I remember back when I was a new dad…lo those many years ago. Okay, so it was almost 4 years ago. But I remember it like it was just a last year.
I sat in the hospital holding my newborn son. I was pacing around the hospital room like a caged lion. My wife was busy being patched up from the C-Section. My mom was on the phone with me listening to her grandson grunt and whine as I walked back and forth. I’m not sure why I paced, but somewhere deep down, I think I was afraid to stop moving. Like if I stopped moving, then somehow everything would come unraveled and I’d wake up from this dream and be thrust back into some other reality I didn’t like or want. By my pacing, I was keeping myself rooted firmly in my world.
Then they rolled the new mom in and she took the baby and I made a run to the vending machine because I hadn’t eaten in twenty or so hours and the adrenaline was wearing thin. My dad got on the phone and welcomed me to “Being a Dad”. It was amazing. I was in ‘The Brotherhood’. I could now walk freely about knowing that I had an instant and common bond with other dads. It was like when Ralphie got the Little Orphan Annie decoder ring in A Christmas Story. I was so excited to finally get my membership to this exclusive club, I neglected one thing.
The analogy with the decoder ring went even deeper still. Just like Ralphie figuring out the ring was just a clever ploy to advertise to him, so did I realize that membership in the club was just the beginning. And like Ralphie, I too said, “Sumbitch!”
Being a Dad is like playing D&D.
Yes, I found out pretty early, that I was just a n00b. I had rolled my character and went to the local tavern…but I hadn’t REALLY played yet. But I had some awesome stats and was champing at the bit to get out there and show everyone my Mad Dad Skills. Seriously, when I rolled my stats, I got a +5 in swaddling! A +4 modifier for burping! And I even came equipped with a super sweet Bouncy Seat of Slumbering. (It gets a +8 to calming cranky babies when the iPod is equipped!)
I came swaggering into the tavern like I owned the place. I grabbed at the first adventure that came up. And quickly found out, I was outclassed before I ever started. I didn’t realize I rolled a -3 for spit up. My excellent burping skills were for naught until I could get my stats up so I could handle a little barf without gagging! And, eventually, I did. So much so, I was fine with going out into public wearing some dried milk-barf on my shirt as a badge of honor.
“Did you know I leveled up? Yeah, you can totally tell because there’s dried spit-up on me. And I didn’t gag. Not even once.”
This was usually met with stunned silence. Okay…nobody noticed. At least, they didn’t notice enough to say something. Mostly because saying, “What is that horrible stain on your shirt??” is considered bad form in polite society. Fine. So, one night we are at Target. Me and my rocking Level 3 self were walking around with wife and son in tow. We were geographically as far from the restrooms as possible when my son decides to crap on everything and everyone in a two foot radius. After a ten minute ordeal of getting everyone cleaned up and groceries bought, we drove home while he screamed and screamed because we forgot his binky.
But it didn’t matter…because we LEVELED UP!
Yep, we took an XP hit with forgetting his binky, but the achievement of “First Public Poo-splosion” was enough to bump us up to level 4! Yep. We were in the big times. And it continues on to this day. The experience is doled out differently because we have two kids now, but we’re still plugging along and leveling up at every opportunity.
Tomorrow will be different, though. It’s really made me realize just how low on the totem pole I really am. Tomorrow, my oldest son goes to preschool. I realized, today, that so many other dads are so far ahead in that regard. Kids going into Kindergarten, Elementary School, Middle School, High School, College…and beyond. So many more levels to achieve. So many more XP to gain.
And I’m not even going to get into how your character class changes based on where you are in your adventure. That’s another post altogether. But, it is funny, looking back at my stats I rolled as a new dad. All those experience points I invested in swaddling, and spit-up tolerance, and burping stats won’t be used again for a very long time.
I am excited to see what new skill sets I’ll have to learn and master as we trek ever forward. And I will always remember…I was a total n00b once. And, as such, I’ll be a little more kind towards the new dads I see walking around with a screaming baby and spit-up on his shirt.
“Level Up, Daddy! Level Up.”