In the history of advice, there have been some true, inspirational gems: “Get busy livin’ or get busy dying,” “Dance like no one is watching,” “Don’t g***** a donkey unless you’re prepared to z** his p***** in a rainstorm.” (That last one sounds better in the original Portuguese.)
But when it comes to babies, the winner, hands down, is: “You have to cherish this time.” And it’s usually followed by: “They grow up so fast.” Based on the way it’s said, the subtext is clearly not: “You have to cherish this time like we did. We cherished every moment, and now we’re happier than we ever could have imagined.” No, instead the other parent will slowly fade into a thousand-yard stare, smile weakly, and walk away, as if they had said too much already.
You’re left to wonder: What horrible thing happens next that could make “this time” so wonderful and worthy of wistfulness?
Personally, I think this time is pretty difficult, and I’m kind of looking forward to our baby “growing up” a little bit. But who knows what this other parent’s experience was like. Maybe their toddler began killing birds or something.
It’s well known that, during labor, the body releases Oxytocin, a hormone that makes women forget the pain of childbirth somewhat. Obviously, they remember being in substantial pain, but the Oxytocin blurs the agonizing details. Supposedly, this makes the female feel more nurturing and more willing to reproduce a second time instead of, say, giving her man a vasectomy with a broken beer bottle while he sleeps. Is it possible that they also “forget” the challenges of a 9-month-old?
As a stay-at-home dad, believe me, I want to cherish. I want to bask in the soft glow of innocence, I want to pause and linger over the enormity of new life, I want to reconnect with the child within, but I usually desperately need a shower and a power nap.
The next most common bit of advice we hear is: “You just have to make it past the first year. Just get through it as best you can.”
I choose to believe this philosophy because, frankly, it’s what I want to hear. I want to believe that something gets easier. I know that moving from one developmental plateau to another will always involve its own challenges, but I need to know that something, anything, will someday appear in my rearview mirror. I need milestones, checkpoints, benchmarks. I need the illusion of progress.
Nine measly months of fathering might not afford me much baby cred in this marathon, but here’s some unsolicited advice to those embarking on the first mile: Cherish what you can, and get through the rest. This is new territory for everyone involved, so be kind; especially to yourself. You probably won’t cherish nearly as much as you’d like, and that’s okay. From what I can gather, nobody does. And, above all, remember that Old Portuguese saying: “Advice is a t**t*** goat and heeding it is like qu****ing your h**** in the paella.”