My former wife and I were just juniors in college in 1995 when we had the first of our three daughters. Next to my conversion from Agnosticism to Catholicism, nothing has more positively changed my life than becoming a parent. My daughters are truly the gifts that keep on giving. Here are five of the most notable changes that resulted in my life for having become a dad.
1. I Actually Had to Graduate from College – I arrived at college in the spring of 1992, and everyday thereafter was a party for me. At the beginning of the quarter I would schedule a full credit load of eighteen hours (five+ classes) that I always ended up cutting back to about thirteen hours (three classes) by mid-term, I didn’t schedule a class before 10 a.m. or during 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. (while Young and the Restless was on), and I didn’t miss a single party from Thursday to Saturday. Basically, I had no solid plan as to how to graduate from college; nor did it cross my mind that I should. I mean, what was the point? College was too much fun, and maintaining a 2.0 GPA was just the price of being able to keep on partying.
With our first daughter being due in March of 1995, I took two semesters off of college so that I could earn some money doing an internship. Having to pay for childcare, diapers, formula milk, and etc., really forced me to grow up and realize that I needed to graduate so that I could provide my family with financial stability. So, in that way, it was good to have our first daughter early, because it gave me the motivation that I needed to get my life together.
2. Learning how to play Platonic Barbie – Learning how to play Barbie dolls with my daughters was a real learning experience for me. I eventually learned how to play platonic Barbie dolls and not try to live vicariously through Ken, but it wasn’t easy – I’m a guy and Ken is a guy, so I knew what he wanted from Barbie and I wanted to give it to him, but doing so would have corrupted my daughters.
I remember the first time that I brought Barbie home from a date on the beach, and when she asked Ken, “So what do you want to do now?” was traumatic for me. Here’s the scenario: Ken just spent the whole day with this woman, who was wearing two pieces of string for a swim suit, and now he is back at her place and she asks him this question? I knew what Ken wanted to do, but I couldn’t let my daughter know. I didn’t believe in chase courtship back then. I actually had to pull Ken to the side and apologize to the dude for not being able to come through for him, but I don’t think he ever really forgave me. It’s guy thing.
3. Driving a Minivan – Driving a Minivan – I hated driving the minivan. Absolutely hated it! But it was the first thing in my life that taught me humility. No matter what you do to a minivan to try to make it look more masculine, such putting window tint on it, nice rims, painting it a dark color, or whatever – at the end of the day it’s still a minivan and as a guy you shouldn’t even be standing anywhere near it, let alone driving it. There’s just something about the minivan that makes you feel less than man. I don’t know how it happens, but no matter the make or model, a minivan seems to drain a man of his testosterone and mojo and replaces it with estrogen. I noticed that guys who drive minivans for a long time start to grow man-boobs, carry man-purses, and begin to actually enjoy shopping at malls and garage sales with their wives.
Finally, when we were able to afford a second car, my wife, at the time, found every reason in the book as to why she should be the one to drive the coupe; thus, leaving me stuck with still driving the green Ford Windstar. Then when I was able to afford a Chevy Trailblazer, which I thought was my first real man-car, she takes it over and gives me the coupe. I finally won when I bought myself a Jaguar and didn’t give her a set of keys.
4.Learning how to sit on the bench – I’m not a bench a player, I am not a role player, and never have been. I am either in the game or I am out – that was my approach towards life. But I found out that that whole attitude had to change when we began having children. Immediately after they are born, children become the new priority in their mother’s life, and we men have to accept the gruesome fact that sex is no longer something that you get to have at any time of the day – it begins to get rationed out like cheese in a poor Communist state and at strange and random hours or whenever the baby decides to let you (i.e. when her/she decides to go to sleep).
5. No such thing as coming home empty handed– Before I became a parent I had no idea that children actually expect you to bring them something home whenever dad goes shopping. “Daddy, what did you get for me?” And it is like you would lose Dad points if you come home empty handed or you buy them the wrong flavor of candy, as if you were supposed to know that there is substantive difference between apple and strawberry taffy.
So, I had to learn the ‘and one’ philosophy of shopping; that is, whenever I go to the store to get something for me I have to make sure that I am always on the look out to get something for my daughters as well. The ‘and one’ philosophy has revolutionized the way I shop, and has been very beneficial in my accumulation of dad points.
Indeed, of all the things that have helped me in recent years to learn that life is not all about me, being a dad with daughters has been one of the most fruitful.