on musical upbringings.

Many of the clearest memories from my childhood involve music. Sitting on the living room floor with my mom and brother, listening to Michael Jackson’s Thriller on the turntable. Laughing with my mom at I’m Henry VIII, I Am by Herman’s Hermits. My parents playing the Beatles Abbey Road and Simon and Garfunkel The Concert in Central Park in the car while we drove down the Kancamagus Highway on family vacation. Listening to motown and classic rock in my dad’s Cutlass Ciera. Buying my first cassette tape, the Beach Boys Made in U.S.A., after watching Flight of the Navigator and falling in love with I Get Around.

These songs and records shaped my musical taste and imbued me with a sense of melody and song structure that would later influence my own songwriting. Songs like Octopus’s Garden, I Am A Rock, and Billie Jean inspired mental images that still appear when I listen to those songs today. They also provided points of connection between me and my parents. Even if I didn’t quite get the meaning of all the lyrics or grasp all the underlying messages, the beats and hooks were universal, and there were always pieces my parents could pull out and highlight for discussion.

I obviously want Rory to love music. Ultimately, he’ll decide for himself what he likes, dislikes, or ignores completely. But let’s be real: While I still have some influence over his choices, I’m going to introduce him to a lot of my favorites and hope they stick.

Way back in February, I gave my facebook friends this prompt: “Name songs that are not meant to be children’s songs, but that children would enjoy.” I also promised to pull from those suggestions to construct Rory’s first playlist and then feature it in an installment of Dad in Plaid. Here we are, a mere eight months later!

When I think about the songs that I really loved as a kid, there are a few common themes that emerge:

  • Imaginative lyrics that tell a story with lots of strong imagery.
  • Unique vocalizations and/or playful instrumentation.
  • Call backs, spelling, and other interactive elements that actively engage the listener.

Each of the following songs includes at least one or two of these elements. I’ve also made some sequencing choices to amuse me and Lauren; it’ll be a while before Rory can pick up on any of the jokes. However, I have been playing the playlist for Rory since February, and he perks up when certain songs come on. We also think he’s going to grow up to be a drummer, based on his obsession and amusement with rhythmical tapping. Could just be a baby thing, but we prefer to envision him following in our musical footsteps. 😉

Here’s the playlist:

Buddy Holly — Everyday
Creedence Clearwater Revival — Lookin’ Out My Back Door
The Marvelettes — Please Mr. Postman
Jackson 5 — ABC
Feist — 1234
They Might Be Giants — Birdhouse In Your Soul
Carole King — I Feel the Earth Move
Cat Stevens — If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out
Beach Boys — Surfin’ USA
The Dead Milkmen — Punk Rock Girl
Devo — Whip It
Taylor Swift — Shake It Off
Harry Belafonte — Jump in the Line
Beatles — Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
The Lovin’ Spoonful — Do You Believe In Magic?
Bjork — It’s Oh So Quiet
Israel Kamakawiwo’ole — Somewhere Over the Rainbow / What A Wonderful World
Kimya Dawson — Alphabutt
Pete Seeger — Little Boxes
Simon and Garfunkel — Me and Julio Down by the School Yard
Jonathan Richman — I’m a Little Dinosaur
Katy Perry — Roar
Aretha Franklin — Respect
Weezer — Island in the Sun
Bastille — Pompeii
Joni Mitchell — Big Yellow Taxi
John Prine — Fish and Whistle
The White Stripes — We’re Going to Be Friends
The Bird and the Bee — I’m Into Something Good
Mama Cass — Make Your Own Kind of Music
Jefferson Airplane — White Rabbit
Queen — You’re My Best Friend
Smokey Robinson and the Miracles — The Tears of a Clown
The Supremes — You Can’t Hurry Love
Mrs. Robinson — Simon & Garfunkel
The Dixie Cups — Iko Iko

why i haven’t written.

Welcome to Season Two of Dad in Plaid!

To the surprise of absolutely no one, I’m sure, I’ve been unable to update this blog since January 25. Instead, I’ve opted for frequent, brief updates on Facebook and occasional Instagram posts. In other words, I have been behaving like a normal person with an infant and cutting out any unnecessary distractions.

