I’m used to the F.N.G. label as a full-time stay at home Dad. Sometimes I wonder if I have that label tattooed on my head. After all, whenever Dad’s are seen in public looking after children it’s usually with the same suspicious eye reserved for a valet who just smiled as he took your Corvette keys. I only chose this metaphor to illustrate this reality of fatherhood for the men who are not yet fathers. Current dads already know we will never see the inside of our own Corvette unless our blog entries are discovered by a publishing agent, bound together and transformed into a NY Times best seller. If that happens, you might be able to purchase a sports car, but only if all of your kids are grown and out of the house.
Before “retiring” to take on my full-time Dad position I was a private investigator, sounds cool right? Queue the Magnum P.I. theme as I reminisce about my days driving a Ferrari, sporting a motorcycle-cop mustache and giving impromptu swimming lessons to bikini-clad women. Truth be told, it was a lot like any other job once I moved into the office and management; at the end of the day I was still sitting behind a desk pecking away at a computer and talking on a phone. Granted, the guy on the other end of the line might have been crawling around in a ditch wearing a ghillie suit and toting a video camera while staking out someone’s backyard BBQ, but it didn’t make the days any shorter. I do have to say, hearing a grown man scream like a school girl while running from a dog always had a way of brightening the daily grind, but regrettably those instances were few and far between. These days I stalk the pedways of Chicago with my daughter and I only wear disguises when she wants me to look more like the Cat in the Hat. The only swimming lessons I give now are in programs with names like “aqua-babies” and all the girls are wearing diapers. My wife doesn’t really go for the mustache; however, I’m proud to say I do often sport a 3-day shadow. It helps with the new image I like to project: vagrant with a toddler. If I’m going to be thought of as an amateur by all who see me in public, I might as well dress the part, right?
My daughter is only 2 years old, so in many ways I am still the “new guy” and given the way she changes up her behaviors, desires and abilities every other day… I think I’ll always feel that way. I can remember thinking on many occasions over the past few years, “this isn’t so hard… I think I’ve got it figured out”. Let me explain something for the newer Dads or those preparing to take the plunge: You will never get it all figured out. In every other job I’ve held, there was a sharp learning curve and within a few months I would get that warm and fuzzy feeling of proficiency and I would develop the confidence that I was ready for anything the job could throw my way. Fatherhood doesn’t fit that mold, but that’s part of what makes it so much fun.
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of aspects of being a parent that we learn and skills we acquire that would amaze mere mortals and single men. If ever they devise a speed competition for making meals, changing diapers or cleaning up messy rooms I’ll soon rise amongst the ranks to join the all-star team. We parents quickly learn how to take on everyday tasks while being completely aware of our child’s location, placement of dangerous items, arm-reach, sprint radius prior to capture, incoming objects and people, choking hazards, things and people our children might be afraid of and we all develop a special spidey-sense for the unpredicted danger or impending disasters (often proceded by an eerie silence in the next room). Unfortunately, these talents are the very things that foster over-confidence. As soon as we begin to feel proud of our skills, the little ones will throw a wrench in the operation by changing their eating or sleeping habits or deciding, for example, the answer to every question is “no” and the remedy for all that ails them is a foot-stomping, head-spinning, pterodactyl screeching tantrum. These surprises are usually reserved for public settings when your daddy stubble is in full bloom and your “Freakin’ New Guy” persona is revealed in all its glory as you plead for mercy and an end to the screaming and crying.
Oh yes, good times, but that’s all behind me now. I’m pretty sure I have it all figured out this week.