Like a ticking clock, this thought kept rolling through my head last Friday afternoon. I was sitting in a hospital room, my wife and I had run up to visit some friends who had just had their first child, and I realized that the next time I would be in a similar room, I’d be holding my baby. The plastic fish tank container thing that they push the babies into the nursery in would say Epperson on a pink piece of paper. I’d have to watch the “don’t shake your baby video.” I’d do all these things and more in six weeks… and six weeks tops.
I really can’t tell you where the last eight months have gone. It seems like yesterday, Torrie was waving around a little urine test in front of my face, urging me to take one to prove its validity. They say kids grow up fast. Well, I’d agree. And my kid is still just a fetus.
I’ve made no pretenses about being freaked out a little. That comes with the territory I guess. People say, “You’ll be fine… it’s different when it is your own.” I suppose it will be, but at the moment, I can’t even get my head around what being a dad will be like. I mean, "Dad" is my father's name. Sure, I feel her kick and I’ve seen video evidence that she exists. But for the most part, it is all pretty abstract. Like Santa Claus or a good Kevin Costner movie.
We have taken some steps to help it sink in though. We found out the sex, have given her a name and we have done our homework. Once I knew she was a girl, I was bound and determined to research the female species like I haven’t since high school. Of course, back then it was purely for recreational purposes. This time, the stakes are raised. This time, it counts.
Becoming the dad of a girl has changed some things. For instance, last week I was walking through the mall and as I passed Victoria’s Secret and glanced (yes, just glanced) at the 10-foot picture in the store window I thought, that girl is some guy’s daughter. The second thought through my mind was (gasp) that girl looks too young to be wearing that. I may be turning 29 this week but it seems that I’m getting older every day.
Additionally, to prepare for bringing home an 8-pound-XX-chromosome being, I’ve had conversation after conversation with real-life female humans. My wife and I have gone to dinner with people who raised solid young women. I’ve read books on raising daughters. Every time I talk to a girl, I usually throw in a casual "tell me about your upbringing" question. Awkward, I know. But at this point, if parenting was a multiple choice test, I’d do pretty well. In the end, it’s more complicated than that. But, just in case, here is my cheat sheet.
I learned that the one thing I can control 100% is her self-esteem. She will value what I think. She will believe my opinion is true no matter what anyone else says.
I learned that attending soccer games when she is 14 and open mic performances when she is 24 is important; even if she says it is no big deal.
I learned that while boys play with Ninja Turtles and Transformers, girls play games called “school” and “grocery store.” I’m still not sure why. After all, schools and grocery stores are real but I’ve yet to see a car turn into a robot. Boys win this one.
I learned (according to our friend Amy) that I should wrestle with her just as much as I would if she was a boy. “Even when she gets boobs,” she added. You see, I found out that girls need a lot of physical touch. And if my daughter doesn’t get it from me… yep, you guessed it… she’ll get it from some punk with a rattail and a barbed wire tattoo halfway around his upper arm. “It hurts too bad to get it done on the under part,” he’ll say. Whatever, it’s a lame tattoo anyway. And stay away from my daughter.
I learned that high school girls sometimes hate their best friends. I was told that it’s complicated. I'm staying out of this one.
I learned that I should value her opinion and empower her.
I learned that teaching her to play a musical instrument or speak a foreign language early on has huge benefits down the road. Si, este es mi piano.
I learned that Taylor Swift isn’t that bad after all.
I learned that no matter what, she’ll never be the most important girl in my life. Her mom always gets that title. Oh and also, between the ages of 10-14, she won't get along with her mom. She'll be so embarrassed by her mom... won't want to be seen in public with her mom. Tough stuff. Good news is that it won't last. All girls go through it. It's my job to love them both.
I learned that I have a lot to learn.