Rory is nine months old, and I feel like we’re finally settling in. He is a fairly predictable little guy, mostly abiding by a regular feeding schedule with few major complaints and sleeping through the night like a champ. His personality seems to expand exponentially every day. He is sweet, generous, goofy, and loving. He is also stubborn and a bit rebellious, and sometimes he clearly wants to be left alone. Sound familiar?

Here are some things that Rory can do at nine months:

  • Wave hello at our cats and express genuine disappointment and frustration when they don’t wave back.
  • Come so close to speaking actual words that he inspires debate over whether or not he’s spoken actual words.
  • Stand upright with increasingly minimal assistance.
  • Headbutt me and his mother as a sign of enthusiastic affection.
  • Dive off the couch when we’re not holding onto him properly.
  • Maintain a good or bad mood for an entire day, regardless of any immediate stimuli or changes in environment.
  • Laugh at me when I’m struggling to put him to sleep.
  • Crawl backwards, but not forwards, leading to frequent sisyphean struggles when he wants to get to a specific location. He is SO CLOSE to crawling though! Just in the past couple days, he’s been getting himself into crawling position, then lunging forward on his tummy, getting back up and lunging again. It’s an effective, albeit slow, means of getting across a room.

His major super power? Absorbing all our free time. And that’s why I haven’t written.

It took months for me to settle back into work and feel capable of operating without mental or emotional distraction during the day. The first day back was the hardest, by far. Hearing him cry from across the house and being unable to respond immediately was borderline torture. We talk about how mothers are especially in tune with emotions, while fathers are a little more distant and preoccupied with general safety and security. Nah. What really determines emotional connection to a child is how much time you spend with them. After two and a half months of 24/7 interaction with my baby, I felt about as tapped into his emotions and needs as humanly possible without actually entering his brain. Months later, I still feel that deep connection and it continues to be very difficult to pull myself away from him. I am grateful that I work from home and have the flexibility to build a schedule that allows for a few hours of quality time with Rory each day.

In this season of Dad in Plaid, I’ll be diving deeper into some thought-provoking subjects related to societal expectations for parents and how our plans might abide by or differ from the norm. I’ll also be talking about some lighter topics, providing some helpful top ten lists, and finally sharing the first music playlist that I created for Rory, based on recommendations from Facebook friends.

Have an idea for a topic you’d like me to cover? Feel free to leave a suggestion in the comments!

on religion (or lack thereof).

Many times we’ve braced ourselves for lectures about the importance of baptism, regular church attendance, and other religious traditions that have deep importance in the lives of certain family members and friends. So far those lectures haven’t come. We’ve only received a couple nudges, in the form of a religious greeting card or a Christian baby book here and there. We feel like we’ve gotten off pretty easy so far.

We are not religious people. We are not spiritual people. We both have our reasons for avoiding religion and remaining focused on more worldly pursuits. I won’t speak for Lauren, but here’s a little background on my own interaction with religion.

I was baptized in the Catholic church, I’m guessing mostly to satisfy my paternal grandparents. My parents chose to attend my mother’s rather liberal northern Baptist church, the pastor of which would end up being one of the most influential figures in my upbringing besides my parents. Charlie was unconventional. He was preoccupied with providing the youth of the church community with healthy outlets for their creativity and sense of adventure. Our church’s youth group was probably the least religiously oriented church youth group on the planet. We went on camping trips, we went skiing, we went hiking, we hung out and socialized. We had a safe space to be ourselves, and it was something we all needed and benefited from greatly.

Eventually Charlie’s kids developed an interest in music. One quickly mastered the guitar and the other took on the drums. Meanwhile, I quit high school band in favor of guitar lessons. Several other friends played instruments and soon a bunch of bands were formed. Charlie got it in his head to buy a PA and hold rock shows in the church basement. I helped him book local bands, and within a year a safe and positive local scene had developed around the shows.

