Fatherhood Through My Dad’s Eyes

My father killed himself shortly after my seventeenth birthday. He died fifteen years ago this week, and he will never stop haunting me.

I have very few of his belongings to remember him by. This essay about me, which he wrote for one of his med school classes when I was a baby, numbers among those precious few possessions.

Unfortunately, it’s missing its final page, but it is still alive and shining with his personality.

Confessions of a New Father, Or “Just wait until your Mother comes home…”

On Bringing Baby Home:

Well, what do I do now? Nine muns ago I cuden’t evun spel parint and now I ar won! I wonder if all the parts are there? Hmm, let’s see… 10 fingers, 10 toes, 2 ears, 1 nose (small), 2 eyes… Yep! All there. Boy, you sure are quiet. How come you don’t cry? Aren’t babies supposed to cry? It’s been four hours now. C’mon, let’s hear it! Sara? Sweetheart? Oh God! She’s mute, I just know it! My child’s a mute! Is she even BREATHING? Sara, speak to me! Oh, oh, I’m sorry little one — shh, shh, don’t cry, it’s all right. (Thank you, Lord.) “No, no dear, she’s all right, something must have frightened her.”

I don’t care what they say, she will never be big enough to fill up that cradle, much less the crib. It’s impossible. I mean, it’ll take years, won’t it? Sigh… I wish you were bigger, so I could play with you. Won’t you ever grow up?

After all these months of waiting, all you’re going to do is sleep? Sara, I’m sorry, but you’re boring. Lord, my child is boring. How could you?

What an amazing child! She looked at me! God, thank you for such a lively child.

Mark’s Maxim #1 — A father will never wake up his second baby “just to see it smile!”

On Changing Baby:

I don’t know what’s wrong with my wife; I mean, I did order one housebroken after all! Why don’t they make diapers small enough to fit you, Sara? And these stupid pins! I just know I’m going to skewer you. Or they’re going to open up and you’re going to roll over and… and… I wonder if knots will work? Damnit! Why don’t they make diapers big enough to fit you, Sara? There! 10 minutes, not bad! What? Again?! Sara, we have to talk…

Mark’s Maxim #2 — Babies are a tesseract… More comes out than goes in.

On Patience:

Babies are like dogs… They know when you’re weak and then they go for your throat! It’s true, children are from God… they’re a punishment. God! I hate myself! How could I get so mad? I mean, she’s so little and helpless and… and… I must be sick! That’s it! I’m a child abuser, I just know it! Sara, I’ll never, ever, never yell at you again, sweetheart, I promise, I mean it… Unless, of course, you don’t stop crying, and then I’LL KILL YOU!

Just look at her there, asleep, what a little angel! What an adorable, sweet, wonderful… (etc., etc.).

Mark’s Maxim #3 — In order to assure the continuation of the human race, God made babies sleep a lot. I mean, just look at the little darling!

Corollary: Whatever can go baby, will. (Apologies to Murphy.)

On Crying:

It’s you or me, kid! I want you to notice the nice acoustics of your room. ::Click::. There, isn’t that nice? God, why couldn’t she be mute? I mean, is that too much to ask? Kid’s got a great voice, though. Crying babies make me feel secure. I mean, it’s like when you’re a kid in bed late at night and you hear Dad snoring — you know everything’s okay as long as you can hear him. From behind a muffler, if possible.

On Sickness:

“Honey, now stop worrying! I told you she’s fine! It’s just a little cold.” Let’s see, Providence Hospital is about 3 minutes away if I make the lights… “Doctor, what do you mean ‘it’s just a little cold?!’ I mean, my child is near death; don’t lie to me!”

I really can’t understand why the pediatrician gets so upset when I call him at 3:00 in the morning. I mean, it’s his job, isn’t it?

I wish my wife would take Sara to get her shots. I just know she’s going to grow up hating me for doing this to her. Why shouldn’t Mom get some of it? Don’t look at me like that, Sara. It’s for your own good. Really. Trust me.

Mark’s Maxim #4 — It’s hard to break a baby. However, they can break you.

On Child Proofing:

There! She’ll never be able to reach that! Sara, remember… you can’t reach that… Sara… Sara! Sigh… I wonder if there’s just a little more room in the closet…

Mark’s Maxim #5 — Master break-in artists are born, not made…

On Toys:

I subscribe to the “cardboard box” theory. So does Sara. The greater the value of the toy in the box, the greater the value of the box as a toy.

When Sara took her third hard fall in a row off of a riding toy someone had given her, I realized that the toy was too advanced for her, too mature. Realizing this as a mature, reasoning, responsible adult, I calmly did the only logical thing one can do with such a toy. I tore it into a thousand pieces.

On Good Intentions:

Ideal — “I will never say ‘bad girl’ or ‘bad baby.’ I don’t want Sara to grow up with a poor self-image. I will instead say, ‘That’s bad,’ or, ‘You did a bad thing.’”

Real — “You… little… SHIT!!!”

Ideal — “I will watch my language around Sara. I will stop swearing.”

Real — “Honest lady! She said ‘sit.’ Didn’t you, Sara? You said ‘sit,’ didn’t you?”

Ideal — “I will not allow Sara to have sweets and sugars. I don’t want her to develop a problem with them.”

Real — “If I give you another cookie, will you bug off?”

Ideal — “I will be consistent in my discipline with Sara. Bedtime is bedtime.”

Real — “Okay, just ten more minutes, and that’s it! I mean it this time!”

Ideal — “I will never just ‘dump’ Sara on my wife when she comes home from work. I will give her a chance to relax and settle down first.”

Real — “Ten more minutes, God, just ten more minutes!”

On Discipline:

Any kidlet in my house is fair game for swats and kisses, in varying (but usually equal) amounts. I’m not really into much physical punishment for kids — for instance, I don’t think you should really use anything heavier than a 2-by-4 on them. It leaves marks.

Beards are great for “awful mad” faces. Eat your hearts out, women!

Have you ever noticed that you can swat a kid twice as hard when you are playing with them as you need to to get results when you are spanking them?

Say “no” once. They heard you the first time.

You can be bad, too. Say you’re sorry (and don’t do it again).

On Future Plans:

I really find it quite disgusting when parents have their children’s lives planned out for them, up to the last detail. Really, it’s quite sick. Obviously, those parents who “just know little Velma is going to be a wonderful nurse someday” are living their own small, miserable lives through their unfortunate progeny. However, it just so happens that little Sara is, really is, going to be a quite successful gymnast someday. Really! I just know she’ll love it! She’d better…

I have a friend named Don who fancies himself as quite a poet and literary person. I told him his son is going to grow up to be a jock, and when he dies, they’ll put on his headstone, “I read a book once.” And so it goes. I don’t see Don much anymore.

On Babysitters:

It is really important that you find someone who will take care of your baby as much as possible like you would yourself. You want your child to feel as much at home there as possible. However, when your child calls her babysitter “Mommy,” shoot the traitorous child-stealing bitch.

I hate taking Sara to the babysitter’s. She always cries… When I come to take her home.

On Sex Roles:

No way! Not my girl! It’s blue jeans, overalls, and sneakers for you, kid. You’re going to grow up without any of that garbage about being a “little lady,” or “girls don’t do those things.” Am I enlightened? Boy, let me tell you!

Sara, why do you have to look so damned cute in a dress, with ribbons in your hair? Okay, let’s go buy a dolly…

“Remember, Sara, when someone says you’re not capable of doing something, punch him in the nose after you’ve done it.”

In my house, there are no sex roles. Only hot buttered ones.

dad and i

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