How to Be a Dad

How to Be a Dad

Night of the Living Dad

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Night of the Living Dad

When the trial by fire starts with a newborn, and to some degree the last few months of your wife’s pregnancy, you begin accruing a sleep deficit that can’t be solved by any grandstanding politician standing on a soapbox made of bullsh*t. It’s a freefall into the land of the weary sleepwalkers who birthed us and you’re paying the ferryman for a trip to the land of the sleep-deprived with physical currency: your youthfulness.

A couple of months ago, we did a little diagram about the similarities between babies and zombies. We concluded that babies and zombies were nearly one in the same, I mean just look at them. Swerving little eating machines.

For the past 22 months I have become an undead-version of myself. I have forked over my younger appearance and brain function to my son. Don’t get me wrong, he deserves it, but it’s a little insane how much of a zombie I’ve become. I’m waiting for George Romero to come bounding through my front door.

I’ve always had a fickle relationship with sleep. I had what some might have considered off-and-on sleep disorders. Throughout my life, I’ve walked and talked and screamed in my sleep. But my sleeplessness catalyzed when my wife got pregnant. I began working, staying up late, writing — doing anything I could to make money, make a lasting endowment for my family. With my little fetus good luck charm, I booked 12 national commercials, worked on TV shows, wrote and shot a film that went to Cannes… I was on fire inside, but the future was staring me down. I knew I had limited time to stockpile cash and cred, and I was okay with sleep being the only casualty of World War Baby, even as people said, YOU SHOULD BE GETTING AS MUCH SLEEP AS YOU CAN BEFORE THE BABY COMES. I can be stubborn. Be forewarned.

freddy krueger is scaryAny of these sound familiar to you, parents?

I come from a long line of late-night thinkers and tinkerers, a species of night owls who wallow in self-doubt and aimless, obsessive thinking past 10:00pm. My father had it. His father had it. His father had it too, but as I recall he drank it away. Dad really worried about being average. He didn’t lord it over us as kids like his father did to him, but you really got the sense that it combusted inside the guy. It was a kind of carcinogen he’d had about his own creative talents and his place in the world. Eerily enough, my father died of cancer and his father, a heart attack at the Taj Mahal. At a certain point that self-loathing flame catches a vein or a lymph node.

Somehow, I managed to pick it up. He never rode me about my creativity, never put anything on me but the confidence he had in my “ethos” and willingness to follow my own path. He, mistakenly, thought I was more evolved. He explained to me that I was a special person, that I had taught him as much or more than any teacher he’d had in his life. That was strange to hear as a youngster. A grown man was learning from a child.

Finn is almost two years old. He looks more and more like a young boy, no longer the worm-like creature attached to a guy’s chest in Total Recall. He has taught me so much about myself, so much about what’s important, so much about the resistance of poop stains to be removed from my nicest clothes. He’s one of my finest teachers. He’s helped me realize that as parents, we trade our youth with our children and in return they help us live forever through them.

But I keep asking myself, how much I should tell Finn about what I see in him? Should I tell him that he’s a special person? Should I point out that he makes people happy, even very, VERY unhappy people? That he radiates radness? Or should I let him figure out he’s got something inside that separates him from most others…

I don’t know, you tell me…

What should Charlie do about his son?

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32 Responses to “Night of the Living Dad”

  1. Cheryl M. says:

    I don’t know if you or your wife suffer from this, but I sure as hell do…Mommy (or Daddy) Brain.

    Our beautiful, sleep-robbing, ear-splitting children not only rob us of our youth, but they also suck your brains out – just like a zombie! I would swear in court that each time you have a child, they get half your brain. Since I’ve got two, that would leave me with 1/4 the brain I started with. I’ve been on the highway and forgotten where we were going, gone into the kitchen only to forget what I went in there for, and forgotten what I was saying halfway through a sentence!

