From my immediate post before this, I was given a few ideas for future post topics. The first two look like fun, so I am going to attempt them, the second one first!
Write about your conceptions about being a dad BEFORE you become and what happened after you become a dad? How have you changed from being dad of one to a dad of two?
Better go get a coffee first- it’s going to be a long post!
Given I am quite passionate about this, I am going to break it up into two posts of distinct experiences with the two kids.
I did always want to have kids- I wanted three but Hot Mummee only wanted one. So we compromised.
I am the youngest in my family, which means there have been nieces and nephews since I was in my mid-teens. I played with them, interacted with them, and at times, was proud of them too- some of their remarks were so amazing that I found myself repeating them to my single guy-friends too.
But that was all I “did” for them. I didn’t participate in changing or feeding them. I did also cringe at their crying fits; one of them was a rather “difficult” baby in that she just cried all the time, the vein-popping type of cry (neighbours came around offering herbal ailments to soothe her, a la your baby is driving us raving mad).
Though I didn’t participate all that much as an uncle, I did have a rough idea of what it would entail: The scheduled jabs, the endless bottle-sterilising, being grounded, endless shopping for diapers and baby formula, endless washing of cloth diapers, sneaking around sleeping babies, deciding if a runny nose was life threatening… I just wasn’t full-on hands-on with most of them. There were also the gambles: The pregnancy’s success (a sister in law had a miscarriage, but has 3 subsequent teens now), healthy baby, character, nature, and traits of the baby (angel or devil), etc.
When we were expecting Caitlin, I was excited. But not the Hollywood-type OHMYGAWDIAMGOINGTOBEAFATHER excitement. It was gradual. I was also somewhat hoping for a boy, since boys can be the big-brother to a younger brother or sister. But I was happy either way nonetheless for a first child.
And there was a lot of planning, spread out to weekends; mainly on Hot Mummee’s side, cos she and her mum are the bargain-hunter type, and thus were on the lookout for baby furniture, rubber changing mats, cleaning aides, sterilisers, bottles, etc. On these trips I merely tagged along, was the chauffeur and concierge, not having much opinion about this or that product; except where it came to gadgets like baby monitors, cot ergonomics, etc. Till today mum inlaw still bargain-hunts for diapers, for Caleb’s use.
I guess I was mentally prepared, but wasn’t in the mode of making plans yet such as which school, what insurance; only insofar as where the cot was going to be.
For me, the emotionally high point was Caitlin’s birth. The whole ordeal deserves another long post by itself, but the highlight for me was my own involuntary thought that popped into my head right at birth; more specifically, when they had just towelled her off.
I am not the weak-stomach type. Hot Mummee’s labour was pretty bad, and as much as she wanted a completely natural birth, as much as she is a determined lady, and as high as her threshold for pain is, she needed an epidural.
When time came for Caitlin to greet the world, I opted to stand at the end of the bed, peering over the shoulders of the nurses and Dr Wong. Because I wanted to see this in real life, but mainly I felt I needed to watch this, as a father to my child.
Hot Mummee later shared with me that it was very helpful that I stood where I did. With the epidural, she didn’t know what she was doing or whether she was doing it right. My expressions, and I guess my occasional two thumbs-up, were good indications of the progress!
So, what popped into my head?
Kid, I am going to (try and) be your best friend.
Since my teens and witnessing how my elders interacted with their kids, I started forming an opinion that kids ought to be spoken to in an almost-adult manner. It’s fine to use baby talk once a while, but it should be kept to a minimum. And as soon as they begin comprehending the need to comprehend their universe, to start giving them as-straight-as-possible answers. I will admit I dodge the evils-of-the-world type of question, only to offer “it’s because they are naughty and didn’t listen to their parents”, or that violence on TV “is just acting for the camera”, for now- real violence on the news is a matter for an older age. Caitlin understands this last concept as I replay some of our home movies, and she recalls “acting” for the camera, that it’s not real.
From this, I intend to befriend my kids. I will still scold and spank if necessary, but I want to use a participatory-but-guide style on them, rather than I am dad and you shall listen with no reasoning. Firstly because I think that is just naturally my style, and secondly I want them to come to me with their issues and concerns, and not rely too much on their (school or whatever) peers. This way, at least I get to know what is going on with their lives, to some extent.
All this is, of course, only in the last 4 years or so, counting when we started expecting our first child, the nine months of preparations, and the 3.5 years since. And, as much as I can, I will also make her childhood as fun as possible, without compromising on teaching values and ethics.
Is it what I had expected it to be?
I guess more or less. I knew, in theory, what to expect and there were no real surprises. But in practise, the mental and physical efforts is another matter. The sleepless nights, Caitlin’s unique knack for vomitting, alertness for their safety, the answers to ever-curious toddler’s questions that need careful crafting, nursing their illness.
The pluses are also many: Choosing a name, the first steps, the first words (thus the name of this blog!), the intellectual interactions and bonding, the hugs for Daddee simply because.
Expectations of how Hot Mummee is as a mum, however, is another matter!
So, since there are a few dads that I regularly catch up with in this blogosphere, it would be great to hear the different (or the same?) perspectives from you guys too.
Thanks Lia for this topic idea! I shall follow up soon with part two: Becoming a Dad the second time.