Star Powered Parenting 4.
I’ve reached a place of zen peace when my son shrieks at me. It took some time and a few embarrassing bouts of frustration… and let me tell you, there is nothing dumber than a grown man getting aggravated at an infant who absolutely doesn’t know any better… but when he gets going I know that being a calm, reassuring presence will hopefully soothe his troubles, whatever they may be. It absolutely has not worked for him, but it’s kept me from getting mad when that banshee shriek shreds my eardrums.
I’m quickly learning that this is a rough time to be Dad. I’m an (overly) sensitive guy and I like to consider myself a helpful, considerate husband. As my wife’s pregnancy progressed I attended to more and more of her needs, drove her to-and-from work so she could relax, fetched heating pads and headache pills when requested, and so on. Now that I’m a dad, I want to keep up that level of helpfulness with our son. When my wife needs a break I eagerly volunteer to take our son so she can have some much-needed alone time. Sadly, that alone time lasts for ten to twenty minutes at most, because I’m not her. It’s hard for her to relax when our infant son is screaming for her to return to him, and to get him the hell out of Dad’s bony-armed embrace.
The rational part of my brain knows that this is normal for an infant. The little guy is just shy of six weeks old and his needs are pretty basic right now. Those basic needs, sensations, and comforts are all provided by one person and one person alone: Mommy. So when bony-armed and bearded Dad (that’s me) shows up with substitute cuddles, there really is no comparison.
The irrational part of my brain is getting an inferiority complex. It’s telling me that I’m not just failing my son, but I’m failing my wife. That I can’t provide the comfort that my son needs, nor the sanity-saving alone time that she needs. That the reason he cries after ten to fifteen minutes is his active and conscious rejection of me because I’m uncomfortable and scary. That she’s going to be disappointed in me when, after she desperately needs to decompress for maybe an hour, I come upstairs after ten minutes with an inconsolable baby.
Man. The irrational part of my brain is an idiot.
I know it will get better. I know this is normal behavior. I know this is not my son’s personal rejection of me. Even writing my fears and insecurities about fatherhood in this blog gives me some much-needed perspective. And I’m still an attentive, helpful husband. I fetch cookies, pizza, and beverages for my wife when she’s stuck nursing on the couch. I clean the cat litter box. I do the yard work, clean the gutters, and shovel the snow. I unpacked ninety percent of the boxes in our new home after we moved. I know my wife doesn’t see me as an inept disappointment.
Now if only I could get these facts through to the irrational part of my brain.