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I was never really ready to be a parent, to borrow from the old saying.
Five years later I thought I was ready the second time because I had experience. I was wrong.
With my first daughter, the initial year was the toughest. Three in the morning wake up calls (please go to sleep), watching like a hawk as she consumed smushed banana pieces (please don’t choke), and scouring WebMD for potential illnesses whenever she coughed (please don’t let it be the plague).
After a while, I got more comfortable with parenthood. I’m not saying it was easy, but parenting almost felt like a hobby. A crucial life-long hobby that I can never stop doing. It’s not like when I bought the DVD package of Esteban’s guitar lessons and gave up after I couldn’t learn Greensleeves.
I realize calling parenting a hobby may raise some eyebrows, or that I’m trivializing parenting, or even cause other parents to label me an idiot, to which I would say calm down. There’s no need for naming calling. Just hear me out.
Being a successful parent is like any other job.
When you’re passionate about a hobby, you put a lot of time into it. You want to be as good as you can be. You need to have the latest gear. You share pictures. You talk about milestones to anyone who shows even the slightest bit of interest and even those who don’t. You rush home from work to get to it. You enjoy the successes and the challenges, and eventually feel like you’re hitting your stride. A big difference between parenting and a common hobby like say playing pickup basketball is that you have to keep doing it even after you blow out your knee.
My wife and I had our second child, or she had her, and I struggled once again to keep from fainting, and parenting went from a hobby to a full-time job. It feels official now. Our free time needs to be strictly scheduled. Parenting is our career, everything else feels farther away and less important, and there’s no retiring. Unless one of us walks off the job, but that would be a dick move especially without giving 2 weeks’ notice.
The things that were tough for the first kid are still difficult with the second, but now we’ve got double the laundry. And double the trash, double the consoling, double the spilled liquids.
To be fair, it’s also double the joy. I’ve never been as fulfilled with any job as I have with being a dad. Although I enjoyed working at a car wash one summer. The simplicity of a car going in dirty, and being intensely scrubbed, wiped, and dried in a matter of minutes, and then coming out clean appealed to me.
Some are better at the job of parenting than others, and most are better than me. You can take courses to enhance your skills, but intuition and experience guide the majority of the decisions you make.
No one goes to college to study to become a parent. If they do, I feel sorry for them. Their school work consists of not seeing their friends, being exhausted, and digging around for a shirt to wear without puke on it. Well, I guess that last point is true for most college students.
When you’re passionate about a hobby, you put a lot of time into it. You want to be as good as you can be.
Even though my wife and I spend a lot more time parenting, my younger daughter does fewer activities than my older daughter did. By 9 months, my eldest attended 10,000 (estimate) baby yoga classes, baby music classes, baby tumbling classes, all with either my wife or me present, physically anyway. Sometimes when she was slapping on bongos in a circle with other arm flailing babies, I’d drift off to a beach in Jamaica. Just as I went to take a long, refreshing sip of my rum cocktail, I’d be startled back to the present by a rogue tambourine smacking my head. Anyway, my second daughter has had none of those classes. We’re just too busy.
We had our first baptized by this time while we haven’t even looked into it for our second one. However, I blame the Catholic Church. I’m Catholic, my wife is not (I think she’s Lutheran). The Church wouldn’t baptize my first unless my wife converted. How many more Catholics do you need? I’m giving you my daughter, do you have to take my wife too? I promise between my kid and I we’ll have enough Catholic guilt for the whole family. The church wouldn’t budge, and we ended up having her baptized at an Episcopal Church.
Now we’ve got 3 religions under one roof and one agnostic. It’s like the setup for an old joke. The punchline is that my wife and I are not even religious people. You know what? I’m throwing on a crucifix, saying a prayer and splashing some water on my baby’s face. Boom. Baptized.
After all, being a successful parent is like any other job. I have to make decisions and get things done.
Besides I’ve got a bunch more work to do.
Gabe Capone is a writer, comedian, and goofball. He writes for The Pepper Dolores.