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5/21/2007

(told from Dad-to-be’s perspective)

I’ve been told by countless people since Jenny got pregnant that we’re not “really ready” for parenting. Most of what we’ve been told has been about how we’re never going to sleep again, how our relationship will change, how everything will be about “the baby”, and all those other things that make parenting sound so attractive. While there is no way to bank sleep, immunize ourselves against marital strife, or keep conversations from turning to baby issues, no one has yet to give me the advice I really needed to hear. Although children don’t come with instructions, their “stuff” does.

Despite our collective years of baby sitting, learning about children in higher education, working in child care, and my work with parents, no one mentioned all the “stuff” that babies seem to need. While I can tell you all the developmental stages from conception to death, until we made the first trip to register at the baby stuff warehouse, I never knew that the most important tool I would have as a new dad was a Phillips head screwdriver.

Building stuff has never been my forte. While it’s not masculine to admit, middle school shop was one class I was ever in real danger of failing. I remember when we had to design and build a solar powered hot dog cooker and I asked to be transferred to the family and consumer sciences class. While I have still yet to see solar power grilling on Food Network, I know Jenny appreciated my baking abilities about the third month of pregnancy. When my mom asked my stepbrother and me to build a cabinet when we were in high school, I read the instructions aloud (he ignored me) while he seemed to saw, hammer, and join with instinct. He even painted it. She still stores stuff in that cabinet.

Much to my surprise as we started getting baby things, I had to learn to build things. No shop teacher, no other men to do it for me, and the knowledge that the safety and/or enjoyment of my child may depend on my construction abilities. Apparently this is the sort of pressure that I needed to kick start the dormant parts of my Y chromosome. It started small with plastic things that can really only fit together one way. I could approach it logically, the instructions were simple, and if I messed up the worst that could happen was that Jenny would show me how to do it.

Simple plastic things made way to more complex activities like painting the nursery. Although we had offers from kind friends to do the painting for us, after Jenny’s near breakdown trying to pick out the right colors (and dealing with some unhelpful people at the home improvement store), I knew that I had to do it. Both my girls were counting on me. It took exactly 2 discs of The Police box set to paint the room, although I had expected all 4 discs. When I saw the surprise on Jenny’s face, I realized why men do “handy” things for their families. This gave me the confidence to face even more complicated things like the crib, a dresser, and bassinet. Although Livi is not here yet, we smile every time we walk past the room and I get a little extra jolt of pride.

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