At 33, I made a late entry into the parenting game. Age broke down many potential misconceptions of life’s greatest miracle before my wife was ever pregnant.
For instance, I knew how utterly useless I’d feel when my wife went into labour. I knew that the onus of childbirth is 99.99% on women, reducing their men to cheerleader status. I knew my wife would agonise in the worse pain of her life, and it was my duty to ask her if she wanted a pillow. It was my job to remind her how to breathe, faking a confidence like I knew how she felt, or something.
I knew that my active role pre-childbirth ended on the recreational end of the spectrum. I knew all this because I was 33. I survived my 20s, so I must know. I thought I knew what to expect once our little boy joined us, but I was wrong. At 33, I had experience, even though I had no experience.
My son is now two. Every day I’m reminded of what I don’t know. Here are some of my parenting misconceptions, from two years ago to today:
- Both my wife and I were a bit out of our element with the whole childbirth thing. We took one of those hospital classes, to get acclimated to the idea. They told us one in four childbirths ended in a C-section. Eyes wandered as every couple began to do the math. My wife didn’t want one, and I wanted her to have the experience she wanted. So it wasn’t going to be us. Our son on the other hand, had other ideas. He had his own way of rushing the process. C-section it was. No matter how stubborn we are, no matter how strong our convictions, he had his say.
- Even though I came late to the fatherhood game, it didn’t mean I had experience in holding babies. Holding babies is awkward. They’re so tiny and helpless. They move. They squirm. They’re so small you are afraid you’ll drop them. You’re afraid you’ll break them. You won’t. They’re durable. They’re hearty. And eventually, no matter how uncomfortable or awkward it feels, you settle in and get comfortable with holding one. The process is expedited when it’s your baby.
- Poop is nasty. Especially other people’s poop. I was all for being actively involved in parenthood. But what did this mean in the fine print? What did this mean in the details? I thought I’d hesitate when it came to changing a diaper. I thought I’d be dissuaded by my keen olfactory senses. I don’t honestly know if I had changed a diaper before my son’s. It’s not my favorite fatherly task, and you’d have to be a little mentally disturbed to find enjoyment in that. But instincts kicked in, and I can tolerate that stench a lot better when it’s my kid. Knowing that we’re approaching potty training helps too.
- I remember being so excited when those favourite first words leave his mouth – “Mama” and “Dada”. It’s heartwarming to hear those words uttered, and knowing that he knows who we are. I remember getting so excited at the idea that he’ll be talking shortly. Well, he’s two now. He talks. And silence is his mortal enemy.
- Even when you are in your 20s and at the peak distance from paternal instincts, you understand how adorable toddlers are. It’s reinforced once you become a parent, and every parent thinks that theirs is the cutest. They’re made this cute so the crying and tantrums become easier to tolerate. They’re so cute, they must want to be picked up and cuddled, right? Not a chance. They cuddle on their own terms and that’s not something you can force.
- I have an abysmal singing voice. I can’t stand the sound of my voice attempting to carry a note. It brings about a whole new level of bad. If it sounds this godawful to me, I can’t fathom how it must sound to other people, my son included. I feel like I’m inflicting pain on him if I start to sing, so he must feel the same, right? Wrong. He’s two. He wants to be sung to. His sense of artistic taste hasn’t developed enough to know ‘bad’ yet. No matter how much you hate it, to him it’s a necessity for being soothed. The sad, sad sucker.
‘Fess up… What are some of the misconceptions that you had about parenting? What were some of the perceptions versus reality?