Saturday, October 29, 2016

Earning the Title of Dad


I still can't believe I'm a Dad. Yes, there's a tiny human in my house, and I'm entrusted to care for him. But the title feels unfamiliar. Dads give advice and play baseball in the park. I run to Rite Aid to pick up butt paste and gripe water. Yet, each day is full of small moments that bring me one step closer to Dad.

Before we had Michael, I'd often see Dads in their natural environment: grocery stores, parks, or the mall. They all looked confident and capable. Pushing strollers, giving piggyback rides, or holding tiny hands. I was equally impressed by close friends who seemed to transition overnight from bars and booze to bottles and birthday parties. I'm now learning that it's a slow evolution. Each day is a tapestry of small moments that contribute to my transformation.

I want to document these moments, in no particular order, so I can reflect on this time of change.

Baby Smiles

I live for Michael's smiles. On some mornings I will be sleep deprived and stressed out. I'm in no mood for elephant noises or itsy-bitsy spiders. And then, Michael's eyes will sparkle like diamonds and his face will crack into a goofy grin. I cannot resist his joy. Like the Grinch, my heart grows three sizes, and I find myself singing and dancing in spite of myself. Each smile is like witnessing a glorious sunrise. Sometimes, after slurping a large bottle, he'll fall asleep in my arms with a satisfied smirk plastered on his face. He's dreaming about anteaters, aardvarks, and other animals that start with "A".


Music

Michael has started to play the piano. Unlike your typical concert grand, Michael's piano is covered in cloth and plays frog noises. Hey, everyone's gotta start somewhere. On a typical Saturday morning you can find him banging away in his swing. Each key press ignites a pair of flashing lights and a short pre-programmed song. "Ding", we hear, as he flails at the cloth-covered keys. "Ding, ding, ding" come the notes in rapid succession. He winds up before each key press like a Major League baseball pitcher about to chuck a fastball. "Ding" his tiny fist comes slamming down. As the recital winds down, he becomes cranky. The concert pianist is ready for a nap.



Bath Time

Bath time is a sacred hour of the day where I get to spend some one-on-one time with Michael. It starts with his favorite rap song "Purple Stuff" by Big Moe. He dances enthusiastically while the tiny tub fills with water. "Throw your hands high", go the lyrics, "and shake them side to side". I gently wave his arms back and forth, pump his legs to the beat, and flash dopey smiles like a circus clown. He's beside himself with glee. Soon, I'm hoping, this effort will coax out his first baby giggle.

Once the tub is ready, I lower him into the water. It is a wonderfully warm, freeing, pee-inducing sensation. It happens every time, even if he just had a wet diaper. He looks at me quizzically while the tiny stream shoots into the air. Melody, our long hair dachshund, flits around the bathroom nervously, supervising the action. I splash his tiny fists. He wriggles, kicks his legs, and slouches deeper into the water. I soap his body, hose him down with the shower head attachment, and then wrap him up in a towel like a baby burrito.



Bottles

At our house, baby meals are constantly evolving. It's a never ending endeavor to get things just right. He's been breastfed, bottle-fed, formula-fed, and now we're mixing in baby cereal. This was a recommendation by our pediatrician to combat acid reflux. It has been helping but makes meal preparation surprisingly complex. Luckily, Jenna has helped me out by taping instructions to the fridge. The ratio of cereal-to-milk must be finely tuned so that the consistency is just right.

And don't worry, Michael will let you know when he's ready to eat. His smile slowly inverts into a frown and he becomes a very unhappy camper. My circus clown routine ceases to entertain. No amount of bouncing, rocking, or singing stems the flood of tears. But the bottle is like a mute button. As soon as it goes in his mouth all becomes quiet except for his greedy gulps.

The milk gone, I lift him to my shoulder and slowly pat out the air bubbles. His eyes droop with satisfaction. He lets out a satisfying burp and drifts into a peaceful sleep.



Mom and Dad

Last night, Jenna and I put on our grown up clothes and drove into Portland for a date night at Blue Spoon on Munjoy Hill. I had flash backs to our former lives when this used to be an every-weekend routine. Last year, we dressed up as Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf. This year, we're having a relaxing evening with Grandma and Grandpa. There's no denying that we're in the midst of major change. Just as I'm becoming Dad, Jenna is becoming Mom, and it's been wonderful to observe her transformation.

All around us, life continues to move forward at a rapid clip. Soon I'll have a wobbly toddler and I'll wonder how I got there. I'm looking forward to hiking with my son, camping in the back yard, and building tree forts in the woods. That's when I will truly have earned the title of Dad.

For now, I'm enjoying every moment of change.