This One Goes Out
to the One I’ll Love
When you become a living, breathing, likely smelly thing in five months, you and I will begin a lifetime of heart-to-heart conversations. But today, this dad-to-be wants to have a heart-to-heartbeat with his first baby.
Dear Baby Person of Unknown Gender Currently Five Months from Existence,
I know you’re new around here, so I wanted to introduce myself: I’m going to be Dad.
There’s some back story on me, which we can cover at length — especially my slow-pitch softball achievements ad nauseam — at a later date. But for now, all you need to know is that I’ll be your patriarchal representative for the next several decades. This is not a decision you can appeal, though I’m sure you’ll wish you could petition a judge for leniency and an assignment to anyone else in the courtroom. Maybe the bailiff?
So we’ll skip my story for now, and I’ll tell you only this: I’m a talker. I talk about the three or four subjects in which I’m well-versed, but mostly, I talk about things of which I have no idea. As I tell my pal Mirjam, “I know less than I let on.” (My friends, grateful to be reading this instead of listening to me yak, are nodding.)
Recently, the doctor told me and your sweet mom (tasked with carrying you about while I write self-serving posts on Medium about you) that you’re beginning to hear the world around you. Unfortunately for you and your development, I figure it’s high-time you and I sat down — or just kind of floated about — for a serious chat.
I found out you were going to be a person on October 31 — or as you’ll know it soon enough, Halloween. And each year in the future, when you’re parading around our home in a costume before attempting an overdose on glucose and high-fructose corn syrup, I’ll find a quiet room and have myself a moment. You’ll never catch me crying because I’m excellent at hiding when I have responsibilities, but I’ll be remembering your Mommy’s face in 2014 when she joyfully realized we could stop trying to make you so often. (That’s a joke, Baby Person.) The truth is that the wide-eyed moment in the fall of 2014 was our realization that we gave life to you, and in effect, gave life to ourselves.
Weeks have passed since that moment and I’m still processing my feelings. I’m a writer, yet words fail me in describing the paralyzing and thrilling sensation I felt when I heard your heartbeat. Something genuinely started inside of me and ended up as goosebumps on my arms. I guess it’s just one of those things you have to feel to comprehend, so frustratingly, I must tell you for the first — and certainly not the last — time that you’re just too young to understand.
So the reason I write to you, Baby Person, is to officially warn you of what’s to come with me at the helm. I’m putting your immediate future into writing (in an easily editable format so I can always make myself look prescient) so that a public defender can honestly and yet probably ineffectively argue that “the Baby Person plaintiff was warned of ineptitude, your Honor, so my client should not be liable for leaving the car seat on top of the sedan.”
To be more concise:
I DO NOT KNOW WHAT I AM DOING.
In the moments after seeing you on the sonogram — it’s a big word meaning “mall photo booth for babies” — I felt puffed up and confident. My thoughts read as an intense-even-for-the-Internet Craigslist “Missed Connection” post: I saw you just the once, and I know you didn’t see me. But we’re going to have a special connection, you and me. And you don’t know me yet, but you’re going to be seeing a lot of me.
But then, the reality of the situation arrived. You’ll need to be fed and led and taught and helped and put through college and picked up from the scene of a fender-bender and threatened to make you do homework and defended from a bully at school and…
This wave came before I even get to find out whether you’re a boy or girl. All I know now is that regardless of gender, you’ll end up with a respectable name that you hate by the 6th grade, at which point you’ll insist on your friends calling you something that’s much, much dumber.
But years before you dub yourself Astro or Brit’neee, I’ll create a comedy of parenting errors all my own: you’re likely to be dropped on your head, forgotten at a park and allowed (or even accidentally encouraged) to eat something potentially fatal ... all in one weekend.
You’ll be brought to the emergency room when a Band-Aid would have sufficed, you’ll be crying within earshot while I check my fantasy football score, and you’ll make me pull my thinning hair out when I come to the realization you just might not become an award-winning writer who plays a professional sport and also becomes president while curing cancer.
Most of my parenting time will be spent screwing up. Subsequent time will be allotted for attempting to cover up those screw-ups from you or your Mom (or society as a whole), as well as quietly spinning the screw-up to you, an infant, as a positive life event in the aftermath of the cover-up. “Letting you squish the doggy’s poo in your fingers teaches you about nature and an animal’s digesti—OH GOD I hear your mom’s car in the driveway! Let’s get you in the bath.”
Baby Person, you’ll be blamed for things that are not fair to you. Your parents won’t feel like they have enough money. Or time to see friends. Or energy to have Mommy-Daddy time. Or the sleep required for us to function as normal humans.
But we’ll have you — the center of our universe, the sun in our sky — and that’s all we wanted.
I can assure you so much in the way of good-intentioned parental failure, but with even more certainty, I can promise these things:
You will be celebrated and championed.
You will be coddled and cuddled.
You will be bragged about and dragged about, propped up and pooped out.
And ohhhhhh my God, will you be loved.
Your 5'8" father is going to put you on his slender shoulders and give you the 6'2" view he’s dreamed of seeing about since he was a kid. “What’s it like up there, being appropriately sized?” I’ll yell from my low center of gravity.
You won’t need me to stand on forever, though. One day, Baby Person, I’ll let you go. But until that day, Baby Person, you’re mine and always on my mind.
By the time you’re old enough to read this (probably seven months as you’ll no doubt be a prodigy), we’ll have encountered some mishaps, messy craps and whathaps. But each link in the chain of questionable parenting decisions will have something in common: you and me, together.
That’s because you’ll be my baby and I’ll be your daddy.