Koreans celebrate a child's first 100 days. It's a long-held tradition that reflects a history of high infant mortality. Thankfully, this is no longer the case, but the tradition has carried on. Although my son is 100 percent American -- a rare mix of Korean, Italian, German and French descent -- we decided to honor this Korean tradition and celebrated this milestone.
Last week, strapping on a baby carrier for the first time, I toted my little guy around the city and thought about all the things he's taught me during his short life. I'm sure some aspects of my learning and insights will be old news to some, but hopefully I can help guys like myself who waited an extra decade before taking the plunge and starting a family. I humbly offer my Guy's Guy perspective on the special education my son has gifted me with during his first one hundred days.
When my little guy wants something, whether it is food, a diaper change, sleep or just being held, he's equipped with a built-in device that clearly informs me that he requires immediate attention -- his voice. He fidgets and waves his little arms before projecting a special sound that builds insistently and incessantly until he's got my full attention and his needs are addressed. And when he's happy, his face lights up with a real joy that's infectious. There are no games, subtext or manipulation with babies. They speak the truth and nothing but the truth. It's kind of refreshing. Thank you, son, for reminding me of being honest about one's needs and about the simple pleasures of laughter, babbling and drooling.
Unlike giraffes, ducks or horses, human babies don't fumble around clumsily for a few minutes before walking, swimming or joining the herd. Human babies enter the world completely dependent, incapable of doing much beyond eating, pooping, crying and sleeping. To my surprise, my son taught me that babies also need us to help them fall asleep. You need to be there for them all day, every day. They really are completely and utterly dependent on us for surviving and learning about the world. I'll keep this in mind next time I judge someone because they may not think or do things the same way as I do. Maybe they were less fortunate and didn't receive the same care and upbringing as I did. Thank you, son, for inspiring me to be more sensitive.
I had a healthy, male-sized ego, but my son has changed all of that. There is nothing that cuts me down to size faster than when my son closes his eyes tightly, tilts his head back and lets out his special, brain-searing wail. It doesn't matter to him that I'm used to leading meetings and making decisions on multi-million dollar budgets. My son is in charge now. My task is to pay attention, figure out what he wants and address his every need. I guess in some ways he's like a demanding client. So, faced with my new reality, I suck it up and do whatever it takes to keep him happy. Thank you, son, for teaching me humility.
A close male friend suggested that since I was a bit older than my younger dad counterparts, I might have accrued the patience required of a new parent. This was not my case during the first 100 days. Having spent so many years solely focused on myself, I was on edge for the first two months, especially when faced with my wife returning to work and my being a stay-at-home dad for a few months. The first few days on my own with my son were challenging. I had no idea what I was in for and as a result, my little guy cried whenever I wasn't giving him my full attention. It was exhausting and frustrating to start the day with his tears. Fortunately, I discovered that my son loves our strolls in Central Park. This helped set a relaxed tone to the day. Now I've realized it's all about him first. He is my priority. I've figured out his tells for hunger, needing a change, wanting a hug or needing to be rocked to sleep. I've somehow prioritized my day so when I'm with him, I'm focused on him and his needs. This will help my dealing with clients and people in general. Thanks, little man.
As a result of my shrinking ego and my being more present, my son and I are developing a bond strong enough to last throughout our lives. I love watching him sleep, eat, wake up and smile. Each day is a blessing. I never knew how much pleasure I could experience through just "being" with my baby boy. Now, wherever I go, I notice babies and their moms and dads and I feel their shared love. It's a beautiful thing. I look forward to the second 100 days with my son, and the third, and on and on, because this is just the beginning of our journey.
What can a newborn teach a grown man? Plenty.