They're cliches, but every dad will relate...
You’ll hear them all and you’ll very soon be sick of them all – clichés about parenthood. While some are antiquated or just plain nonsensical and should be ejected from your memory as soon as somebody blurts them out, there are a handful that are actually right on the money.
Here are some of the clichés that are worth taking heed of, either as little titbits of advice or just as personal affirmations to give you some reassurance when you feel like things are going pear-shaped.
1. The days are long but the years are short
I’ve done some highly scientific research into Time Perspective Theory and reached the conclusion that a day spent with a small child can feel like it lasts 67 hours.
When you get woken up early, after what was probably not a great night’s sleep in the first place, and have to immediately jump into action to look after the little one, you can reach about 10am and feel like you’ve already run a marathon.
It’s the same story if you’re at work all day – you used to be able to switch off when you got home, but not anymore, champ! Your day is now wall-to-wall responsibility.
And yet, paradoxically, milestone moments will swing around almost too quickly to believe. My wife and I were in mild shock when our daughter turned one. Surely she hadn’t been around for a whole year? SHE WAS ONLY JUST BORN.
Putting my scientific hat back on, perhaps it’s something to do with that whole thing of never stopping to take a breather. It makes every day last for eternity but at some stage all those days stack up and, before you know it, your kid is graduating from high school, or phoning from interstate to say they’ve been arrested, or whatever.
2. Dad’s don’t “babysit”, it’s called parenting
OK, I use this one as a joke because I enjoy getting a rise out of people, but when used in all seriousness, the term “babysit” has some pretty negative connotations.
If you catch yourself saying it (except in a shit-stirring way) you should have a rethink. Same goes when others use it to describe what you do when mum is away.
There is a movement, and even T-shirts, reinforcing the idea that ‘dads don’t babysit, they parent’ – and it’s certainly true, or at least it should be.
Same goes with phrases like ‘daddy daycare’. It’s insulting both to your partner and to you to infer that while she’s away, you’re basically just holding the fort until she comes home to do the real nurturing.
Time alone with your little mate doesn’t have to be a chore. Use your creativity and make it something fun for both of you. Think of it as an opportunity to bond and also for you to really inject some of your own personality into this whole baby-raising caper.
And you might want to keep the house in some sort of order as well, as it’s really difficult to think of reasons why your partner can wash and clean at the same time as looking after baby while you can’t.
3. Parenting doesn’t get easier, it just changes
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news on this one, but it’s completely true. Just when you think you’re on top of things, the kid changes it up and needs a whole new kind of care and attention.
One minute you’re wishing they could move around and finally get some independence, the next you’re lamenting the fact it’s not considered “PC” to slow them down with tranquiliser darts.
You’re excited for the day they can talk so they can actually tell you what they want, then next minute you’re crying salty tears in the bathroom because their smart-arse responses really do cut deep.
On the plus side, it really does get more satisfying as they grow up, so just strap yourself in for an emotional ride.
4. It must be teething?
When our baby starts screaming inexplicably, or just goes into a foul mood for no apparent reason, we always run through a list of possible reasons; not enough sleep, daily routine thrown out of whack, hunger, dismay at Trump shitting on mankind’s future, an upset tummy.
Ninety per cent of the time we conclude it’s because she’s teething, and ninety per cent of the time we’re right.
Teething is good because the baby ends up with teeth so they can chew food. It’s bad for every other reason. It always happens at the worst possible times, and it happens repeatedly until they have their mouth full of chompers (18? 24? 60? I don’t know, there seem to be quite a lot).
On the upside, other parents understand this, so it’s an excuse you can use at all times, even if your kid is just being a little turd in public.
5. The “fourth trimester” is the worst
Some people have fairly breezy pregnancies, for other couples it can be a trying time of stress and worry.
Whatever the case, you tend to have the thought at the back of your mind that once the baby comes along, everything is going to change gears.
Sure, you’re expecting it to be tough, but the arrival of the new human will surely put a silver lining on every cloud, right?
To some extent, that is true, but it can also be useful to think of those first 6-8 weeks after childbirth as an extension of the gestation period.
I mean, aside from looking cute in a scrawny, pink-faced way, they really won’t give a lot back to you in those early days. And they are completely and utterly helpless now they are out of Wombstown.
So, it doesn’t hurt to brace yourself for the fact the “fourth trimester” is probably going to be the hardest you face, and the real enjoyment starts to come in healthy doses once you’re through it.
6. The first time your child looks at you and smiles, it will all be worth it
To carry on that previous point about big rewards at the end of it all – this is a cliché that is thankfully very true and can be extended through the years to the first time they say “dada” or give you a proper hug, and so forth. And that’s all I need to say about that.