  2. Amit says:

    Less dead, more dad!
    I think that only now, 7 years after my last birth i am starting to get my brain back (well, some will say i never had it to begin with :- P)
    And u should tell him he is the best thing in the universe, as during his life he will bumped into those bad people that will tell him differently, don’t worry, so his parents should be this safe place where he can be the best cub in the whole world..

  3. Jenny Z says:

    I think it’s important not to overdo saying “you’re special”… self confidence is important for a kid, but so is knowing that they’re NOT the center of the universe. I’ve seen the victims of the overuse of “you’re special”, and it ain’t pretty.

    But it’s certainly not wrong to tell him every now and then!

  4. desboobs says:

    this site is AMAZING. I’m trying to get my bd to read it.
    Kudos to clever and awesome dads.

  5. Christine says:

    I would say, Tell Finn a bit of how he is without inflating his ego too much. Some things a child must learn on his own whereas somethings a parent can teach/tell him. As he gets older, you’ll see where to “inflate his ego” and where not to. Go with the flow.

    • charlie says:

      It’s funny. I’m sort of divided about the germ “arrogance”. I Thimk false pride sucks. But I also believe there are components to humbleness that reduce the power of a person. It’s okay for a person to know that they’re a good, strong individual. Knowwhatimean?

      • Christine says:

        I hear ya. Just go with the flow and do what you think is best as a parent. Your instincts must be good because, from I saw this morning, that child adores you. All I can say is thumbs up!

  6. Sleep? My husband never lost any sleep over the baby. Maybe two weeks out of his 12 month life. The most sleep he would lose was, “You might want to get our son, he’s crying.” Him being the one who works outside the home, I guess I never fought him on it. Since my sleeplessness began the last few months of pregnancy, I’ve found that I have white eyebrow hairs coming in and white hairs coming in on my noggin. I thought they were suppose to make you old as teenagers. Boy was I wrong!!! He’s 12 months and STILL not sleeping through the night.

    As far as telling him what you see in him, I would to a degree. They change, not only physically, but mentally. I mean, at 2 my oldest had amazing rhythm and I figured the boy was going to grow up to be a drummer. At almost four, the wonderful rhythm he had before has decreased and now he’s become a bookworm. So, there’s no telling where Finn will go and what he will do. He’s awesome for having parents that care about him like you do. He WILL do great things!

    • charlie says:

      Yeah Finn has never been a good sleeper. Still isn’t great at it. I guess we just acquiesced to his nightly demands too many times and are paying the price. But he’s a good man.

      My current thoughts on what to say to him are something on the order of teaching him special every person, including him, really is. That way I can teach him to be of service with his super powers.

  7. Midgetturtle says:

    Even though my parents praised what they believed to be my innate attributes, they didn’t give frivolous praise. I think that is the key.

    • charlie says:

      Frivolous praise seems to devalue the praise given. It’s true. If every one gave out gold coins any time someone took a poop, there’d be a lot of gold coins and poops. … I need a nap.

  8. *rubs temples*

    Mommy to four, Grammy to six, so let me be (one of) the first (only?) to say this.

    Knock it off.

    Seriously, Finn is adorable and sweet and loving and he will grow up to be whatever’s hardwired into that li’l brain.

    If that means he stays awake nights, preparing for the zombie apocalypse or training as a ninja, then that’s what will be.

    Don’t overthink. (should I have just said, “Don’t breathe”?)

    Really, kids are awesome, amazing, intelligent and intuitive.

    Our jobs are to keep them (mostly) from danger by letting them go into the fray.

    At two, admittedly “fray” may mean eating questionables off the floor, but you get what I mean.

    The last thing a two, seven, or sixteen year-old needs is for us to unload our psyches on them.

    Teach your little man what it means to be a big man and you cannot go wrong.

    • charlie says:

      All great points. He’s a beefy little guy. I wouldn’t put Zombie Hunter past him.

