Let me tell you about Daniel (poor bastard).
You’ll recall last Monday’s Baby Care class. Well, last night was Becoming Parents, once again hosted by Susan (etc.), chock full of helpful information. (What does a baby look like in the first few days? What changes and how fast? Why is he crying/laughing/ignoring you?)
During an informal “introduce yourself to your neighbor” moment toward the beginning, we met Daniel and his wife, whose little girl is due in early July. Nice folks. They offered the appropriate congratulations/sympathies when we told them about the triplets.
Class began and it became immediately clear that Daniel (poor bastard) is a fidgety sort of guy, kind of uncomfortable in his own skin. At least a few times over the course of the evening, he’d stand up and pace to the back of the room, wait a minute or two, then return to his seat. After awhile, I began wondering if it was some sort of medical issue or tic.
Susan is good about asking for questions and our class asked a lot of them. Mostly, it was a good group. This is Long Beach, so the whole gamut was represented: the cultured and educated, the shell-shocked teens, the blue collar crowd, the granola hipsters, whites, blacks, hispanics, asians and anyone else you can think of. A lot of hands were going up and Susan was making time for everyone.
Including Daniel: “I have a question. How, um, involved does the father need to be with the late-night stuff?”
“Yeah, I mean, if they usually just need to be fed or something, the mom can probably take care of that, right?”
Chuckles. Daniel’s wife smiled, winked at us and mouthed: “He’s trying to get out of it.” Susan explained that, well, babies cry in the night for all sorts of reasons other than feeding, so you’ll probably need to take your share of night shifts.
The class continued. Susan outlined the importance of getting help if you need it, but not so much visitor activity that the baby becomes over-stimulated and, consequently, awake at all hours. “Friends, in-laws, people from church… don’t be shy about asking and be specific,” she said and nodded to me and Carey, “particularly if you’ve got multiples on the way, like our triplet mom and dad over here.”
Daniel raised his hand: “Actually, the grandma is going to come stay with us for awhile to get started. Between her and my wife, they’ve probably got the late-night thing covered, right? I mean, unless you’re saying that the middle of the night is an important bonding time with fathers or something…”
No smiles and winks from Daniel’s wife this time around. Susan fielded it. “Well, in this case, it’s probably more important to stay bonded with your wife.”
More laughter at Daniel’s expense. Susan moved things along.
Over the course of the next couple of hours, Daniel raised his hand a few more times, always with questions that began with “Is it really necessary for me to” and “Do dads typically” and, as Susan says, et cetera.
Eventually, we stopped for a quick break. Carey and I took the opportunity to wolf down chips and sandwiches she’d brought with her and, as we did, we noticed a minor queue forming at Susan’s podium. She was answering specific concerns people had about their individual situations. At the front of the line, no surprise, there was Daniel (poor bastard). It was hard to make out what he was saying, but we heard a few keywords and phrases:
“…just saying, if grandma’s there, it’s probably okay for me to sleep as long as…”
His wife was looking optimistic, but a little defeated. I turned to Carey: “dude’s mission in life is to get out of s#%&.”
Carey said, “shh. He can probably hear you.”
Of all the tidbits I took from Becoming Parents… the advice on feeding and sleeping and crying, the discussions on your mental health and your partner’s, the instructions about bedding and medicine and the proper time to use a pacifier and the benefits of a sling versus a Bjorn… I think I might’ve learned the most from Daniel.
And I don’t know the guy. Maybe he has a really specific situation and he needs every possible hour he can get his hands on in order to make the rent. Maybe he’ll wind up being the best dad in the room. Could happen. But, judging by my brief interaction with him, he doesn’t seem to be off to a ripping start.
I pray god I’m not too tempted to be the dad who’s trying to get by on as little as possible. Who assumes, eh, the wife’s on top of things, I can skate. And anyway, those little sleepless moments of torture might even turn out to be one of the most important parts of Dad Boot Camp. (Hah. Check back in with me in September.)
Either way, I’m pretty sure I don’t want to be a Daniel, desperate to hang onto the safety and sanity of his old life. Dodging responsibility, handing everything off to Mom. Sleeping in, missing all the good stuff.