When I used to imagine my life as a parent, I had all these fantasies of claiming my throne as the alpha male of my household. I was to be the king of the castle. But, as it turns out, the title of “king” brings with no real authority. Nope, the alpha in our household is a 14-month-old little girl. She’s ruling our lives in ways we’re just now figuring out.
As I’m reflecting on the past year and a half, I’m noticing little bits of my dignity that she’s stripped from me one piece at a time. Below, here are the ways I became a dad at my dignity’s expense.
6. I sleep on about six inches of the bed now
It started innocently enough. Once when Jebecca was having trouble going back to sleep in the middle of the night, my wife brought her into our bed. We have a king-size bed, so there was plenty of space for her in the middle between us. What was intended to be a one-time event became a nightly routine. Flash forward months later and now Jebecca embraces the entire space. I don’t know how she does it, but at 19 pounds, she takes up 95% of the usable space in the bed. My wife gets 4%, and I get the remaining 1%. I’d like to take this moment to remind my readers that I’m 6’6” and 245 pounds.That’s a lot of person to fit on six inches of a pillow-top Serta.
You’d think I’d crave more space, but fatherhood has a way of nulling the part of your brain that makes you care about yourself. I was out of town for a work trip, and I couldn’t sleep with the entire bed to myself. I piled up all eight pillows from both beds, tucked the sheets in on the opposite side so that I only had enough left to cover my kneecaps and elbows, then rested my head on the extreme edge of the pillow. And to help me feel like I was in my bed at home, I set my iPhone alarm to go off every 2 hours just to make sure I didn’t get a full night’s sleep. I’m not sure what would happen to me physically if I slept eight hours straight. Would I awake with a higher IQ or telekinesis? Frankly, I’m afraid to find out. Spider-man taught me that with great power comes great responsibility. Well, I’m already full on the responsibility part. Not sure I could afford a superpower at this point.
5. I’ve held poop in my hand
For some reason, Jebecca poops out these perfect little turds. Sonja is begging me not to describe them, but I have to say, they really do have a great consistency. They’re smooth, perfectly round. Sure, they smell like that pack of bologna you forgot in the back of the fridge for a year, but that’s to be expected. Simply put, my daughter poops like a gerbil. Numerous, stinky pellets. It’s actually pretty cool.
There is a downside though. They roll. When I open her diaper to change it, the pellets scatter like a very unfortunate game of Hungry Hungry Hippos. Once, as a little turd rolled to the edge of the diaper, I instinctively reached out my hand, scooped it up, and put it back in the diaper, continuing on like normal. It didn’t dawn on me until about 2 a.m. that night what happened. I woke up in a cold sweat, screaming out of my slumber, “I held poop in my hand!”
I now measure my life in two distinct sections: before holding poop and after holding poop. I’m forever changed.
4. I use baby talk with my coworkers
The other day at work, one of my coworkers spilled their drink. She just bumped her cup and it spilled all over the table. I said in a baby-talk voice, “Aww, that’s okay honey.”
The words just hung there. We didn’t move, didn’t breathe. I apologized and walked away. Have you ever experienced something so awkward you had to catch your breath and reevaluate your life? This was that moment. Leaning against the wall in the stairwell, I realized work is no longer a sacred, separate place for me. I’m officially a dad wherever I go.
3. I forgot how to tell stories that don’t involve my kid
There had to be a time in my life when I could enjoy a pleasant conversation with another human being about anything that didn’t involve my child or being a parent. I’m almost certainly sure I knew how to talk about the weather or movies or general topics of interest. While I know that’s theoretically true, for the life of me, I have no idea how I did it.
I kept count last week; I talked about Jebecca 19 times on Friday alone. It doesn’t matter what the other person says to me, somehow I’ll swing the conversation around to something Jebecca did, said, or tried to do. And, just to be sure I earn my dad merit badge, I pull out my phone to show a picture or video clip to help illustrate my story.
2. I’m way too invested in children’s books
Jebecca loves books, so if we’re playing around, she’ll usually bring over a book to read. She’ll also usually lose interest after the first three pages. This one time, she brought me the Peppa Pig book Ballet Lesson. I went all in, adopting my best British accent and changing my dialect for each character. Jebecca gave up after three pages and crawled away into the next room with my wife.
I stayed where I was, lying on my stomach finishing the saga of Peppa Pig learning to jump lightly on her feet. When you’re exposed to children’s books, you realize the extreme range of quality. Some are complete garbage – just thrown together without much thought. Then there are some, like Peppa Pig’s Ballet Lesson that speaks to a larger truth about the world. Being a dad taught me to appreciate these books in ways I never expected. I’ve missed Stephen King’s last three books, but you better believe I won’t miss a Peppa Pig book. I’ve got her Trip to the Dentist book on my nightstand right now.
1. The Daniel Tiger theme song is now my favorite song
As I was working on a paper at work, my coworker interrupted me and asked what I was singing. Huh? I didn’t even realize I was. She hummed it back to me, and I immediately recognized it. It was the Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood theme song.
I’m telling you, it might be my favorite song of all time. I sing it literally all day long. I hum it while I’m brushing my teeth. I sing it when heading to work. I drum my fingers to the beat on my desk. I hum it while I’m working at the computer. I sing it when putting the dishes away. Never in my entire life has there been a song more influential in my life. And to think, if it wasn’t for Jebecca, I may have never heard it. What a sad life that would have been.