In a few weeks, my daughter Lucy will celebrate her first birthday. Last Thanksgiving, we had to skip the traditional two-hour drive home because my wife looked like she was hiding the Great Pumpkin under her shirt. At the risk of sounding like every other dad who’s ever lived, I can’t believe how fast the time has gone. (Even though the first few weeks did seem like an eternity.)
With another Thanksgiving just around the corner, and my first year of fatherhood coming to a close, I sure do have a lot to be thankful for, including sleep, football, and cheese. Here’s the full list:
1 ) Sleep.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always been a big fan of sleep. It’s just that I’m much more grateful for it now. Every hour of sleep is pure gold and Sunday afternoon family naps are better than a juicy steak. Never more true than in the first year of parenthood is the old adage that says, “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.”
2 ) The guy who invented disposable diapers.
You, my friend, are a saint. Now, my hat is off to all of the brave, patient souls who go the route of cloth diapers. I salute you, particularly because you appear to be some brand of superhuman. Although our choice to go disposable may not be as environmentally friendly, I take solace in the idea that I’m doing my part to jumpstart the economy.
3 ) Football.
Oh, football, you bastion of manliness serving as a needed escape from the jungle of fatherhood. For a few hours, you let me revel in grown men smacking the crap out of each other as I watch from the comfort of my couch in my fleece pants. Who knew that Jay Cutler’s 17 interceptions (so far!) could serve such a noble purpose?
4 ) Moms.
First, let me state the obvious. If guys had to go through the whole childbirth thing, there’d be a lot less people on Earth. Like maybe none. Plus, moms are so good at remembering those little things that we dads often forget, like the fact that it might be a good idea to put a coat on your baby when it’s cold outside.
5 ) Colors not named pink.
I grew up in a home with two brothers. The only females were my mom and our dog. There wasn’t a whole lot of pink going on. But now, in just one year’s time, I have already achieved a lifetime’s worth of exposure to the color pink. Apparently that is the only color you’re allowed to dress little girls in. I have a new found appreciation for the colors blue, orange, green, and yes, even brown.
6 ) Hand-me-downs.
Not being the first couple on either side of the family to have kids has its advantages. One of them is all the clothes we’ve gotten from siblings who are done having children. They appreciate the fact that they can now see a corner of their basement, and I am happy that we haven’t had to spend one penny on clothes. (Except for the little Cubs dress I bought Lucy over the summer. It was adorable, baseball related, and most importantly, not pink.) This wallet-saving benefit makes up for the millions of diapers we’ve purchased so far.
7 ) The internet.
Where else can you access such a river of information about the little things that pop up during baby’s first year but via our friend, the Interwebs. Even though some research leads you to believe that your baby might have some combination of scurvy and lupis, there’s enough information out there that allows you to eventually find what you want to hear: this is normal and everything is fine.
8 ) People who considered buying my daughter annoying electronic toys but didn’t.
Thank you. I love you. If you need a kidney, call me. You are right up there with Mother Teresa in the compassion department. Any baby toy that plays music is from the devil. I hate them. I find the fact that they don’t mention ear bleeding as a common side effect on the packaging a gross disdain for truth in advertising. Some of you may think I’m exaggerating about the whole devil thing, but those of you who’ve heard one of these toys go off when the battery is dying knows quite well the unmistakable sounds of demon babble.
9 ) The fact that she’s still in one piece.
I used to think of my home as a peaceful, safe haven. Who knew that my house was one big war zone with all kinds of booby traps designed to inflict harm upon my little one? Pinched fingers, bumped heads, and a bloody lip are just some of the battle scars Lucy has picked up while living in the death trap that is our home. The fact that she’s still alive is something to be grateful for, especially since I am quite certain I had nothing to do with it.
10 ) The cuteness of babies.
Not only do they suddenly make all of your photos look ten times better, but babies and their inherent cuteness is actually a well-designed survival mechanism created by God. Were it not for Lucy’s heart-melting toothy grin and scrunched-up nose when she smiles, I am quite certain I would have shipped her to Siberia with no return address by now. And that could potentially put a damper on my chances of being named Father of the Year.
11 ) The Madison Birth Center.
Our midwives and the people on staff at the Center helped make our first experience with pregnancy and childbirth one the most peace-filled, personal, educational, and exciting chapters of our life. Kim and I still look back to the evening Lucy was born as one of the most calm, magical, and spiritual experiences we’ve ever had. And they helped give us the confidence that we could competently make the transition from a family of two to a family of three (which is a bigger leap than it sounds.)
12 ) Cheese.
I’m not sure Lucy is what would be considered a picky eater. She eats a wide variety of foods, although we’re never quite sure what will suit her fancy on any particular day. She’ll gobble down peaches for breakfast and act like they’re pure cyanide for lunch. But one thing she will always eat is cheese. A small pile of shredded cheddar is gone quicker than Usain Bolt on Jolt. This may or may not have something to do with her being born in Wisconsin.
13 ) The Costco-sized bulk package of joy.
Until you actually have a kid, you don’t quite know what to expect. When it comes to Adultitis, the debate rages on: are kids the cause or the cure? But what makes the sleepless nights, the dirty diapers, and the always “on” state of alertness worthwhile is the insane amount of joy that has been added to my life. Lucy makes me smile, laugh, and very, very happy. Being a Dad is the coolest thing ever, and for the opportunity to become one is something that makes me truly thankful.
Jason Kotecki is a dad who also moonlights as an artist, author, and professional speaker. Jason and his wife Kim (a former kindergarten teacher) make it their mission in life to fight Adultitis and help people use strategies from childhood to create lives with less stress and more fun. Stop by www.KimandJason.com and follow them on Twitter @kimandjason