At 33, I made a late-ish entry into the parenting game. Age broke down many potential misconceptions about life's greatest miracle before my wife was ever pregnant.
For instance, I knew how utterly useless I'd feel when my wife went into labor. I knew that childbirth is 99.99 percent on women, reducing their men to cheerleader status. I knew my wife would agonize over the worst pain of her life, and it was my duty to ask her if she wanted a pillow. It was my job to remind her how to breathe, faking a confidence like I knew how she felt or something.
I knew that my active role pre-childbirth ended on the recreational side of the spectrum. I knew all this because I was 33. I'd survived my 20s, so I must know. I thought I knew what to expect once that little boy joined us, but I was wrong. At 33, I had experience, but I also had no experience.
My son Jamie is now 2. Every day I'm reminded of what I don't know. Here are some of my parenting misconceptions, from two years ago to today:
1. Both Meg and I were a bit out of our element with this whole childbirth thing. We took one of those hospital classes, to get ourselves acclimated to the idea. They told us the proportion of childbirths that were C-section. Eyes wandered as every couple began to do the math. Meg didn't want one, and I wanted Meg to have the experience she wanted. So it wasn't going to be us. Jamie had other ideas. He had his own way of rushing the process. C-section it was. No matter how stubborn we were, no matter how strong our convictions, Jamie had his say.
2. Even though I was late to the fatherhood game, that didn't mean I had experience holding a lot of babies. Holding babies is awkward. They're so tiny and helpless. They move. They squirm. They're so small you are afraid you'll drop them. You're afraid you'll break them. You won't. They're durable. They're hearty. And eventually, no matter how uncomfortable or awkward it feels, you settle in and get comfortable with holding one. The process is expedited when he's yours.
3. Poop is nasty. Especially other people's poop. I was all for being actively involved in parenthood. But what did this mean in the fine print? What did this mean in the details? I thought I'd hesitate when it came to changing a diaper. I thought I'd be dissuaded by my keen olfactory senses. I don't honestly know if I had changed a diaper before Jamie's. It's not my favorite fatherly task, but I also think you'd have to be a little crazy to find too much enjoyment in it. Instincts kicked in, though, and I can tolerate that stench a lot better when it's my kid. Knowing that we've got to be on to potty training soon helps.
4. I remember being so excited when those favorite first words left his mouth, "Mama" and "Dada." It's heartwarming to hear those words uttered -- to know that he knows who we are. I remember getting so excited at the idea that he'd be talking shortly. Well, he's 2 now. He talks. And silence is his mortal enemy.
5. Even when you are in your 20s and at peak distance from paternal instincts, you understand how adorable toddlers are. It's reinforced once you become a parent, and every parent thinks that theirs is the cutest. They're this cute so the crying and tantrums become easier to tolerate. They're that cute, so they must want to be picked up and cuddled, right? Not a chance. They cuddle on their own terms, and that's not something you can force.
6. I have an abysmal singing voice. I can't stand the sound of my voice attempting to carry a note. It's a whole new level of bad. If it sounds this godawful to me, I can't fathom how it must sound to other people, my son included. I feel like I'm inflicting pain on him if I start to sing, so he must feel the same, right? Wrong. He's 2. He wants to be sung to. His sense of artistic taste hasn't developed enough to know bad yet. No matter how much you hate it, to him it's a necessity for being soothed. The sad, sad sucker.
'Fess up. What are some of the misconceptions you had about parenting? What were some of your perceptions vs. reality?