It’s our first Thanksgiving with a baby and I’m standing in a parking lot in the Bronx with a back wheel that looks like it had a disagreement with Wolverine. A flat. The classic dad challenge. My wife stares. My son snoozes. I summon my courage and I … watch a man named Angel swap our shredded Goodyear with a spare.
Great job, dad. Welcome to the holidays as a new father.
We are already in the thick of “the season.” Americans now celebrate from Nov 25th till January 2nd, a nog and turkey-fueled mega holiday I will loving portmanteau into THANKSCHRIST. This time of year is stressful: travel, getting gifts, end of the year regrets, being visited by various ghosts regarding the chains I’ve formed in life, etc etc.
And now I’ve thrown a baby on top of that. And the holidays are a different kind of stressful for Dude Turned Dad. And more than that? They’re strange. So new dads, pack the diaper bag, send out the Christmas card, and keep your newborn away from the Hanukkah candles. Let’s get weird.
Weird Truth #1: PREPARE FOR THE WORST
I learned this the hard way with our tire mishap. Pack water in the car, bring something to kill two hours on a flight. Shit happens, you change the diaper, and then the REAL shit happens. You are now the Bear Grylls of babies. Be prepared to drink your own urine. Your kid has probably already peed in your mouth by accident. What’s a little bit more urine in the grand scheme of things?
WEIRD TRUTH #2: YOU WILL BE JEALOUS
When you go over the river and through the woods, you’re ready to throw your infant to the nearest grandma ASAP. But then, a funny thing happens. This is your baby. You made it. Not them. Watching my in-laws play with my son, I suddenly felt myself getting pale, hunching over … talking to myself. “Tricksy in-laws. GIVE ME MY PRECIOUS.”
A lot of people are going to be handling your little one. And you’re going to have to be cool with letting go.
WEIRD TRUTH #3: YOUR ROLE HAS CHANGED
I used to sweep into my childhood home like some sort of nap king. Take over the couch, snooze, then accept my loyal subjects as they paid me fealty in baked goods. But a new nap king has taken my throne and get this — it’s my freakin’ offspring. Tell George R.R. Martin I have the new plot for the final GOT novel.
When you used to come from the holidays, you were the baby. Now they’re the baby. Your role has changed forever. You live in limbo between son and father. Don’t panic. Set some boundaries and try to establish some new habits. Do some dad duties, but also snag a few naps. The nap king is dead. Long live the nap king.
WEIRD TRUTH #4: THE “ADULTS” IN YOUR LIFE ARE NOW BABY CRAZY
When you arrive at your wife’s parents home there is no longer talk of work, or sports, or future plans. All small talk now runs through the baby filter. Stories of when your significant other was a baby. What you should do with the baby now. How the baby looks, smells, moves, smiles, frowns, poops.
In some ways, this is excellent. But be warned. It’s all baby, all the time, from here on out.
WEIRD TRUTH #5: PLAN ON DOING … NOTHING
Someday in the near future, you will transform into a holiday event planner: visits to sit on Santa’s lap, ice dancing with seven-year-olds, tasting hot chocolate flights. But for now, you will show up to someone’s house with your newborn, show off a few tricks (eating food, rolling over) and then everyone will sit there and stare at the baby. And that’s it.
You will do nothing. And to your hosts, this will be everything.
My Thanksgiving trip with my new family was strange. I had not planned on spending Black Friday at a Pep Boys. I bought myself a new tire, went into the parking lot, and learned how to change my own tire. As I sat on cold asphalt cursing and swinging around lug nuts, I thought of Angel, the man from the Bronx. When did he change his first tire? Did his dad teach him? Had Angel … even been real? I had heard a bell when he changed the tire, but maybe that was just the sounds of traffic. Then again, when he finished securing the tire, Angel seemed to … disappear?
The holidays are going to be weird. But that’s what makes them magical. Enjoy your new family this ThanksChrist. Change a tire for me, will ya?