My daughter and I spent Father’s Day the same way we’ve spent every day the past few months – communicating by Morse code.
It’s an odd way for father and child to converse, I know, but I think it works pretty well for us.
Our talks usually start out the same. I bend down to her mother’s stomach and say hello: “Hi, Phoebe, it’s your daddy. How ya doing in there?”
And my little girl responds.
Kick. Kick kick kick. Kick kick.
Or sometimes: Kick kick. Kick. Kick kick kick.
I’m not sure what she’s saying, exactly, but I smile and nod politely.
I believe it has something to do with ice cream, a new toy, her allowance, or perhaps all three.
In any event, I figure it’s best to agree to whatever it is she’s saying.
Ordinarily, I would be embarrassed to admit being so malleable, but I’m told this is the way of life for new fathers. I’m told I’d better get used to it.
Phoebe, as you’ve probably gathered, isn’t with us yet. We’re due to meet her in mid or late August. (If she takes after her mommy, she’ll be late. If she takes after her daddy, she’ll be late, a little groggy, and looking for a cup of coffee.)
With our daughter’s arrival still two months away, Julie and I are busily readying ourselves for parenthood.
By the time Phoebe makes her debut and begins to communicate with me through a series of gurgles and coos and wails, we will be completely prepared for her.
Uh-huh. Sure we will.
Right now, we are gamely trying to learn the lingo of parenting. The Bradley Method. Diaper Genies. Snugglies. Ear thermometers. Wet Ones.
I am tracking the price of diapers on the New York Stock Exchange.
My wife is shopping for something called “onesies.”
And, much the way a squirrel prepares for winter by hoarding nuts, I am storing up sleep before it grows scarce. (I doubt that my wife and my boss appreciate my frequent naps these days, but I must insist. I am trying to be a good father.)
My wife and I are also having the great philosophical debates that new parents have.
Barney or no Barney? Dr. Spock or Mr. Spock? What’s a proper curfew for a newborn? Can a father come down with colic, too, and – if so – is it treatable?
We’re also talking about Phoebe’s future. Public or private schools? Center field or first base?
Is age 30 too soon to allow her to begin dating?
If, theoretically, a dad were to beat up a beau he didn’t like, would that be a misdemeanor or a felony?
My wife and I are also nesting. Julie, by acclamation, is handling the aesthetics. She talks incessantly of curtains and paint. I concentrate on security. I am comparing the quality of crib monitors and tallying up the number of those little socket-protectors we will need.
We’re arranging and rearranging the furniture, too.
Some pieces – left over from my days of bachelorhood – have been judged too disgusting for our child to ever sit her diapered bottom on, even her dirty-diapered bottom. They’re going on the back of the truck, then on to the dump.
To make room for Phoebe’s bed and burgeoning toy collection, I’m also clearing out my office at home.
So far, I have given away about 3,112 boxes of books, which – as my wife says – is something I have never done for her.
I smile and accept the praise implied in her observation. I have to admit, though, that I have an ulterior motive. We have to have some place to put all the books we’re going to get Phoebe, don’t we?
We’re eating well, too. Healthily, that is.
Our chow consists of lots of high-protein soup and cheese and fish.
This is good for the mother and child, and probably for me. It also helps Phoebe crank out her first battalion of brain cells.
This latter point, I think, is especially important. Julie and I will need a kid smarter than we are so that we can make it through the rough spots ahead.
And, through all of our preparations, I talk to Phoebe.
I describe the trips we’ll take.
I explain the behavior of our cats, as much as I can.
I tell her about cartoons and little red wagons and shoestring catches and kites and the smell of the air after a hard rain.
Phoebe, every now and then, taps out a response.
I puzzle over her messages a bit. Then I remember something else I want to tell her about life out here.
I’m new at this fatherhood gig, but I’m absolutely certain of one thing.
It’s a kick.