“It’s fine,” everyone’s telling me. “Nobody really knows what they’re doing. You’ll be a great dad. Just relax.” That’s terrific. It’s reassuring to know that I’m not alone in feeling overwhelmed at the idea of impending fatherhood. Except I seriously have no idea what I’m doing. In what world am I going to be a dad? I don’t feel like a dad. I barely feel like an adult. How did the universe think this was a good idea?
Rewind to sometime around last May. OK, now fast forward to right now. My wife and I are going to have a baby boy at the end of February. Am I scared? What do you think? In six weeks or so, a miniature human being is going to force his way out of my wife’s body, he’s going to take his first breath, and he’s going to start crying. “Waa! I want food! Waa! I need my diaper changed! Waa! You have to take care of me now! Waa! You better not drop me!”
For real, the last time I took serious stock of my life, I was 14-years-old, sitting Indian-style in front of a 13-inch TV in my bedroom, drinking can after can of Mountain Dew and playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater on my Nintendo 64. And now it’s like, BAM! I’m an adult. I’m thirty. I’m married. My wife already had her last sonogram. I just spent my Sunday on line at Buy-Buy Baby returning a high chair from the baby shower because we read some parenting blog that told us, “Why did you buy that high chair? That high chair sucks. Buy this high chair instead.”
My wife sent me the link to that high chair blog post in a text message. I clicked on it and panicked. I’m talking freaked the fuck out. In my head, all I could see was my baby boy – my son! – he was sitting in that high chair, he was so happy, smiling, laughing, he had a little New York Islanders bib on, the bib was covered in spaghetti sauce and he was making a huge mess with his pasta. But it was cool because he was just so happy, waving his hands in the air. And did he just say da-da? I think he did! In my head, he had his first words in that high chair, and he said da-da! But then the high chair started to wobble, it was that defect the blog post must have been talking about. I couldn’t actually read the blog post, because my imagination was so vivid, and in my head the high chair really started to malfunction, the wobble got worse. I tried to keep it steady, but my son was having so much fun, eating his first spaghetti, rocking back and forth. A high chair should be able to withstand that type of infantile joy, but not this one, this cheap high chair. If only I’d read the reviews online. If only I paid more attention to that high chair blog post. And now it really started to tip, my baby tossed his arms in the air and the legs of the high chair snapped, he went flying backwards, I leapt to save him but I missed. He fell out. He hit his head. He wasn’t breathing. I tried to do baby CPR, but I haven’t taken a baby CPR class yet, so in my daydream I didn’t know what to do, I was just pressing down on his chest, careful not to break his tiny little body, also worried that I wasn’t pressing down hard enough to get him breathing again.
And then my wife walked in, she quickly took stock of the situation, she broke down, “Rob! What the hell? Why is he in that high chair? He’s way too young to be eating solid food! It’s all your fault!” and I didn’t know what to say, because of course I should know that sort of information, right? And I tried to argue, about how I didn’t know, about how I tried to save him. And then I’m snapped back into reality, and my wife texted me back and said, “Well?” and I said, “Well what?” and she said, “Well did you read that blog post? About the high chair?” and I couldn’t, every time I tried to read the first sentence, my mind would pick up just where it left off, some version of me standing in front of a grand jury as the judge read my sentence, “On behalf of the State of New York, I hereby sentence you to life imprisonment for the gross neglect of your only son. He was only a baby! How could you! It’s all your fault!”
And so I just texted back, “Yes. You’re absolutely right. There’s no way I’m taking any chances on that high chair. Let’s go back to Buy-Buy Baby this weekend.” My wife texted me back with a smiley-face emoji, a heart emoji, a baby emoji, and then the emoji where it’s a mom a dad and little kid.
We got to Buy-Buy Baby and I found the nearest clerk and I said, “Excuse me, I’d like to buy your best high chair.” The clerk was like, “Great, here you go, it’s right here, this is the absolute best high chair that we carry. It cost eight hundred dollars.”
I thought to myself, OK, I’m going to make this work. I’m just going to work a little overtime this month, I’ll sell some blood, if I drive to that new casino in Yonkers, I could put eight hundred on red at the roulette table, and if I lose, well, I’ll just keep betting double or nothing until a red hits, and that’s got to work, I saw it work in a movie one time. And then right as I was about to hand over my credit card, some lady swooped in out of nowhere, she stopped me, she said, “Are you kidding me?”
And I said, “What?”
And she said, “You’re seriously going to buy that high chair?”
I said, “Yeah, why? This is the best high chair in Buy-Buy Baby.”
And she just made this face, like one of those, “Oh yeah?” faces. She took out her cell phone and pulled up this other parenting blog, one that I’d never heard of before. She showed me the screen. It was a picture of the best high chair in Buy-Buy Baby. The caption said, “Best high chair? Or death trap?”
My eyes couldn’t stay on the page, even though I tried to read the blog post, my brain went right back to my daydream, this time I was in the electric chair. The priest walked into the execution room and I said to him, “Father, are you here to give me my last rites?” but he scowled at me and said, “Certainly not. I’m here to excommunicate you, to make sure that God never forgives you for what you did to your baby boy!” And right before they pulled the switch, the ghost of my son started floating before my face, he said to me, “Da-da, you let me down, and I don’t forgive you.”
I ran out of the store, and my wife got really pissed at me, because she’s so pregnant right now, and it’s really icy here in New York, and I should have waited for her, helped her out of the store, made sure that she didn’t slip. She didn’t slip, but she could have, and that would have been all my fault also. And we didn’t even get a high chair. And so now I have no idea how this baby is going to eat, once he starts eating solid food that is, whenever that is, he’ll have to stand, yeah, he’ll just have to stand up and eat, it’s really the only way to make sure he doesn’t fall out of whatever piece of junk high chair I ultimately wind up incorrectly picking out for him.
My day was such a mess. I was a total wreck. I got home and called my dad, I was like, “Dad, I can’t do this, I don’t know what I’m doing.” And he was just like, “Rob, relax, everything’s going to be fine, you’re going to do great, nobody knows what they’re doing, you’ll be a great father.” And that should have been comforting, right? My dad telling me that I’m going to be a great dad. But I just don’t see it. I swear, it feels like just yesterday I was in detention for dipping sugar packets in maple syrup and throwing them at some of my friends sitting at the other end of the cafeteria in high school. The cafeteria moderator came up to me and was like, “You! Detention!” And I was like, “What? No way! Come on!” And now it’s like, well, you’re going to be a dad. Don’t you wish you listened to that cafeteria moderator when he told you, “Stop acting like such a clown! Who’s going to clean up all of that maple syrup? Why don’t you grow the hell up?” And now I’m worried that it’s too late. Because seriously, I have no idea what I’m doing, and I don’t feel like a grown up at all.