You’ll never be ready to have kids.
Experience has taught me that anyone who believes otherwise may be in for a hard reality check. As MTV’s docu-series Diary proudly proclaimed: you think you know but you have no idea. Far as I can tell, there is nothing in this world that can prepare you for what happens once the idea of that little one enters your thoughts, never mind when the little one actually enters your world. Nothing can prepare you for the elation, the concern, the pride, the fear, the love and the heartache that comes once you cross that threshold.
I couldn’t have known this before but I know this now.
I had a conversation with a friend several years ago, right around when my wife and I were contemplating having kids. At the time, I was actually voicing my doubt over whether or not I was mentally prepared to handle the responsibilities of being a father. My friend, a father himself, laughed and in an effort to calm my anxiety said, “Hate to break it to you. You’re never ready.”
I realized the truth behind his words months later when, during pregnancy, the doctors noticed there was a problem. It wasn’t so much the baby as it was what was growing next to the baby inside the womb. A tumor. A mass. A growth that was stealing away nutrients and blood that should have been going to the fetus. Our baby’s heart was having to work twice as hard to keep up. That was the danger. The prenatal doctors called the tumor a chorioangioma. We called it our baby’s evil twin.
Best case scenario, a premature birth. Worst case scenario…we didn’t want to think about it.
In the end, we didn’t have to think about it. Baby Girl was born in the late summer hours of a Friday night, six weeks before her scheduled delivery. And when I first held her, I remember feeling that rush of relief hitting me squarely in the stomach. A gut shot.
“So you’re our little fighter,” I whispered. “I’m Dad. Nice to meet you.”
The nurses whisked her away a minute later.
Soon after, Baby Girl’s heart normalized. After several restless days and nights in the neonatal intensive care unit, our super preemie was given a clean bill of health and allowed to come home. Thus marked the real beginning.
Was I prepared for what came next? The ups and downs? The twists and turns? Carrying for a new born who would turn into a toddler? Carrying for a toddler who would turn into a child? I thought I would be. I thought nothing could compare to that difficult pregnancy. But I was wrong.
It has been an adventure going from the crib to the classroom. Now, Baby Girl (5 years-old) has a little brother, Baby Boy (2 years-old) – whose term was, thankfully, not nearly as eventful as his sister’s. Two distinct individuals with two distinct likes and dislikes born from the same gene pool. Funny how that works.
These days, the parenting books remain stacked on our shelves. Every once in a while I’ll take a glimpse at them to remind myself how much is left to teach the kids and how much is left for them to figure out on their own. Here’s a hint: There’s a lot. It’s intimidating and scary. Exciting and unpredictable. Then again, the best adventures usually are.
That is what this blog is about. A diary of the best of times and the not-so-best of times written through the eyes of a father who, once upon two separate moments, cradled his brand new babies, kissed their wrinkly foreheads and thought to himself, “Now what?”
My name is Damien and I am a Super Dad in training. Have yet to earn my cape let alone the spandex and boots. Class is in session and the semester just started. Final exams? Not quite. But there are a bunch of small significant pop quizzes thrown in sporadically from now until who knows when.
Maybe the day will come when I’ll be able to bask in my Super Dad status. Maybe it’ll happen far in the future when my kids are much older and I’m assured that, yeah, despite all of my mistakes and screw ups, they are indeed well-adjusted productive members of society. Or maybe it’ll happen the first time my kids choose what’s right over what’s easy – just as Professor Dumbledore advised.
The one inevitability is that I will make mistakes. I’ve already made mistakes. And that’s after looking at all those books. The thing is, you can’t truly understand the trials and tribulations of parenting until you’re living it. Which brings us back to the original thesis statement.
You may think you’re mentally prepared. You may think you’re physically prepared. The house may be baby-proof. The room may be decorated. You may believe that you will parent a certain way. You may think that you’ll set the ground rules and then live by those ground rules with few exceptions. That the child will never watch television until a certain age or sleep in your bed or eat unhealthy food. You may see other children act out in public, judge them, judge their parents, then assure yourself that you’ll do a much better job when your time comes. Sounds good on paper. But the truth is you’re fooling yourself. Once Baby enters your life the rule book as you think you know it goes out the window. You’re playing a brand new ball game. And it’s a game that can be exhilarating and devastating all at the same time.
I will say this, though. Speaking only for me, I may not have been ready to have kids but the adventure since their arrival has been worth every step. Every misstep, too. It turns out you can learn a lot about yourself when the world stops revolving around you.
Copyright 2016 Damien Alameda. All Rights Reserved.