room and wonder which pregnancies were planned and which were a surprise. Make it a fun game you play with your wife. It will also help you to remember that you are not alone.
Finally, breathe. It is going to be great. It won’t always seem like it. There will be some dark days ahead where you doubt everything, but that all passes. Parenting is truly a wonderful gift that is impossible to understand until you are one. It sounds cliche but it’s true. So relax because your going to be a father……and that is an awesome thing.