Thanks to Charlie, I gained experience not only as a musician and songwriter but also as a show organizer. I applied these basic skills to everything I did in my 20s — booking shows for Delphine, an indie rock band I toured with in 2003; organizing the Cheap Rent house party series; and later, booking national tours for my wizard rock band. Also thanks to Charlie, my approach to all my musical endeavors has been community-driven, collaborative, non-competitive, and based on the notion that all creative expression is important, even (especially!) if it’s coming from beginners who are just developing their chops.

Besides his profound influence on my musical endeavors, Charlie also encouraged me toward progressive values that, for him, are rooted in Christianity. Charlie preached against war and for peace and diplomacy. He taught us about economic inequality and he spoke to the importance of political advocacy, while most church communities focus merely on charity and service. His sermons were universalist in spirit, and so were my Sunday school teachers, who taught me that all religions are different cultural interpretations of the same holy presence. To some in the church community, Charlie was a heretic and a troublemaker. To me, he was an embodiment of the lessons Jesus taught. He placed an emphasis on Christian values, while most other religious institutions placed an emphasis on human-created dogma.

I remember believing in the immaculate conception, the birth story, and the resurrection as a child, but I didn’t start thinking about that stuff critically until my early teens. As soon as I had the capacity to think about those stories critically, I began to view them as mythology more than events that actually took place. I zoomed out from the details and objectively considered the big picture of Christianity. I saw it as one religion and one mythology among many, all of which were meant to provide context and motivation for an ethical lifestyle.

For me, the takeaways were the central morals of Christ’s teachings: turn the other cheek, treat others as you wish to be treated, love your enemy, love your neighbor, be a good citizen of your local and global community. If I’m living out those morals in my day to day existence, then what does it matter if I’m not attending church, participating in rituals, or believing in a variety of metaphorical parables?

I hesitate to call myself an atheist, specifically because I think true atheism requires about as much faith as theism. It’s as bold a statement to say that there is no higher presence as it is to say that there is. At times I’ve identified as agnostic, but even that has a connotation that doesn’t quite feel right to me. By my own definition, I am a Christian, in the sense that I have abided by the central tenets of Christ’s teachings in my interactions with people and the world, but the average dogmatic Christian probably wouldn’t appreciate my take on that term.

Recently I’ve become fond of Let the Mystery Be by Iris Dement, the lyrics of which sum up my feelings about the meaning of life pretty well:

Everybody’s wonderin’ what and where
They all came from
Everybody’s worryin’ ’bout where they’re gonna go
When the whole thing’s done
But no one knows for certain and so it’s all the same to me
I think I’ll just let the mystery be

Some say once gone you’re gone forever
And some say you’re gonna come back
Some say you rest in the arms of the Savior
If in sinful ways you lack
Some say that they’re comin’ back in a garden
Bunch of carrots and little sweet peas
I think I’ll just let the mystery be

Some say they’re goin’ to a place called Glory
And I ain’t saying it ain’t a fact
But I’ve heard that I’m on the road to Purgatory
And I don’t like the sound of that
I believe in love and I live my life accordingly
But I choose to let the mystery be

Of course, there are times when I’m bowled over by a hyper-awareness of the majesty of creation, and in those moments I can’t help but think about what the heck we’re all doing here. But I always end up circling back to the same reality: I don’t know anything for sure, and my only real, universal belief is that we should be good to each other and good to ourselves while we’re here.

That’s something I think we can instill in Rory without organized religion. I’ve found once you’ve committed to that basic value, the rest really sorts itself out. Ultimately, if we were to baptize Rory and commit to a specific church and associated dogma, we’d be engaging in a very complicated lie, one that would undermine one of the most basic principles of Christianity. That seems pretty silly to me. If Rory grows up and finds religious conviction on his own terms, it’ll be that much more meaningful, and I certainly won’t stop him.

on privacy and safety.

Today, a person identifying themselves as Concerned Blog Reader posted the following comment on my last installment of Dad in Plaid:

I think you should respect your child’s right to privacy and not go spreading his image and story all over the internet. Rory’s hardly an age where he can give his consent to such things, and should be allowed to grow up without being in the spotlight, so to speak, since day one.

