“SANE DAD” – That’s the sign I wanted. Well, technically I wanted to tattoo it on my forehead, but I felt that might undercut the message. Ultimately, I went with the slightly more understated t-shirt approach. “SANE DAD” it said, as if a 100% Cotton Beefy-T could somehow stave off the dire warnings and predictions of everyone I came into contact with.
You see, as a new father, there is a nearly universal belief that I must be frightened, dazed, and confused. The assumption being that nobody ever goes into fatherhood willingly, if they know what they are getting into. At age 38 it would be unrealistic to think I am naive, so the only possible explanation for my late(r)-life foray into child rearing is insanity.
Still, I protest. It’s true, I’m not an innocent. I’ve heard horror stories of teething and colic, endless diaper pails and nonexistent sleep. I heard the stories, and I went ahead. “But Joe,” they said, “your wife will be unhappy, your child will scream, and you will never have a social life. Are you INSANE?” I’m not, I plead. Two full weeks in, and I am a SANE DAD. I don’t have an unrealistic image of my daughter’s beauty – she’s naturally beautiful – probably the most beautiful child ever born – but I am sure that I’d be able to tell if she weren’t. I am not overprotective, and I don’t believe you can be overnurturing – no matter what the “experienced” parents say. I am SANE, and I will take a balanced approach to parenting.
When I say a “balanced approach” – I mean that I will not overreact, I will not behave in an extreme manner, and I WILL NOT PANIC. In the hospital when my Peanut started to gag, I didn’t panic. Up, in my arms (a little leaned forward to help clear the mucous), and patting her back until she cleared it out. She’s been breathing fluid for nine months, so I’m not worried about a little phlegm. I did call the nurse the second time it happened, but only to calm my wife (she’s a new mother, after all, and she slept though the first time it happened). I stayed completely cool. Babies cough. They turn red. They occasionally cry as if something were horribly wrong. It’s all part of the game. You just go with it – comfort them and make sure they feel safe. Like I said… balanced.
Last night, my wife indicated some concern about the little bits of… what is a delicate word… crud. My wife indicated some concern about the little bits of crud in the corners of her Sweet Pea’s eyes. I was proudly wearing my SANE DAD t-shirt at the time, and informed her that “babies have all sorts of oozy, gooky stuff coming out of them all the time,” I said, realizing that even the gook coming out of my Sugar Bear was, in it’s way, adorable. “There is nothing to worry about.” We cleaned her eyes (warm water, cotton balls, inner corner to outer), and everything was fine… except there was more gook. Significantly more. An hour later, my little angel’s eye was pretty much sealed shut, and, although she is the most even tempered child ever to grace the earth with her loving radiance, she seemed a little cranky. Still sane, balanced, I swore it was nothing. HAD to be nothing. The book said it could be a blocked tear duct – which could take a year to go away and could necessitate running a tiny wire into the duct. WELL! It couldn’t be that. I mean, our little cupcake… she couldn’t have anything that would require a WIRE to be put into… no. An infection. Minor infection. That’s what it had to be. A little ointment or some drops, and she’d be right as rain. I AM SANE! I AM CALM! I AM TAKING A BALANCED APPROACH TO THE SITUATION.
In bed, our poor little darling nursing at her mother’s breast, I considered the possibilities. It could be a cold. It could be… it could be the flu! My eyes are a little sore – what if it isn’t allergies? What if I have some virulent strain of pink eye, and I’ve given it to my tiny, perfect daughter because I am disgusting and unsanitary and contagious? What if she… The “What Ifs” rolled through the night.
This morning, my SANE DAD shirt crumpled in the corner, I considered that I was a horrible father. Today was the first doctor’s appointment for my perfect little girl, an appointment where she would find out the fate consigned to her by her negligent father. It was her first appointment, and I couldn’t go with her. I had foolishly scheduled the appointment without checking my own schedule, and I had a presentation to give at the same time. I’m a bad father, because I should find a job that allows me to work from home while she sleeps – a good dad would do that. A good dad would…
… I just got a call from my mother-in-law. They just finished at the doctor’s office. It turns out that Zoe is fine. She has a little eye infection, and they are prescribing some drops. Other than that, the doctor says she’s perfect.
See? Like I said – there’s nothing to worry about.
In retrospect, perhaps it’s a good thing I didn’t get the tattoo…