A few months ago, a dude in my family announced he was having a baby. A couple months later, another dude in the family announced the same thing. So there we all were last weekend, having spaghetti and meatballs together. After the meal, I took the opportunity to share some thoughts on what fatherhood is like. They didn’t ask for my thoughts. I shared them anyway.
Typically, when a dad speaks to non-dads about being a dad, it’s a saccharine platitude constructed from the following ten words: you, life, miracle, ever, forever, thing, change, best, hardest, rewarding. Throw them into a cocktail shaker, mix, and serve.
“It’s a miracle that will change your life.”
“It’s the hardest but most rewarding thing you’ll ever do.”
“This miracle will change you forever.”
“It’s the best thing ever.”
“The hardest miracle is the best thing that life changes.” (After you’ve been drinking.)
But I shared something else entirely: fatherhood is a cuter version of the Marines.
Think about it. It’s physically exhausting and emotionally taxing. Sleep is minimal and erratic. You deal with unpredictable challenges and obstacles that few in your life can relate to or sympathize with. The experience promotes trust and teamwork. You get care packages from your mom. And lastly, you face an uncertain enemy. But it just so happens that the uncertain enemy wooks adowable in his widdle ducky jammies. Yes he does! Yes he does!!!!
It’s been a few days since I made my genius statement to the dads-to-be, and in that time, I've realized I don’t quite have it right. For starters, over the course of human history, approximately 30 billion men have become fathers. That’s not exactly a prestigious group. The only prerequisites are fertility, a willing partner and (sometimes) a box of wine. I’m pretty sure Paris Island has stricter standards. Also, as YouTube has clearly shown, the dangers of fatherhood are largely limited to wiffleball bats to the crotch, falling off tire swings, being thrown violently from slipe-n-slides, and taking Nerf darts to the cornea. We know the dangers of the military are far greater. And what about courage? How much bravery does a dad really need? No one ever earned a Bronze Star for getting his four-year-old to share his Fruit by the Foot.
A couple months ago I received a photo of a soldier who had recently returned home from war. He’s holding Show Dad How. Next to him is a newborn son, the hospital bracelet still on his tiny ankle. I wonder how fatherhood is treating him. I wonder how the baby is doing. I bet he wouldn’t trade a million 3a.m. feedings for one nervous night on the other side of the world.
When you think about it, parenting isn’t that hard. Actually, it’s kinda easy.