Setting aside the judgmental and presumptuous tone of this comment, I think Concerned Blog Reader makes a fair point. Rory truly lacks the ability to consent to the publicization of his earliest days. He may very well grow up to resent the fact that I’ve shared his baby pictures and information about his birth and infancy. This is something I considered before launching this project, and it’s something I take into account when identifying topics and writing posts. Most important, I think, is the subject of safety. I am a public figure within a small cultural bubble and the executive director of a nonprofit organization with global reach. Lauren is a public figure within an even larger cultural bubble. I have thousands of followers on social media; Lauren has nearly 60,000 subscribers on YouTube (n.b., Lauren is sharing much less about Rory through her own channels, specifically because her reach is that much higher than mine and she deals with many more trolls and invaders of privacy as a result). We’ve both encountered stalkerish behavior within our respective fan bases. Certain offenders have been blocked from viewing our social media accounts, and we’ve even had to alert event organizers about certain attendees in order to ensure that we could avoid/escape them if needed.

This presents a dilemma for us now that we’re parents. In the Harry Potter fandom and in the broader nerd and DIY music and art community, we’ve found a welcoming home where we’ve been able to thrive as creators and community leaders. For every individual who’s crossed a boundary and made us feel uncomfortable or unsafe, there are literally thousands of people who’ve treated us like real people and extended their generosity and support to us in one way or another. Back when we were touring full time, we frequently played house party shows that lacked any kind of boundaries between performers and fans. We ate dinner with our hosts and slept on their couches. Over the years, we developed genuine friendships with wizard rock fans all over the United States and Canada, to the extent that we looked forward to seeing specific people in almost every city we played.

Because of this overwhelmingly positive experience, I have always felt very little need to set up even the most reasonable boundaries for myself on the internet. While many of my colleagues created specialized lists on facebook in order to protect their more personal content, I remained stubborn and gave equal access to everyone, working under the assumption that most people would handle themselves responsibly. If someone ever crossed a boundary, I simply blocked them and left it at that.

Rory has changed that for me. I finally caved and created a list for friends and family who have access to everything — all the pictures and personal information that I wouldn’t feel comfortable posting in public spaces. I agonized over this list for weeks because it felt so weird to draw the line between “family and friends” and the broader community that has treated me like family since 2005. The end result is a list that includes around 300 people and feels a bit silly at times. This was after several rounds of narrowing it down — I believe my first pass had around 600 people!

Anyway, Lauren and I obviously care about Rory’s safety, and we understand that his very existence ups the stakes for our family. The stalkerish behavior we’ve encountered usually comes from people who feel they’re closer to us than they truly are. The last thing we want is for anyone to think they’ve earned a privileged level of access to Rory based on an inaccurate sense of their relationship with me and Lauren.

It may seem that by creating this dad blog, I’m inviting this type of behavior. Here are a few reasons why I’m not terribly worried:

  1. This blog is getting around 600 to 700 views per post. It’s a respectable amount of traffic, but the vast majority of it is coming from links I’m posting on my personal facebook, and thus most readers of this blog are people who I recognize by face and name.
  2. Contrary to what Concerned Blog Reader implies, I’m not indiscriminately spreading Rory’s image and story all over the internet. I am sharing my own story as a new father. The past two posts have been about as in depth as this blog will ever get, in terms of sharing specifics about Rory himself. The primary focus of this blog will be my personal growth and development as a parent and how I’ll balance that responsibility with everything else in my life. This is a story that I have every right to tell.
  3. Parenting blogs are totally a thing! This blog is just one in a sea of dad and mom blogs, all of which inevitably share information about children who are too young to consent to an internet presence. Yes, parenting blogs present an ethical question, but where you fall on the issue is a matter of personal opinion, and in my opinion it’s not unethical to maintain a parenting blog and share information about your child, so long as you’re actively taking into account your family’s privacy and safety.
  4. I’m not scared of the internet. I think it’s worth noting that we currently live in a time when over 1.2 billion people share their identity and personal information on facebook. And that’s just facebook! We no longer live in a time when hiding behind a screen name is the norm. It’s hard to say where the internet will be by the time Rory’s old enough to care, but the trajectory seems headed toward more open sharing of personal information, and that’s not an inherently bad or dangerous thing. Shielding Rory from the reality of the internet might do him more harm than good in the long run.
  5. Given how normal it’s become to share personal information on the internet, I don’t see how posting Rory’s picture on this blog is any more an invasion of Rory’s privacy than bringing him into other public settings, like a crowded store or a restaurant.
  6. Consent is an interesting choice of word in this context. As Lauren wisely points out, parents or legal guardians are usually in charge of providing consent on behalf of their children. In the case of this dad blog, I’ve acquired the consent of both Rory’s parents to post our family’s personal content, including pictures of Rory.
  7. I still have plenty of time to delete this blog before it could become an issue for Rory.

