Revisiting Fatherhood Boot Camp This Father’s Day!

[This is one of my wife’s favorites. Originally published in March 2002, and revised for Father’s Day 2013]

In honor of Father’s Day, June 16, I’d like to travel back to before I was Autism Dad, when I was just “a new dad.”

rocco belly time
Rocco enjoying belly time @ 5 months.

The moment my son was born, I realized I held the most precious gift in the world in my arms, a gift I was unworthy of, yet responsible for, nonetheless. I was in way over my head.

But I was eager to learn, and my son taught me a lot those first six weeks. Here’s how I saw it back in 2002:

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Six weeks of fatherhood, and already I’m defining myself by the way my kid sees me. I am Thick, Hairy Arms that lift him up and down (which is different from Mom’s Soft, Smooth Arms). I am Smiling Moon Face with Glasses. I am Stinky Breath at 4 a.m. Beard Stubble Man. I am Waiter, Maid, Chauffeur, Personal Assistant, Wipe My Butt Guy.

Actually my wife is all of these things and more. I’m the Assistant Waiter, Assistant Maid, etc. But in the past six weeks I’ve gotten a good dose of fatherhood … and I like it!

Like any new job, everything’s fun and exciting right now. I’m sure there will be days ahead that won’t be so much fun. But after completing six weeks, I’d say fatherhood is shaping up to be one of the most interesting and rewarding jobs I’ve ever had.

My son, Rocco, taught me many things in a short time. We already have much in common, like big meals and long naps. Rocco helped me rediscover the joy of life’s simple pleasures. A warm blanket is good. A wet bottom is bad. A big dog licking your face is startling at first … but funny!

Rocco taught me to appreciate sunrises, which I have seen more of in the last six weeks than in all of my 34 years prior. In fact, the whole sleep deprivation aspect of parenthood is something my wife and I severely underestimated. It’s brutal.

Most importantly, Rocco shared one of life’s great secrets with me. When I wake up in the middle of the night and wonder, “Why am I here? What’s my purpose in the universe?” all I have to do is peek in his bassinet and go, “Oh. Yeah.”

It’s not that my life didn’t have meaning or significance before my son was born. It’s that everything up until now seems like practice. I have seen the future, and it wears a onesie. And when I cradle tomorrow in my arms, it feels as light as a feather.

rocco @ 6 months
Rocco @ 6 months … I’m still enjoying the job as much as I did @ 6 weeks!

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The future has gotten heavier, and wears jeans, t-shirts, and beat up sneakers now. The future also wears pretty dresses and Hello Kitty hair bows (my daughter, Francesca, was born in 2003). The future is also getting hairy legs.

But I feel the same now as I did in 2002. My children continue to inspire me, and give my life meaning and purpose. Their wonder and devotion enriches every moment of every day. If anything, my love for my children has grown stronger, more intense, over the past 11 years.

And I expect it always will.

Happy Father’s Day!

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Reprinted courtesy of WAYNE TODAY, March 2002

Proud parents await Millennium’s birth

[Being a columnist allows you to chronicle the way your opinion changes (or doesn’t) over time — sometimes drastically and embarrassingly so. Nowhere is this more evident than the column below. In February 1999 I was single, childless and carefree. Compare the column below with the next one I’ll post from 2002, six weeks after becoming a father. Yeah, I know I was sort of an arrogant a-hole in 1999. Even though my feelings toward children have changed, that hasn’t.]

stop making babies
“Stop making babies” — sound advice!

Last month we discussed the Y2K bug and how it might affect air travel around the turn of the millennium. Today we’ll look at another symptom of the Y2K bug: Baby Fever.

A recent study shows that more and more young couples are competing for the honor of having the first millennium baby. The belief is that a baby born at midnight, January 1, 2000 is doubly blessed. Currently these couples are checking their ovulation cycles and making plans to fornicate on cue. The ideal time to conceive a millennium baby is late March/early April of this year—in short, any time now.

Breeders Not Welcome

My advice to young couples planning to have children is: DON’T DO IT! There are enough people on this planet already. There are plenty of unloved children who need new Mommies and Daddies if you’re really feeling paternal. Everyone, please, STOP BREEDING!

Of course, my advice will fall on deaf ears, and the babies will keep on coming. Most babies are born not out of love, but out of vanity (“Oh honey, I hope our baby has your eyes and my nose” and/or “A baby boy will carry on the family name”). Yes, your child will have physical features similar to you and your spouse (at least, you hope so).

But your child will also inherit other traits from Mommy and Daddy, like neurotic behaviors and bad table manners. With apologies to all expectant parents out there, no matter how good of a parent you think you’ll be, chances are you’ll screw up somewhere along the line. Your child will grow up to be another flawed adult who will propagate the cycle all over again. You won’t give birth to next Albert Einstein. You won’t give birth to the next Jeffrey Dahmer. You’ll give birth to the next average Jane or Joe, only they’ll look a little like you and for the first ten years of their life they’ll look up to you and think you have all the answers until they realize you’re as clueless about life as they are. I commend young couples for wanting to bring a new, hopeful life into the world, but frankly, the gene pool does not need your contribution.

Vanity, Thy Name Is Mom and Dad

If the average couple breeds out of vanity, Millennium Fever Couples take it to a whole new level. Their New Years’ baby will be revered, and, as the child’s proud parents, they will be put up on the pedestal, too. They’re not thinking of the lifetime commitment or the emotional and financial obligations that come with child rearing. They’re thinking only of their 15 minutes of fame when “Good Morning America” and “Dateline NBC” come calling to run a feature on their bouncing baby. Vanity, thy name is Mommy and Daddy.

As you can see, the Y2K bug affects not only computers but human machines as well. It threatens to send them into an irrational state where nonsense and short-sightedness chase each other in an endless loop. I can tell you exactly when the best time to conceive a Millennium Baby is—April Fool’s Day.

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Originally published in Wayne TODAY, February 1999