Andy Janning gives survival tips to the new dad who is faced with a loud and mysterious being who has drained him of sleep, food and coherent thought.
First things first: your child isn’t possessed.
It seems that way right now, covered as you are in some noxious combination of your newborn’s vomit, poop, pee, slobber, snot, and tears while s/he wails at a decibel level that made the airport file a noise complaint against you.
Or those could be your bodily fluids caked into your formerly-favorite-but-now-toxic-waste-dump of a t-shirt because you haven’t had the time or energy to wash anything except BabyScreamsALot for a fortnight. No matter. Not gonna judge you, man.
Second, you’re probably wondering what you got yourself into. At some point in the distant past, you looked into your wife’s eyes and imagined what it would be like to create a new life, to guide a heaven-sent soul through the world. You counted the costs, analyzed risks and rewards, and set off on your parenting journey.
And now here you are, cradling something loud and mysterious that’s drained you of sleep and food and coherent thought, disrupted your personal hygiene routine, annihilated your budget, made you question the meaning of life itself, and resisted your every attempt to reason with it
Kinda like Candy Crush, but with a mouth and bowel movements.
I’ve been there, buddy. Here are a few survival tips:
You’ll Go Crazy
Shaving with a toothbrush. Waking up at 3:31am to take the dog out. Realizing while shivering alone in the yard at 3:38am you haven’t had a dog for 4 years. Creating a 17-car backup at the McDonald’s drive-thru because they can’t tell you how long it will be for an oil change. Ranting against both Adam and Eve for their unfortunate choice in fruit snacks.
These are just a few of the borderline psychotic episodes you’ll have as a new dad, all of which could very well be experienced on your way home from the hospital. Fatigue and stress will do this to you. It’s ok. It’ll pass. Your ability to form complete sentences will return in time.
Your Hobbies Will Die
Your Xbox will get dusty. So will that jalopy you’ve been restoring since forever. The weekends spent hunting for deer, beer, or golf balls will get hijacked by marathon sessions of peek-a-boo. The Harley on your home screen will get booted for Junior’s toothless grin. Let this happen. You’re holding your new hobby for the next couple decades, and it’s the only one that matters.
Your Cave Will Kill You
Will you get to the end of your rope at times? Yes. Will you need a break? Yes. But despite what the world begs you to believe, your relief isn’t found inside a man cave. We’ve got too many men buried in too many caves today, cowering inside dark tunnels lined with booze, drugs, porn, work, food, gadgets, HD inanity, pointless projects, wasteful days with the boys and wasted nights with the girls, desperately trying to prolong a childhood they don’t have the guts to outgrow.
The best thing you can buy is a few hundred meals with men older and smarter than you, who sacrificed their selfish desires to lead their family through a culture bent on devouring it.
The greatest man who ever lived hung out in a cave for three days, but that’s only because He was dead. Jesus loved His children enough to climb out of the hole and change their world. Do you?
You’re Still Her Husband
She’s tired in ways you don’t understand. Stressed and stretched beyond reason…and she needs you. Not just to take a 4am feeding or change another diaper or fold another basket of burp rags and onesies. Make no mistake: she’d thank you for all that but if you stop there, you’re just a live-in housekeeper with B.O. and a beard.
She needs your hands to hold her when she can’t endure another thrilling round of “Let’s Blow Chunks, Mommy!” Your words to help her remember why you married her in the first place, and why you would all over again. A heart soft and safe enough to let hers break, and a mouth wise enough to know when to stay shut.
She needs you to be the famous “Love is…” section of Scripture in 1 Corinthians 13:4-13, with “love” swapped out and your name dropped in.
You were that man once. You can be again. It’s the best gift you’ll ever give her.
You Need Four Songs
Cinderella by Stephen Curtis Chapman. Lead Me by Sanctus Real. Dance with My Father by Luther Vandross. It Won’t Be Like This For Long by Darius Rucker (Yes, “Hootie” went country. No, that isn’t a sign of the Apocalypse.).
Individually, each song is a four-minute carpet-bombing of your emotional reserves. Listening to them in succession will punch you in the heart so hard you won’t be able to operate heavy machinery until Christmas. That’s a good thing.
You need large, disruptive reminders of why this tim–these fleeting few years of life spent skidding between triumph and terror when you WebMD every rash and cough and celebrate three whole hours of uninterrupted sleep–is your ministry, your mission field, your ultimate expression of masculinity, your ultimate surrender to the Father who won’t let you fall.
Today is the day you’ll wish you could relive when she walks down the aisle and he moves out. Give it the right soundtrack and make it one to remember.
Fatherhood is like golf: say a prayer, take your best shot, keep your head down, and follow through. You’ll get the hang of it, my friend.
Now go wash your t-shirt. Please.
Photo: brokinhrt2 / flickr