No, this is not, originally uploaded by Lady Pain
An article told me to think about my goals for our unborn child. I believe that setting a specific goal like "go to law school" or "be the next Brett Favre" would guarantee eventual disappointment and resentment, for the parents and the child. I mean, come on, nobody can break his interception record. Hey-oh!
Anyway, instead of scheduling her path through life, here is a list of five qualities that I hope to imbue in our daughter. I will consider myself a success as a father if she feels:
Competent. Confidence is over-rated. When I was in elementary school, the buzzword was "self-esteem." The result? A generation of cocky kids with a shortage of ability to back up their hubris. In addition to feeling good about herself, I want my daughter to develop skills and talents that enable to do good.
Strong. Strength of character is, again, similar to healthy self-esteem but goes deeper. Confidence is necessary to succeed, but a strong individual can persevere in the face of failure. I hope my daughter will attempt new things even when she isn't confident of success. Beyond equipping her for victory, I want her to know that failure is an option: it's okay to mess up, as long as you are trying.
Curious. I'd be happy if my daughter is at least a little bit geeky. You know the phase that kids go through, when they're always asking, "why? Why? Why?" That shouldn't be just a phase. I want her to keep asking questions, and learn to find the answers, so that when I'm a confused old man she can explain to me how the world works in the future.
Safe. On the hierarchy of needs, safety is pretty basic. I still think it bears repeating. In order to facilitate my daughter's personal growth and exploration, one of my primary goals is to provide a secure "home base" where she is sheltered from the dangers of the world, but still free to make mistakes and experience consequences: safety, but not at the expense of freedom.
Loved. Rolled into the concept of security is the existence of a loving family. No matter what happens to her or the choices she makes in life, my daughter will always be loved, welcomed, and accepted by her parents. More than anything else, I wish that she would feel that she can always come home again. I will always love my children, and I will strive to be the kind of father who is deserving of their love in return.
Peace on Earth..., originally uploaded by pkoczera
After our first (incredibly expensive) ultrasound, we had to go back for a second look at my wife's placenta. Actually, we went to a different hospital this time, because she switched to a midwife. That's a post for another day.
The primary purpose for this trip was to make sure everything looked all right from a medical standpoint, and she passed with flying colors. We also verified that it's a girl. So that was nice, and we were happy, but we had another goal in mind. For us, it was another (possibly final) opportunity to see our baby in motion before the birth.
I was amazed at the difference a few weeks can make. Photos from the first appointment (20 weeks along) show our baby as an x-ray fish; a thin layer of translucent skin stretched over a structure of organs and bones. At 28 weeks she was plumper, with developed eyelids, a nose, chin, and those cute little baby cheeks. Our daughter is developing a personality! But the real "whoa dude" moment this time around was getting a clear view of all four chambers of her fetal heart as they rapidly pumped the blood to her tiny body. I could have watched just that for hours. It always comes back to the heartbeat.
Becoming a dad is turning me into a crybaby, and my daughter hasn't even been born yet. It's a weird experience. I don't know how I feel about it. At least it's good to know that I am not alone.
Подснежник, originally uploaded by skynja
One thing you don't realize about snow--until you have spent a winter shoveling--is that by the end of the season, you run out of places to put it. I did not come to learn this fact until I bought my first house. It's on a corner lot, with a driveway, and a sidewalk winding around one half of my yard. That's a lot of surface to shovel.
When the snow starts to fall in October, it's easy to clear away. By the time March comes around, the piles at the end of the driveway are shoulder-high, and options are limited. When we get buried under another foot of snow, I just sigh and get my boots on, because I know I'm looking forward to an hour of quality time with the shovel.
Contrast that reality with the portrayal of winter in Hollywood and TV. I saw a commercial recently where a man brushes the fake, fluffy "snow" off his windshield with two big sweeps of his arm and then collapses in frustration. I couldn't understand the message of the ad until I realized that they were trying to portray this activity as difficult. "Where's the melted sludge that sticks to the glass?" I said. "Where's the solid ice that you have to defrost for several minutes before you can even start to chip it away?"
I imagine it would be quite a shock for someone with romantic notions of winter to visit Minnesota in February for the first time. And I'm starting to wonder whether everything I've learned about babies, from a lifetime of sitcoms and movies, is a lie. Clearing snow looks easy on commercials, and giving birth doesn't seem very traumatic on Friends.
We're reading books and watching movies to counteract our Hollywood education in childbirth and baby-raising, but that only goes so far. Just as I didn't fully appreciate the task of shoveling until my first winter with a house, I know that I won't understand parenthood until I have actually lived with our baby for a while.
What have we gotten ourselves into? We're about to find out.
Warning: Permanent, originally uploaded by jessiebarber
I think this nursery sanitizer (from Baby Gadget) should be part of a "Little Tattoo Parlor" play set. Just like toddlers learn to chop vegetables in play kitchens, I want to teach our baby about the place where daddy goes to get drawings on his skin.
The other play set accessories would include a pretend tattoo gun, a wall of flash art, and a little leather chair for baby's "clients" to sit in. You could incorporate a color wheel in there somewhere. Plus, of course, there would be a plastic sharps disposal bin for single-use needles. That way, she would learn that while some things can be cleaned and re-used, others should be thrown away.
Space Invader..., originally uploaded by LukeDaDuke
Last time I wrote about how my baby is taking over my brain. She has also begun the invasion of our home. She claimed our former office for her nursery, which is now furnished with a new crib, stroller, and a dresser full of tiny clothes. Soon, all we'll be missing is a baby.
They say gestation lasts forty weeks so that you have time to prepare for parenthood. I think that establishing a physical area for the baby to inhabit does the same thing. When I see the empty crib I can envision my daughter sleeping in it. While I snapped together our stroller, I was thinking about taking her on walks in our neighborhood. I started to understand what it means to miss something that you don't have yet. And now I want her more than ever.
I asked my dad how his life changed after I (the first-born) arrived on the scene. He told me that was a difficult question to answer. Having a baby, he explained, shifts your priorities so much that you sort of forget what life was like pre-children. You see the world differently.
The process has already begun with me, kick-started by that ultrasound appointment. Now, I notice changing tables in public restrooms. Car seats are suddenly exciting. I have a newfound interest in relative fetal size compared to fruits and vegetables (this week, like a head of cauliflower). My brain is coming to grips with the idea of being a father.
At the same time, other, less important activities in my life are being pushed aside to make mental room for this newcomer. One of them is a moderately-trafficked blog about "stuff" (art, cars, tattoos, etc.) that I've unintentionally abandoned. All of those things just don't seem so important any more, but my baby is important; my family matters. And I want to talk about that. Expect to see more of me around here from now on.