Max and I have spent the last 6 weeks at home on paternity/pupternity leave with the newest human addition to the family. I’ll be honest that I was very nervous about caring for a baby all day – it is not something I have much experience with. Max, on the other hand, was very excited to have friends at home with him, and was not nervous about the baby at all.
And the more time we all spent together, the more I realized how much Max had already taught me that prepared me well for caring for an infant. I know I still have much more to learn, and I am sure Max has much more to teach me about being a dad, but here are a few lessons I learned before graduating from this round of pupternity training.
Com-mutt-ucation or Non-English 101
Max has yet to master the English language, which can be frustrating when I want him to really understand something I am saying. But in this case, his non-verbal skills have helped me, the now only and out-numbered English speaker in the house during the day. By honing my ability to pick up on all different kinds of communication, Max has helped me make at least a little more sense of the baby’s crying and babbling.
Too Drool for School or Biolo-gross
I always thought Max was too slobbery, until the baby began sucking on arms or shirts or her own hands or whatever she could get her mouth on. I still don’t like slobber – human or canine – and I still do all I can to avoid or get rid of it, but Max at least prepared me with the assurance it can be washed away before it returns again and again and again.
Hungry, Hungry Hound-os or Lunchtime
I have written here often about how Max loves eating. I promise I feed him enough (according to the vet), but he has always been one of those Golden Retrievers who devours whatever food or treats he is given. Little did I know that dealing with his ravenous hunger would prepare me for an equally ravenous little human. Max has taught me how to be quick on the draw with food, which I’m sure the baby has already thanked him for and is colluding with him for some future joint food heist.
Let Sleeping Babes Lie or Naptime
In addition to wanting to eat all the time, both Max and the baby are very prone to sleeping all the time. Max sleeps in the most random places at the most random times, and while the baby is less free to find her own napping spot, she certainly finds plenty of random time to sleep throughout the day. Max prepared me for how best to tiptoe around the house in order to avoid waking up any dozers. And Max has been oh so nice as to wake me up in the early morning hours occasionally over the past several years to get me ready for the baby waking up at any random hour. (To be fair, my lovely spouse does so much more of the middle of the night stuff than I do, so I thank Max on her behalf too.)
A Little Ruff Housing or Physical Educanine
Max has incessantly taught me how important and fun playtime is. He is always ready to go on a walk or run around or wrestle and will not let me forget even when I am tired. His eagerness for playtime has prepared me to make sure the baby also gets a lot of playtime, and he has taught me that in both of their cases, that free play is where the real discovery takes place…even if it is discovering ways they can plot against me (I can see it in their eyes)!
Time Trots On By or History Unleashed
It is hard to believe Max and I have lived together for 5 years, just as it is hard to believe that I have already finished 6 weeks with the baby. Each day, and sometimes each week, has felt rather long, but Max has prepared me for how overall it flies by quickly. I know I don’t even know the beginning of how quickly that history will zoom by with the baby, but at least Max has taught me to live as presently as possible and enjoy the time.
Poopy Puppies or Can I Get a Hallpass?
And possibly the top way Max has prepared me for this baby stuff is by giving me opportunities every single day to pick up poop. Max has allowed me so much close contact with poop that handling it has become a fact of life. I don’t love that about my life, and I still don’t love dirty diapers, but Max has taught me that dealing with others’ poop is not so undignified and that a swift, direct approach is the best. He has also taught me that no matter how much poop I deal with, more will always come.
So thank you Max for preparing me for this new adventure with another human in my life. Thank you for being good and patient these 6 weeks at home together and for teaching me at least a some of what it means to care for another hungry, slobbery, sleepy, sometimes confusing being. And I look forward to what you will teach the baby about how best to live with me.