by Michael Mitchell
I’ve noticed A LOT of groups on Facebook popping up lately around the idea of sharing common experiences about the town you grew up in with other people who also grew up there. My favorite is the “You know you’re from Gotebo if…” I don’t know if I’m more impressed that a town of 247 people has a Facebook group with 48 members in it or that a town that is only .77 square miles actually has a population of 247 people.
Anyhow… I digress. Seeing all of these groups and the things people are saying got me thinking about another shared experience that is fresh and new and really close to home for me right now: fatherhood.
You see, there comes a time in every dad’s life when he realizes he’s the not the guy he used to be. He has left behind the trappings of his youthful days and traded them in for an entirely new set of responsibilities… and with them, joy. A trunk that used to hold a set of golf clubs or his favorite rod and reel is now home to a massive collapsible stroller and other random baby accessories that consume every last square inch of his available cargo capacity.
For most men, this may seem like a subtle shift, but the reality is that it’s anything but subtle. It’s immediate and it starts the first time he hears his little one’s heartbeat on an ultrasound. From that moment on, like the victim of an unstoppable Zombie apocalypse, the man is quickly and unrelentingly being transformed into an entirely new creature. One who, much like a Zombie, is now a sleep-deprived, oft lethargic, hungry, bumbling shadow of the classy, stylish, and composed gentleman he used to be.
As one of these new creatures myself, here are a few of my observations gathered over the past year about this new species I’ve become. You might be new to the game of fatherhood if:
- You glance down at your feet while taking a shower in the morning and you see an assortment of colorful plastic and rubber toys where before you only saw tile… and this does not seem the least bit strange.
- You look forward to sitting in the backseat of your car while someone else drives so you can make faces at that little rascal in the rear-facing car seat who just so happens to share your DNA.
- You have read the manual for the aforementioned rear-facing car seat from cover to cover.
- While out in public, you catch yourself talking in your silly voice and you’re only mildly embarrassed when someone else overhears.
- You realize you actually have an opinion about what type of pacifier and/or bottle nipple is best. And while you find this fact mildly embarrassing, you’re not afraid to share your opinion on the matter with anyone who asks.
- You spend more money on diapers and baby food in a month than people without kids spend on entertainment in a year.
- Going on what used to be a simple overnight trip now requires three suitcases, a backpack, a diaper bag, an activity bag, a food bag, a luggage rack, a cooler, a trailer to haul all your stuff, wet wipes, three AA batteries, and a pit stop every two hours for a “quick” diaper change.
- At any given moment, you can find a Tupperware container of Cheerios in your wife’s purse.
- You celebrate the utterance of garbled one-syllable words and meaningless hand gestures like a crazed European soccer fan celebrates a World Cup victory.
- The sight or smell of another human’s feces no longer triggers your gag reflex. In fact, sometimes you don’t even notice the smell at all.
- 9:30 on a week night seems like a perfectly reasonable time to crawl into bed for the evening.
- Anything touching, sweet, or remotely sentimental can, without warning, bring a tear to your eye at a moment’s notice and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it. This includes Hallmark commercials, greeting cards, sermons, random songs on the radio, and quiet reflective moments standing over your child’s crib while they sleep.
- Few things move you to action more than the sound of a crying infant.
- Almost every piece of clothing you own has a stain on it that is either from baby food, baby formula, baby spit-up, or some other type of baby bodily waste you’d rather not mention.
- You have Googled things that no normal person should ever have to Google.
- You use the phrase, “Don’t put that in your mouth” more than a teenage girl uses the words “Like” and “Um.”
- Life insurance suddenly doesn’t seem like such a scam anymore.
- You constantly find yourself rocking back and forth and swaying for no reason at all while standing around with other people. I refer to this as the “Fatherhood Sway.”
- The word “potty” has taken up permanent residence in your everyday vernacular, and you are no longer surprised when it slips out in adult conversation.
- You have a sudden urge to physically harm anyone who rings your doorbell early in the morning or anytime after 7 p.m.
- Six uninterrupted hours of sleep is the stuff that dreams are made of… literally. I dreamed about this during a four hour stretch last night.
- You can recite the words of Goodnight Moon without opening the book.
- Just hearing the words “sleep” and “training” in the same sentence makes the blood vessels on your forehead start throbbing. The word “teething” has a similar effect.
- An uninterrupted trip to the bathroom for a shower or other business is a luxury you no longer know.
- You’ve wiped a bottom that was not your own.
- Your little one falls asleep on your bare chest, all softness and need, and you understand that for all your sacrifice and changes, there is no better place in the world for a man to be.
I did not write that last one, but it was just too good not to include. So there you go… that’s my list. What have I missed?
Michael Mitchell is an (almost) thirty-something dad who blogs daily tips and life lessons for dads of daughters at lifetoheryears.com. While consuming copious quantities of life from a glass that’s usually half-full, he spends the majority of his days trying to balance his efforts to be a good husband & dad, a man of God, a professional raiser of philanthropic funds, and a defender of all things awesome. On the rare occasion he’s not tied up with all of that, he enjoys fighting street gangs for local charities and stuff like that.