Nobody tells you this, but being a father is really hard on your joints.
Knees especially, and lower back. Whether you’re crawling around on the floor with him, or carrying him for 4 blocks because he doesn’t want to be in the stroller, by the time he’s fifteen months old you’ll be shuffling like a arthritic zombie and doing deep breathing in preparation to sit down.
And then he starts to take his first steps and he only needs to be airlifted occasionally, so before you know it your shoulders go back, your dignified swagger returns and sitting becomes, once more, a leisure activity.
Each developmental milestone brings sweet relief from the all the problems that were certain to destroy you, and simultaneously introduces new problems you could never have conceived of a week ago; from worrying when he’ll begin crawling to worrying how to make him stop, from trying to get him to eat solid foods to trying to get him to eat anything besides bananas. From trying desperately to get him to sleep through the night to…ahem. How about that sports event?
It’s about milestones, is the thing. All your baby books, iphoto albums, your home movie montages are based around these profound moments where the little bald monkey proves yet again that he’s human after all, and will soon be taller and smarter than you.
What I’ve recently discovered, though, is another way to measure development.
Sleep, for example. At first, the kid just sleeps. Not all that different from when a little newborn is awake, really, just with their eyes closed. Then the sleep schedule begins to take shape – staring, pooping, eating all seem to fall into a general pattern, and you begin shaping nap & bedtime routines. My little dude, for example has historically favored the dance down, and doesn’t usually suffer being laid down by himself.
Thus, whether it’s LL Cool J or They Might Be Giants, 2-45 minutes of shuffling blearily around the bedroom would result in papa stretched out with a baby asleep on his chest. Now, having a little baby utterly passed out on your chest is awesome like bacon on pie, but like everything else in America, awesome does fade to tedious. You start thinking about all the hygiene you could be accomplishing, or that food you could eat (using both hands!) And in a couple two-hour protacted battles of dancing, rocking, reading, cuddling, dancing again, you stop caring how it happens, you just want the little creature to go to sleep however the f&%@# they can.
And then one day, they don’t sleep on your chest any more.
And they never will again.
The thing about the first time he does something – you can see it coming, prepare for it a little, know to celebrate it when it happens. But you never know it’s the last time. You don’t necessarily catch it for days. All the sudden this precious, unique time in his life that you’ve been complaining about and wishing was different is over, forever, and all you can do is listen to Phil Collins and watch the Wonder Years and weep like a Seattle weather system.
There is so, so much to suffer through in the first few years of parenting, and it’s so, so easy to tell yourself that you’re only waiting for this or that to change, then it will be better. We want him to start walking so we don’t have to carry him so much, we want him to talk so we don’t have to guess what’s wrong, we want him to be able to play by himself so we don’t spend the entire day jiggling stuffed monkeys in front of him to keep him entertained until he falls asleep. We fall into the trap of wishing this time in his life was over.
And then it is.
Excuse me while sob messily into my sleeve.
On the plus side, toddlers pulling your pants down is funny forever.