Fatherhood is...

A lazy lad on the lake. A rare family portrait. A lady. Look at all that drowning potential! His trunks accentuate his eyes.

Fatherhood is braving the murky depths.

I’ve been on this lake dozens of times. I’ve swam in it, jet skied over it, kneeboarded across it, and accidently swallowed what must be gallons of it. Never once did it occur to me that I was playing in the belly of a beast, 10,000 acres of drowning potential. Sure, I'm exaggerating–a little bit. But when you slip a couple of six-month-olds into a body of water where you can neither feel nor see the bottom, you’re instantly on high alert.

1.) Aspirate lake water.
2.) Suffocated by floatie.
3.) Inhale outboard motor fumes.
4.) Sustain head trauma from choppy water.
5.) Airway constricted by tight life vest.

Keeping my head above water is a secondary concern. And despite wearing a life vest myself, I’m surprised by how much more effort it takes to stay afloat while making sure my babies don’t suck lake. To make matters worse, I’m pretty sure that’s all they want to do. It’s as if this massive puddle of mud, dead animals, and pee is nectar on their virgin tongues. (And yet they hate green beans, but that’s another story.)

6.) Sun poisoning.
7.) Dehydration.
8.) Choke on lake debris.
9.) Ingest microbes.
10.) Strangled by fishing line.

I begin thinking of all the ways this day could go sour.

11.) Bitten by snapping turtle.
12.) Bitten by water snake.
13.) Capsize with pontoon.
14.) Sucked into propeller blades.
15.) Mauled by an errant jetski.

All this morbid prognostication is exhausting, but it keeps me sharp. To know thine enemy is the first step in making sure your baby doesn’t get:

16.) Eaten by rabid fish.
17.) Thrashed against bluffs.
18.) Struck by lightning.
19.) Snatched by bird of prey.
20.) Smote by Poseidon.

It’s not long before I find myself back on the pontoon deck. Greyson has surrendered to the gentle rock of the lake, towels strategically hung around him to block the afternoon sun. Charlotte intermittently chews on and talks to her diaper bag; it’s a relationship she’s kindled with everything from toys to people.

“It’s a lot different being on the lake with children,” Ashley says wistfully. It’s true. Suddenly, the lake is laced with dozens of hazards previously unseen. My children, the victims. But we’ll be back soon, and as frequently as possible, because there’s really only one danger that concerns me:

21.) Smothered by overprotective parents. 

Fatherhood is being glad Child Services isn’t around to scrutinize your parental negligence.

You can strike my name from the “Father of the Year” ballot; I burned a baby last night. Now to be fair, she did it to herself. I just sat back and watched with nary a fuck given until it was too late. Here’s how the whole thing went down.

I fill the kitchen sink-mounted tub for bath time and top it off with a shot of hot water. Charlotte eases in and splashes a bit but is soon enamored by the faucet hanging overhead–a high arched, nickel finished spout. Naturally, she reaches for it. I know the faucet is probably still hot, that I should redirect her grasp, but for some reason I zone out and wonder how hot it actually is.

Charlotte has the answer. She says it’s too damn hot and that the world is at an end thanks to my careless parenting. Fortunately, her mother rushes into the kitchen (breast at the ready) and whisks Charlotte into her arms. It gives me a moment to reflect on the last 30 seconds of my life as Dad. “My daughter is right,” I tell myself. “I’m an idiot. I should have acted quicker, or better yet, not put her in harm’s way to begin with.”

She’s fine now, of course. All’s forgiven and forgotten–hot water under the bridge. But, I’m already mulling over how she’ll get hurt next. Perhaps she’ll provoke the cat or lick an electrical outlet. Who knows. There are thousands of ways she might hurt herself under my watch. But, I can’t let it get to me every time. Not because I won’t care, mind you, but because boo-boos happen…regardless of fault.

Also, I may have promised her a pony to make amends last night. That’s not a sustainable practice.

The romantic dinner setting for 2+2. All my babies' valentines.

Fatherhood is knowing you could have done it better, but still being happy you did anything at all.

This is our Valentine’s Day dinner. Last year, you would have found us styled in our slickest attire at our favorite out-of-town French bistro. This year, however, was…different. Here’s an itemized list of everything that made Valentine’s Day 2012 almost completely unremarkable.

  1. That’s Diet Pepsi in my wine glass, Sierra Mist in her’s.
  2. No tapered candles, just three squatty pillars on a Corelle bread and butter plate.
  3. For dinner: country style ribs, a can of peas, and some left over mashed sweet potatoes. 
  4. No dazzling dresses or silk ties for us. It’s t-shirts and house pants.
  5. We’re not even celebrating on the 14th. It’s Monday the 20th.

This is not the Valentine’s Day I wanted, not even close. But it is unequivocally the best Presidents Day I’ve ever had. All my love and sweetest affections to Greyson, Charlotte, and Mommy (also George and Abe).

Fatherhood is reining in the developmental comparisons.

Reading parenting blogs before I was a parent was so much easier. I really had no frame of reference. Babies should be smiling socially at 6 weeks? Awesome. Now, I read the same thing and I’m reviewing my mental calendar: Wait, when did Greyson and Charlotte start smiling? 7 weeks? Ah, crap. My kids are total dunces.

It literally takes something that insignificant for me to enter parental panic mode. I, of course, perpetuate this anxiety by taking note of every baby I see, projecting an age on it, and then making a scientifically unsound and completely irrelevant comparison to my wee ones.

Perfect example: a couple nights ago, we decided to watch Baby’s Day Out on Netflix. For those who haven’t managed to catch this cinematic masterpiece, the plot is essentially Home Alone 2: Lost in New York with a third henchman, a baby, and insufferable direction by Patrick Read Johnson.

Film criticism aside, I still managed to get something out of the film–a completely unrealistic developmental benchmark for my twins. Baby Bink, the laughably nicknamed protagonist of the film, manages to thwart three kidnappers time and again whilst gallivanting through the big city in the exact manner described in his favorite book…Baby’s Day Out. This kid ostensibly understands physics, zoology, and New York’s public transit system…all before he can walk.

Now, any sensible father wouldn’t think anything of it, but all I could do was quietly stew in disbelief. There’s no way Greyson or Charlotte could ever be that clever before their first birthday. Hell, I’m 26 and I can barely get on any subway without inadvertently adding 30 minutes to my commute. And yet, disbelief notwithstanding, I was irrationally glum over this comparison.

Eventually, the credits rolled and Greyson began to fuss for his bedtime bottle. I took a breath and tried to gain some perspective. Sure, my babies couldn’t possibly perform the amazing and completely outlandish feats of Baby Bink…no baby could (right?). But given the opportunity, I’d wager they could direct a better film than Mr. Johnson next week. Booyah!