It's the Super Bowl, the seventh game of the World Series, the Daytona 500.
Preparing for fatherhood is like getting ready for the big game. You have to understand your offense (abilities), your defense (limitations) and your bench (other resources) . You also have to know your opponent - in this case, your future new baby. OK, so the baby is not really an opponent, at least not until the teenage years, but preparation is still key.
Going out to buy baby furniture, clothes and toys, babyproofing your house, sending off for information about college funds that you'll fail to invest in for the next decade: it's just routine game prep, like sharpening your spikes or stealing the other team's playbook.
Now that we've been fathers for a collective four years, we've noted a few THINGS THEY DIDN'T TELL YOU. Most people offer three simple pieces of advice to prospective fathers:
- You're going to love it;
- It's a lot of work; and
- Your life is going to change.
Others often throw out a mere "you'll see" with a smirk. That smirk is the proverbial secret handshake of the brotherhood of fathers, in which members are sworn not to reveal all the THINGS THEY DIDN'T TELL YOU.
We herewith break that vow. So, for future fathers, here are some of those THINGS THEY DIDN'T TELL YOU
Changing diapers is often a near-death experience. If the sight of an almost inexplicable quantity doesn't drop you to your knees, then the smell will. Disposing of the diaper can pose an added problem. Those devices designed for odor reduction have been known to take off the hand of an untrained dad. A full-body biomechanical suit is recommended attire for this hazardous duty.
Small children can hurt you. Badly. They don't mean too, but they can. The unexpected toy crashing into your shins, the inadvertent sippy cup to the back of the head or the well-placed kick to the crotch has caused many fathers to realize that the little one packs a mean punch.
Your eating habits will change. Pizza, burger and beer will have to wait. You'll learn to eat those things that you've forgotten about - green beans and cantaloupe, for example.
A child between 18 months and three years has more energy than the average cub scout pack. From the time their little feet hit the ground in the morning until they reluctantly hit the sack at night, they create a whole new kind of natural disaster. Picture a tornado touching down after a category five hurricane wipes out what little house was left after a tsunami. That's if you only have one child. The average two-year old can ransack a room in less than 20 minutes.Your kitchen floor will never be clean again. Food will show up in the strangest forms in the strangest places you can possibly imagine. Expect to dig food items from between your toes at least once a week. And remember, if the kid finds something on the floor and eats it before you can intervene, it's protein.
Putting in a car seat requires a master's degree in engineering. Buckles, bolts and straps that would confound Houdini. Solution? Let your wife handle this one. She has more patience and will at least read the directions.
Children imitate what fathers do and say, and then repeat them at any given time or place. Enough said.
Regardless of some of the things that fathers didn't know before the little tyke arrives, there is nothing that compares to the joy that children can bring to fatherhood. Looking into your child's eyes as you lay her down for bed at night and feeling the love and affection makes all the dirty diapers in the world tolerable - well, perhaps not the one with corn and collards. We won't be making that mistake again.
Andy Altizer has a 21 month old daughter named Zoë who was adopted from China. He and his wife Anne live in Atlanta. Roby Hill has a 28-month old daughter named Carly. He and his wife Betsy life in Charleston, S.C.