The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Lifestyles

July 20, 2013

Jeremiah Tucker: World shrinks at the first of fatherhood

JOPLIN, Mo. — If this week's column is more incoherent and unfocused than usual, it's because I'm going on only a few hours sleep in four days. Whenever parents discover you're about to have your first child, they giddly catalog every unpleasantness that awaits you.

"Your life is about to turn into a total pile of crap, just a god-awful nightmare," they'll say, "but you're going to love every minute of it." Since my wife gave birth to our son last Friday, I sort of understand where they're coming from.

First off, upon seeing the child, you are overcome with an obsessive dedication that is borderline monomaniacal and out of all proportion to what would be considered reasonable behavior in any other situation.

So even as you're foregoing sleep and personal hygiene to tend to even the most inconsequential, possibly invented needs of this tiny human being -- to the point that you're worrying about his underdeveloped immune system and the super-flu outbreak in Saudi Arabia at 3 a.m. -- there's a new simplicity to your life that is appealing.

You're possessed with new, unambiguous purpose. Your world shrinks until it's just 21 inches long, 7 pounds.

Solemn rituals develop around his eating schedule and bowel movements. You contemplate his face for hours. You always listen for his breathing.

It's an almost monastic existence.

Suddenly, I understand the dads I've made fun of over the years. I recognize as fellow initiates the middle-aged man in the locker room wearing threadbare tighty-whities that are two sizes too big or the guy at Target who steps out of a minivan wearing baggy carpenter jeans and "dress" sandals.

You just don't care anymore. Self-presentation is no longer a priority.

Still, I hope to avoid the worst tendencies of any new and zealous convert.

My only pledges going into parenthood were that I wouldn't share stories about my kid's bodily excretions on social media, I wouldn't foist pictures of him onto anyone who hadn't asked for them, and I wouldn't bore people with overly detailed stories about the time he blinked adorably.

So far, I've managed to keep these pledges. And despite the comfort of focusing on a single little person at the exclusion of everything else, I'm still hoping and anticipating my world expanding again. And sleep, definitely sleep.

Here's the music I've listened to this week.

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