Novice Father: What’s changed in a year?
Vail CO, Colorado
VAIL, Colorado ” I took a nice long nap (more than two hours) just a few days ago. It was the first time in months that I’ve done that. Now that my daughter is seven months old, she’s in a routine where I can get just enough sleep each day … but not a minute more. That nap was a luxury equivalent to a week at the spa.
January is the month for looking both backwards and forwards. Looking backwards, I used to nap regularly. I would lie on the couch any time I wanted and close my eyes for an hour or more. That doesn’t happen anymore. Though the Kid can squeeze in two good-sized naps every day, I can’t manage a single one at any part of the week.
That brought me to think about how much has changed in my life since only a year ago: my habits, my priorities, even how I view the world.
Last January my wife and I would track the progress of her pregnancy by following a guide that compared the size of our fetus to the size of fruits and vegetables: “At this many weeks your fetus is the size of a pea. At this many weeks your fetus is the size of an apple.” This January we track progress by what fruits and vegetables our baby is eating: “At this age your baby should be eating mashed peas. A few weeks later you should introduce applesauce.”
Last January my life wasn’t all that different than any time earlier. To be fair, my wife by this time ” already deep into pregnancy ” had some significant changes to her body and her routine. But not much spilled over onto me, aside from the occasional wake-up kick by my bedmate’s tossing and turning. I could pretty much go skiing any day I wanted. If I suddenly got the urge, I could go for a hike or go out to a movie.
This January everything needs to be planned … from a date with my wife to a quick trip to the grocery store. A friend (also a new father) told me that he and his wife were going to see the new James Bond movie. He noted that the last time they went out to a movie was when they saw the previous James Bond.
It’s taken some work to get into the habit of planning ahead. If there is something I really want to do, I figure out how to do it. No, I can’t fit everything into the day. The trick, I’ve found, is to prioritize everything I do. If I really want to go for a hike during the day, then I may have to cut the two hours of television in the evening.
Here’s something I’ve never done before my baby was born: there have been a number of nights when I bolt upright in bed at 2 a.m., absolutely certain that someone had broken into our house. After a minute of shaking the cobwebs out of my brain, I realize that it was just the house settling, or the neighbor’s garage door closing. It then takes me an hour of slowing down my heart before I fall back asleep.
Until that siesta a few days ago, I had almost forgotten how great a nap feels. Looking forward, I don’t see myself getting very many of those in the future. I don’t get many chances to reflect on how drastically my life has changed. So when I do, it’s pretty shocking.
I get to watch the Kid roll over for the first time. Or be enthralled by a plastic cup. Some day soon I’ll get to watch her make her first pizza wedge on the bunny hill. Naps were great. But I don’t much need them anymore.
Kelly Coffey is a novice father. He shares his mistakes, fears, and laughs along his journey to figure out how anybody could possibly raise a child. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.