So, all of this considered, I respectfully disagree with Concerned Blog Reader. I don’t believe this blog is invading Rory’s privacy and I don’t believe it’s putting him in any kind of substantial spotlight. However, I am paying close attention to how people interact with the information I’m sharing. I’ve already blocked one person on Instagram, and I’ll continue to create boundaries as needed in order to protect Rory’s privacy and safety.

I’m very interested in hearing what people think about this issue and I’m happy to discuss further in the comments.

three weeks.

And then the hospital bills came. And they were plentiful.

Rory is three weeks old and every day with him has been stellar. While his schedule is not built around our preferences, obviously, it’s still a schedule and we are adapting to it. The best advice we’ve received is to just go with Rory’s flow, feed him when he wants to be fed, interact with him when he’s alert, change his diaper when it’s dirty, burp him when he’s gassy, and forget about trying to regulate his activity until he’s at least two months old. We are tired, but we are happy and so is Rory.

Of course, my favorite time of the day is when Rory is alert. Usually he’s wide-eyed and playful for an hour or so in the late morning and again in the early evening. At three weeks old he is pretty limited in terms of activity. Right now we have two games:

1) I wave the activity elephant in front of his face for a while and wait for him to make this face:

IMG_1757-1 2

Then I move the activity elephant, squeak its little squeaky ear, and see if Rory follows the sound. We had about a 5% success rate with this game at two weeks old; now we’re getting closer to 33%.

2) I place him on his tummy and let him practice lifting up and moving his head from side to side. Rory is way ahead of the curve on this skill: at his two week doctor’s appointment, he managed to roll himself over from his belly to his back twice! The doctor was amazed and advised us to never leave him unattended lest he hurl himself off whatever furniture he’s on. He’s rolled over several times in the past week, at least once per tummy time session. Tummy time usually ends when Rory gets frustrated by his inability to crawl and breaks down into tears. Poor little guy.

Most of our time is spent in the endless cycle of eat, sleep, poop. I’m aware that this reality is a lot tougher for Lauren, at least until we initiate bottle feeding. I try to make up for it by doing the lion’s share of the housework and helping Lauren find opportunities to nap during the day. I’ve been impressed with how positive she’s remained despite having every reason to be burnt out. I suppose it helps that Rory is super adorable.

I’ve checked my work email just a few times since my paternity leave began. I’m not proud of that, but in each case it was for a specific reason and I didn’t linger for long. I am very grateful for the eight weeks paid leave, but I’m already feeling like it’s not going to be enough. I’ll be headed back to work right when the baby will begin truly recognizing my face and learning how to play and communicate in more sophisticated ways. Every hour away from Rory will feel like a missed opportunity.

I’m grateful though: for the eight weeks of leave that I do have, and for our ability to cover those aforementioned hospital bills without too much stress. Without an excess of additional things to worry about, we are able to focus most of our time on this guy:

535023_10156848927225497_4427923028900081333_n

our first week with rory.

Rory was born on December 15 at 6:41am. Labor began on the 14th; Lauren and I spent the first few hours walking up and down our street, pausing during her contractions and keeping track of their length and the space between them. It seemed like go time from the get go — contractions were a minute long, five minutes apart, and strong enough to take her breath away. After receiving some input from our friend Amber, we scrambled to finish packing our bags and then we headed to the hospital.

