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July 05, 2008

Fatherhood Fact and Fiction

The Tarts are delighted to welcome back guest blogger Steven Torres.  If you haven't read Steven's work yet, you're really missing out!  His Precinct Puerto Rico series featuring Inspector Luis Gonzalo brings rural Puerto Rico to life. The books are gorgeously written, atmospheric and suspenseful, with memorable characters.  His latest novel is The Concrete Maze.  Learn more about Steven and his work by visiting his website.


Fatherhood Fact and Fiction

by Steven Torres

If all goes according to plan, the first week of September, I'll be the father of a baby girl "to be named later," as they say in sports.  Ever since my wife and I have let people know we're expecting our first child, we've gotten reports from the initiated about what to expect.  Sadly, the news is all bad.  So bad, in fact, that it's a miracle anyone ever bothers to have a baby.  A second child goes beyond being a miracle to quite obviously a mistake.

Here, then, is some of what I've heard:

  1. I'll never sleep again.  This tops the list . . . well, because it does.  Everyone mentions it.  It seems that many of the people I know are used to seven or eight hours of uninterrupted sleep a night.  I sleep nowhere near that much now.  And interrupted sleep is pretty much the norm for me.  Ma and I are switching sides of the bed so I'll be closer to the door and the baby's room.
  2. I secretly wish it were a baby boy.  I was a baby boy myself.  Then I grew up.  The teenage years were a dull nightmare -- wouldn't wish it on anyone.  Frankly, whenever I've thought of myself as a Papa, it was always a little girl I was holding . . . . Or teaching to punch "through the target, not to the target."  Of course, if the sonos are wrong and it turns out a little boy is born to us, I'll love him just as much.  We'll just have to burn the sonogram photo showing the 'tween the legs shot complete with "It's a Girl!" label and arrow.
  3. Babies are expensive.  I suspect the right response is something like, "Yes and no."  So far, we've got a crib, a stroller, a knapsack for carrying the baby on your back, a bouncy thing for laying the baby in so they can look at rainforest animals, and a stack of clothes for the child.  Haven't spent a dime.  Not yet.  Right now, people are just so happy that we decided to have a baby (after sixteen happily married years) that we could put just about anything on one of those registries and one of the grandmamas would get it.  Very tempting.  Baby needs an iPhone?  I do realize there will be expenses and plenty of them.  Still, if I raise her right, one day she'll enter a lucrative profession and pay back every penny.
  4. I'll gain sympathy weight.  This one scared me.  I already tipped the scale at . . . well, let's just say the scale definitely tipped.  A pregnant woman can pack on twenty-five or thirty pounds (or more, yes, I know).  I certainly didn't need to add any of that.  So far, I'm happy to report, I haven't gained a single pound.  Haven't lost a pound either, but it's not like I'm trying to.  (I've got enough to worry about.)  Of course, it has helped that Ma had cravings for some things I wouldn't normally eat.  Matzoh Ball Soup Week didn't affect me at all.  Cadbury Chocolate Week, however, was murder.  Right now is Avocados Shipped From the Family Farm in Puerto Rico Week.  For reasons I can't even begin to explain, avocados make me nauseous, so I'll be fine.

These are some of the bits of wisdom I've collected so far.  Feel free to add to the list.  I may come off sounding skeptical, but I truly do want to hear more.  I'm hoping, in fact, to have this kid all figured out even before she arrives.


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When we had our first girl (of five...but then, who knew?), the doc sat my husband down and said, "Let me tell you about daughters." (He had three.) "You're a big guy, a strong guy, a tough guy. But when that little girl climbs onto your lap and bats her girlie eyelashes at you, and says in that girlie voice, 'Daddy? I was wondering..' you will be dissolved into a mushy, wavering puddle of 'Yes, Baby, whatever you want.'"

That was the truest advice we ever got. Caveat, Pater.

Always carry a towel to put over your shoulder to catch the spit that will come out.

From Aaron Sorkin:

"You know, 15 years ago, we took a trip to Egypt, all five of us, saw the pyramids and Luxor, then headed up into the Sinai. We had a guide, a Bedouin man, who called me "Abu el Banat." Whenever we'd meet another Bedouin, he'd introduce me as "Abu el Banat." The Bedouin would laugh and laugh and then offer me a cup of tea. And I'd go to pay them for the tea, and they wouldn't let me. "Abu el Banat" means "father of daughters." (long pause) "They thought the tea was the least they could do."

My main concern would have been my daughter falling for the same crap her mother fell for, but that's a different story....

My Favorite Bits of Wisdom For New Parents:
1. Trust yourself. You know much more than you think - and no one else will ever know this child the way you do.
2. Be prepared to turn into new person, one who is both bolder and more terrified than you ever were before.
3. You will become immune to the smell of your own kid's poop. (But be warned: other kids can still get to you.)
4. College is even more expensive than you think. Start saving now.
5. Nothing you have ever done until now, and nothing you will ever do in the future, will come close to the miracle of this child.