      Rule #1 for me as a parent is, like a doctor, do no harm. I know there are plent of unconscious traits or habits I may not be able to protect him from, but I’m going to do my damnedest to set a good example and keep my mental machinations & bullsh*t off his plate. My father didn’t do that very successfully, so I figure I better do a good job of it. Or as best I can!!!

      That being said, I’m pretty awesome and so is he. Lucky to have each other.

  9. Margaret says:

    I think my parents did a pretty good job conveying “specialness” (and I hope to do the same with my son) – they emphasized that I was precious and special to THEM, but not necessarily to the world. It gave me the confidence of knowing I was loved, but also the realism that sometimes the world is a soul-sucking place.

    • andy says:

      I love this comment. And I’m not saying that because “everyone is special and covered rainbow-colored honey” but because it’s real and right and a great preparation against the world’s soul suction.

  10. andy says:

    My “Other” Vote:

    Just kneel down, slow-like, and simply sit there for a moment, until his attention focuses on you and your silent gaze. Your eyes will then be locked on each others, but don’t let the moment get away, it will be fleeting. Then…

    …just smile.

    P.S. You can hug him too, if he hasn’t swung his fist or whatever toy he may have had in his hand at your smiling face. (Don’t worry, it’ll just be a love punch.

  11. kellyjean9 says:

    I am one of the few “others” in the post above. I chose other because the exact thing I would say isnt there.

    I would express to Finn that I think he is special and that he is rad. That being said, I would also work not to put too much pressure on him. To make him feel he must try to be something he is not to please his dad and others.

    My goal with my kids to try to make them decent, kind human beings and for them to find what makes them happy, even if I dont necessarily agree.

    To be thoughtful, but still able to think for themselves….. fingers crossed it will happen, for me and for all of us.

  12. Ashley says:

    My son is 3…I tell him he’s the coolest kid ever (and various other things)…

    But, I feel the same way as many. This is one of those fine lines. Yes, let him know he can be anything, but let him know you’ll love him no matter what. Here’s where it gets a little tricky…

    Letting them really figure it out and understand it for themselves. And don’t be too lenient or they think there are NO expectations, which is true, they don’t have to ‘be’ anything ‘special’ that they aren’t already jusssst by being them. Which is great, but…this is what probably causes ‘failure to launch’…why do anything if daddy already loves me and I already know I’m awesome?

    You see that? So…you’ve gotta put a LITTLE bit of ‘kick ass’ into them…and then…figure out a way to make them…have faith and want better without being ingrates who are never pleased with what they already have…you’ve gotta make em wanna try harder yet not make them feel hated or self hate…

  13. Ashley says:

    “He’s helped me realize that as parents, we trade our youth with our children and in return they help us live forever through them.”

    -wait a…

    -minute…is there an implication that our children are like…horcruxes? Because this would change everything.

    I have to get started making more babies.

    Oh dear goodness.

    I’m 25 and I’ve only managed the one.

    Oh gosh. My life views just changed in the blink of an eye. So much to consider.

    (I jest…but alas what a concept, eh…it really would explain a lot. o_O)

  14. Anwen says:

    My mum never told me I was pretty, only “handsome” ( she’s a hard woman to get a compliment from). If I got 99% in a test she’d obsess about the remaining 1%. Always tell Funn he’s rad. I’m going to tell my little Caitlin, but will make sure I keep a look out for boastfulness. No one likes a show-off.

  15. Rosannie says:

    wow…Your son and wife are very lucky, my baby is almost 4 months old and his father broke up with me 2 months ago (his first child) and we were together for 5 years. He comes by to see him pretty often but only for like an hour, so I’m the one with sleepless nights…not being able to eat cause the baby is crying…sometimes I have to shower really quick…bothers me to think he can take as long as he wants taking a shower or eating and he sleeps without worrying :'( oh! and he lives behind my house! it’s 2:30am….Dante woke up again….boobie time 🙁 Always tell Finn how great he is! …and your wife too!

  16. Zombirella says:

    Words are empty. Make him FEEL like he’s special

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