It was a bit of a journey from the parking lot to the delivery room. We had to check in at triage, and then Lauren got set up in a room for an initial assessment while I sat in a waiting room, listening to a couple teenagers talking about how they wished babies skipped from birth to one year old because “that’s when they get loveable.” Ten minutes later I was able to join Lauren, and we spent the next hour or so waiting for things to progress enough to be admitted into a delivery room. I immediately figured out which graph on the screen was charting her contractions. Oddly enough, the scale goes from 0 to 100, but many of hers were in the neighborhood of 130.

There was a chance we’d be sent home to ride out early labor until Lauren was truly ready for the delivery room. We weren’t super keen on the prospect of reliving the admission process again, so we were relieved when the doctor announced that we were clear for the second floor. Shortly thereafter, Lauren received her epidural and we settled in for an unexpectedly peaceful night.

Delivery itself happened in a flash. I can’t speak for Lauren and, out of respect for her privacy, I am not going to describe it in detail. What I will say is that Rory came out blue, was deemed “slow to start” and carried to a back room for a couple quick breathing exercises. Within a couple minutes he was ready to rock, and the nurses placed him on Lauren’s chest and there he was: the most beautiful little human being we’d ever seen.

12341099_10156773583190497_993993703548399343_n
Rory and me (approx. 36 hours old).

We spent the next two days in the hospital, basically learning how to keep Rory alive in the early going. He kept failing his blood sugar test, and we found ourselves in a seemingly endless loop of trying again. Lauren endured lectures from nurses who spoke as if she was personally sabotaging his test results. However, when he finally passed the test and it was clear we wouldn’t have to supplement with formula, the entire staff seemed to share in our joy and relief. Nurses are awesome people, and they were instrumental in building our confidence over the first couple days of Rory’s life.

It took about 36 hours for Rory to find his voice. We were worried that he might be so low-key that he wouldn’t be capable of waking us if he needed to be fed. Eventually that all kicked in, though he remains very soft-spoken and only cries when absolutely necessary — a trait he may have picked up from yours truly. By the time we were cleared for discharge, we felt we were ready to be home and perfectly capable of reading Rory’s cues.

My first week as Rory’s father has been the best week of my life. I’ve never loved anyone quite like I love Rory. He is infinitely loveable. I’ve heard so many stories about parents, especially fathers, who cannot form a connection with newborns because they aren’t the person on whom the child relies for sustenance and survival, and supposedly there’s no way to form a bond with a person that can’t communicate complexly. Personally I have no idea what these people are talking about. Rory is sweet and cuddly, and he makes the most ridiculous faces. He only cries when he’s being changed or if we miss his initial hunger cues. He somehow manages to be endearing even when he’s melting down. His arms and legs pump in a way that makes him look like he’s marching, and I like to imagine he’s chanting “We want milk! We want milk!” in some kind of baby self-advocacy protest. I feel bad laughing at a person who is crying so desperately, but I can’t help it. He is just that cute.

I’ve been introducing Rory to music via the Rockabye Baby! series of lullaby versions of rock songs. So far Rory is really into Where Is My Mind? by the Pixies and Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey. He also seems to enjoy it when we read stories to him. We’ve been sticking to Goodnight Moon and A is for Activist. At this point I think it’s just the rhythmic intonations of familiar voices that he’s enjoying; we could read him random Wikipedia articles and he’d probably be into it.

Our cats seem mostly okay with this strange, mostly immobile kitten who appeared out of nowhere and is now taking up most of our attention. Sam seems a little bummed out that Lauren’s lap is often occupied by Rory, but he doesn’t seem to be taking it personally. Frodo usually positions himself across the room from Rory so he can observe him from a distance, though he has crept up and sniffed Rory’s face a few times. Cats have limited means for expressing their stress; one of them is increased hyperactivity and destructiveness. There’s been a tiny uptick in that type of behavior, but for all we know it could be the unusually warm weather that’s causing it.

