I can confidently say that being a father has been the most satisfying experience of my life. Words fall short of describing the love and happiness that these two (and soon to be three) kids have brought to my life. But if I can be honest, the fist year following the birth of your baby is a hell of a ride. I’ve compiled this list consisting of what I am calling The 5 Stages of Parenting (A reimagining of the Kübler-Ross model) to better prepare you. It’s a whirlwind of countless ups and downs that eventually settles into a pretty amazing thing. So hold fast, and brace yourselves.
Stage 1 – Denial: Shit just got real.
It all seems like a dream. Did I just become a parent? Holy crap… this beautiful (blotchy, swollen, gooey, wailing) baby is mine? Life just gave you a precious gift, turned you around, slapped you encouragingly on the ass and sent you off with a tiny life to care for. This can’t be real. Please don’t let me screw this kid up. Take a deep breath. You’ve got this.
Stage 2 – Anger: Please, just go-the-fuck to sleep!
You’re at your wit’s end and sleep deprivation is rearing its ugly little head. Luckily, you’re taking turns with your partner, but even then this choppy sleep pattern is doing a number on you. The baby is waking up every few hours and you’re wondering:
Did he piss or shit himself?
Is he hungry?
Is he a sadist? Maybe he’s feeding off of my suffering.
All of the above (my bet is on this one)
There may be a point where you might find yourself rocking your baby, whispering curses as part of your soothing process. Shhhhh… just shut the fuck up and close your eyes. That’s right. Go to sleep before poppa loses his mind and ends up in a padded room. Then, the miraculous happens. You look at your little demon, and he’s sleeping like an angel. All is good in the world… for now.
Stage 3 – Bargaining: You want some Cheerios?
The bartering begins! Let’s face it; that hint of sadism you once feared in your baby has matured, much to your dismay. He’s now teetering between unwarranted tantrums and the nonchalant dismissal of your reprimands. When the kid doesn’t want to listen, try redirection. Look, Chuggington is on! Choo-choo! That usually works since babies are at the mercy of their incredibly short attention spans. Use this weakness against them!
When times get rough (and they will) we break out the holy box of Cheerios. I tend to just fling them at our son while reciting prayers from The Roman Ritual. Sanctifying a bottle of milk may also assist in casting out the evil spirit.
Stage 4 – Depression: Why do they grow so fast?
At this point you’ve doubtlessly accepted parenthood, the baby is sleeping most of the night and you’re enjoying the hell out of him too. He’s walking, talking and has transformed into the squishiest little lovable shit in the world. Why can’t he just stay this small forever?
Sure, there are still moments that test your sanity, but there are many more beautiful ones that outweigh the bad. You’ve forgotten all of the moments that nearly left your sanity as wispy as a fairy’s fart. You find yourself sad that your baby is growing too fast and requires your help less. He’s more independent now and you’re having mixed feelings about that.
Stage 5 – Acceptance: Did I truly live before this?
Your baby isn’t a baby anymore. He’s a toddler now and the past year is a blur of emotions. Imagine hitting warp speed aboard the USS Bipolar Disorder. The crazy part is that you would do it all over again if you had to. You’re probably even considering baby number two. Why the hell would you do that to yourself again? Well, because despite the ups and downs, it’s one of life’s most beautiful experiences.
You’ve created life and you’ve nurtured this life through his first year of existence. You’re in love and you’re invested. Sure, reliving those first three steps is going to be a bitch; but you’re a pro now! And you’ve come to realize that life takes on a much more beautiful light through the eyes of a parent.