Steve, congratulations! Yes, babies can be tricky, but you're going to enjoy a lot more than you suffer!

Thanks for being our guest today.

Welcome, Steve! My first bit of advice is to this baby. Make sure to be grateful for getting such excellent parents! I can't imagine two people who are better qualified for this job. Congratulation to the baby for choosing well.

Second piece of advice. The baby will make a lot of weird noises when it's brand new. Grunts and groans and things that sound like it's sick. That's normal!! I used to lie awake EXTRA hours listening to my first son and wondering whether I should call the doctor over gas noises!

Third piece of advice. I don't care how little you sleep now. You will be shocked at the sleep deprivation. It's unimaginable.

Congratulations, and enjoy!

Let me just add my big welcome Steve, to TLC and the wonderful world of parenting (which will also mean the Wonderful World of Disney, by the way, and if you don't know the names of the Disney princesses now, you will soon. You may also know the Teletubbies and the Wiggles far more intimately than you care to.)

My big advice: don't take it personally. Not when your wife goes a tiny bit wacko during the delivery process (and she may not, because she sounds fabulous, but then again, she may. May want to save the one-liners for later) and not when your daughter is displeased with you, which will be often and for any number of reasons. Remember, she's not crying AT you, she's crying with you.

That said, you can't even imagine how amazing it is. And it just gets better.

You almost had me feeling sorry for myself for not having children, but then I remembered, I'm a terrific aunt (also a great-aunt). My favorite niece (don't tell the others) has promised me I can spend as much time as I want to with her children and encourage them in school (though I'm not sure I'll be able to promise them a cruise for graduation as I did for her -- perhaps they will settle for a nice dinner?)
Advice? Read to that child!* I understand that "Pat the Bunny" and "Good Night Moon" are favorites for the babies, and I know that children love "Where the Wild Things Are" and "Alexander and the THNGVB Day" and "Green Eggs and Ham"!
*Wally Amos (think Famous Amos cookies) is the chair for a new project with the Library of Congress that will be kicking off in September. The goal is to reach
5,000,000 parents with the message to "Read Out Loud to their children."
http://activated.libsyn.com/ (The Cat and the Mouse)
https://readitloudfoundation.org/ and
http://www.chipandcookiereaditloud.orgwelcome.htm for more information.

Many thanks for the advice. As for baby making strange sounds in the middle of the night, I can only say I'll have to welcome her to the club.

And as for her batting her eyes at me, well, I'm a soft touch and I know it.

Disney princesses? Let's see... There's Pocahantas and That one from under the Sea and Goofy and... I'll stop there.

Children and their families can now view an online adaptation of Judith Viorst's classic Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, ...
www.kennedy-center.org/multimedia/ storytimeonline/alexander.html

Steven, congratulations! Only thing I can tell you is: it's going to completely rearrange your head. I mean this literally. When the doctor first held my son Nick up, I literally felt my mind come apart, then reassemble itself in a new and different shape. I walked out of that room a different man. Hopefully a better one, although it took some time before I grew into my new brain.

Trust your instincts. You'll learn real quick to tell the difference in cries.
There is;
diaper change
tummy ache
and pissed tantrum
You'll know them when you hear (or smell) them!
PS - DO NOT stick your finger in the diaper to find out if it needs to be changed! (My ex was not too bright and did that several times before he learned LOL)

Mazeltov and welcome to TLC Steven!

We just had a baby shower for one of my cousins, and we all wrote some advice for her - here are some of the best:

Sleep when the baby sleeps/never wake a sleeping baby

Remember that you are not only parents but husband and wife. Schedule date nights.

(Love this one) - During delivery, Dad should stand at Mom's head, not her feet. Lots of Dad's want to watch the baby actuall come into the world, but not the entire process. Yes, it's a miracle, but it's not pretty.

(One for Mom) Do your kegel exercises now as if your life depended on it.

(My favorite) - Treasure the little moments as they happen. You don't know this now, but it will go so fast.


I have to step in here, as the mother of two under 5 yrs of age, to say that the sleep thing doesn't have to take over your life. If you're blessed with good sleepers, and you both are strong enough to train your kid to have good sleeping habits (e.g. listen to some crying) you will EVENTUALLY be able to fit 6-7 hours in. Consecutive hours. Which CANNOT be overrated. Consecutive sleep is the bomb. I never appreciated it until I was dealing with my newborns. But, like I said, it's only a couple years, at most, if you're lucky and diligent.

Also, my two came after 7 years of marriage, and that was PERFECT. We weren't ready earlier, and neither was our marriage. Or our wallets. Later is better in our case, and I hope so for you too.

Enjoy yourself! It's true, time flies. Read to them, and write as much of the memories down, because you can't imagine now how much you'll forget later.


My bit of wisdom would be: Don't plan to have this kid all figured out by the time she arrives. Don't plan to ever have this child figured out.

Best Wishes.

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