I really dislike it when people give me unwarranted advice.
There are the naysayers. “Why would you get a psychology degree?” they’ll ask. “You’ll never be able to find a job with that.”
There are the Just-wait-ers, who project their own experiences onto you. Boy, do these folks come out in droves, ready to pounce on any would-be happiness. “Just wait until she’s a toddler and screams all the time. Just wait until she’s a teenager and doesn’t talk to you. Just wait until you’re fifty, bald, and sitting alone eating Cheetos on your couch.”
So instead, I’m giving myself some advice on parenting, six months in with so many experiences ahead. Life is starting to fly by, whizzing past me faster than I can even keep track of, so I need to slow down and take my own advice, however unwarranted it might be. (I DIDN’T ASK FOR THIS!!!)
Be present. Put your phone down. When you’re home, be home.
Keep singing Ben Rector and George Ezra and Aladdin to her.
Dance with her.
Keep talking to her. One day she’ll talk back, and she’ll have a lot to say.
It really does go by so fast. Don’t blink. DON’T!!! Seriously, don—wow, you blinked. She is now twenty-two.
Enjoy bath time and changing time and reading time and bedtime. She might keep screaming when you take her out of the tub and when you change her, but these days won’t last. She might not understand the books you read but that, too, will pass.
You know what? Come to think of it, It’s OK if you don’t enjoy every moment. People are always saying that: “Enjoy EVERY moment!”
It sounds a bit like a homework assignment.
You don’t have to enjoy the moments when you’re trying to sleep and she turns a quiet abode into a Cambridge house cacophony.
You don’t have to enjoy the moments when her screams engulf the room after she gets poked in the leg with a nurse’s needle.
You don’t have to enjoy the moments of sheer panic when you think something might be terribly wrong.
Having said that, most moments are completely there for the enjoyment, so go ahead and enjoy the sweet heck out of them. Enjoy the moment when she smiles at you before falling asleep, her eyes narrowing, lips forming into a big smile, big red cheeks moving upward to accommodate them. Enjoy the moment when she tries new food, enjoy the first crawl and first steps, and enjoy the moment when she calls you “Dada.” Take these memories in, write them down, and remember them.
You will not do or accomplish anything more important in your life than being there for her, every day, and being present with her.
You are not a super hero. She isn’t asking you to be. She knows, in the deep recesses of her intuition, that you will make scores of mistakes. She honestly doesn’t care about that. She just wants you to be there. So be there.
She’ll probably want an iPhone and a boyfriend too, but that can wait a few years.
Matt Cambridge (’12) is a new dad to Chloe, husband to the beautiful Kendahl, and a human resources professional at Boeing. He lives in St. Louis and enjoys eating Hershey’s kisses, riding roller coasters, and watching the latest stand-up specials on Netflix. You can read more of his work at laughcrythink.com.