Life with a newborn is surprisingly relaxed and focused. I already suck at sleeping, so the new schedule isn’t that much of a departure from the norm. Lauren is a heavy sleeper and prefers a solid eight to nine hours per night, but she’s rolling with Rory impressively well so far. There is a certain unmatched joy in holding and soothing a newborn baby in the wee hours of morning. The downsides are all minor inconveniences; the upside is a new person who we get to hang out with every day and night.

Newborns provide daily milestones — yesterday was Rory’s first walk in the stroller, and he slept through the whole thing while Lauren and I cherished the moment. Each day I test Rory to see what he’ll respond to and what he’s not quite ready to see or hear. His level of alertness is growing by leaps and bounds, along with his ability to express happiness and annoyance and all-out rejection. He clearly prefers Lauren’s company when he’s awake, but he often conks out immediately when it’s my turn to sooth him.

Our families and close friends have been incredibly supportive, and of course we’ve also received an outpouring of enthusiasm from the fandom communities in which we make a living. Though we’ve proudly refused various offers of help around the house and so forth, it’s been comforting and encouraging to have so many people pulling for us and our little guy. Our sense of gratitude is off the charts. Our sanity is well intact largely due to the generosity of others.

Rory is healthy, happy, and loved by many. He’s a lucky guy and so are we.

12391929_10156798246935497_930711846060686282_n
The many faces of Rory (one week old).

ANY DAY NOW.

Here we are: on the eve of Week 38. The baby is more or less to term, depending on which medical professional is talking. We have built all the furniture, installed the car seat, set up all the other baby gear, and laundered all the new clothes. We’ve met the baby’s pediatrician and we’ve taken a detailed tour of the hospital. We’re keeping the house spotless in case we have to disappear for a few days, because the last thing we’ll want to do when we return from the hospital is clean the house. We’ve stocked our freezer and cupboard with easy meals. We are daydreaming about the baby on our own and talking about the baby constantly when we’re together. We’re ordering more baby supplies on the internet because it’s basically the only way we can take care of our child at this moment in time. We’re doing everything we can to stay calm.

Every day I play the same game: if the baby came today, would I be ready? I run through the task lists and inventories again, double- and triple-check to make sure I didn’t miss anything. There’s no way around it: our home is completely ready for this child. There is nothing left to do except deal with my excitement and anxiety.

I do the same thing every day at work, but the story is different because there is always something else to do. For weeks, I’ve been on a mission to tie up all loose ends, finish ongoing projects and initiate new ones so I can lay the foundation and get people set up to assume what would normally be my role. It’s not easy for me to relinquish control of projects that are my responsibility to lead. No matter how much faith I have in others to perform well in my place, my sense of ownership over my work is so strong and it hurts to think about putting it down for eight weeks. At least that’s how I feel right now. I know the baby’s arrival will change everything.

I keep thinking about how I only have a couple more weeks of being a person who is not a parent. I’ve lived nearly 37 years as a non-parent. Once the baby comes, I will be a parent for the rest of my life. The more I think about it, the more I realize there’s nothing else with the ability to completely alter my identity and worldview, in such an immediate and unavoidable fashion, the way being a parent will.

Many people have told me and Lauren that we’re going to be amazing parents. While I appreciate the vote of confidence, it strikes me as an odd thing to say. Seriously — what if we totally suck? I can see fatherhood bringing out the very best in me, but I can also see it bringing out my worst qualities: my anxiety, my control freak tendencies, my stubbornness, my emotional distance, etc. There’s no possible way that Lauren and I are going to be consistently amazing at parenting, and I don’t think that’s a reasonable expectation for anyone. If we don’t fuck up sometimes, then we are not human.

I’ve had significant troubles with sleeping for a decade, but it’s only getting worse as our due date approaches. Morning hangout sessions with baby have become all-nighters. He is as active as ever, though he clearly takes up a lot more space in Lauren’s belly. Often her abdomen is skewed in whatever direction he’s leaning, making her look like an adorably lopsided penguin.

This blog post is about as scattered as my brain right now. I’m guessing this will be my last post before the baby is born — at which point I will be a legit dad in plaid.