1. Infants are what would happen to an adult if you made it super tiny and then gave it a liter of Jack Daniels. The tiny part I knew already, but the drunken part is something I’ve discovered in the last couple of weeks. Because you treat infants the same way you’d treat a friend who passed “too much to drink” two exits ago and was now rapidly approaching “blackout.”
And they act exactly like that friend. Randomly screaming and speaking unintelligibly for 10 minutes straight. Then randomly passing out immediately after screaming. And awkwardly smiling while peeing, s—tting and throwing up. And having an irrepressible craving for milkshakes. The only difference between my daughter and me at my bachelor’s party is that I wasn’t wearing a diaper. (Although I probably should have been.)
2. Have you ever been in a situation where you just didn’t quite know what to do with your hands? You’re standing somewhere or talking to someone or posing for a group picture or even allowing someone to twerk on you, and your hands are just kinda floating with no real rhyme or reason? You know you’re supposed to do something with them, but you just don’t know what that something is?
This, in a nutshell, is the experience of being a father to a newborn. Sure, there are things I can—and do—do. Change diapers, burp her, put her in the car seat, tickle her feet, teach her how to dab, watch Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives with her, explain the concept of white privilege, etc. But 90 percent of her waking moments are spent eating. And the food she requires, well, I just don’t come equipped with the parts necessary to provide that for her. So while my wife’s breast-feeding, I’m just … there. With not much to do besides ask, “Hey, do you need anything? Because if not, I’m going back to sleep,” and duck when she throws a pillow at me.
3. I don’t think newborn babies look like anything. Except for other newborn babies. And Marlon Brando in The Godfather. They only start to look like actual people after a few months. It would always annoy me when I’d watch Maury Povich and there was a question of paternity, and they’d split-screen the baby’s face next to the dad-in-question’s face, and people in the audience would be like, “It’s yo baby, Deron!!! He look just like yo ass!!!”
And when that would happen, I’d sit quietly at home and mouth, “No, he doesn’t” to myself.
But I’m apparently in the minority here, because everyone who sees my daughter says she looks exactly like me. Or kinda like her mom. Which makes me think I’m right—newborns don’t look like anyone—and that everyone else is full of s—t.
(That said, both her mom and I are pretty brown, and she’s still gaining color. So maybe when her complexion changes, I’ll see it. But now I see the Godfather. A super-duper-beautiful Godfather. But the Godfather, nonetheless.)
4. Newborns are hilarious. Which is crazy because they’re doing absolutely nothing. But everything they do—every face they make, every awkward movement with their hands and legs—is funny. Seriously, a baby onstage, just sitting onstage doing nothing, would be funnier than, like, 30 percent of working stand-up comics today. I’d totally watch a baby onstage for 30 minutes instead of Carlos Mencia.
5. The prospect of being a parent is daunting. Intimidating, even. Because you naturally assume that people who parented before you had s—t figured out. But the more you talk to them—and to nurses, pediatricians, midwives, etc.—the more you hear the same basic message: No one really knows what the hell they’re doing, so just kinda wing it.
Of course, there are certain things you definitely should and shouldn’t do. Do feed babies regularly, and don’t feed them pizza. But it basically comes down to keep them warm, keep them fed, keep them clean and (most importantly) keep them alive. Everything else is “Well … I guess you can do that, too.”
6. To an infant, the entire world (Seriously. The. Entire. World.) is a nipple.
7. Infant farts smell like grown-people farts. This was an unpleasant surprise. But, oddly, newborn s—ts smell like … newborn s—ts. They have their own unique smell. And it doesn’t actually stink. It smells more like dry erase markers and Cincinnati chili than adult s—ts.
It would be cool if this continues, though. Because I’d love for my daughter to be able to tell people, “Actually … my s—t doesn’t stink.”
8. Having a newborn is the perfect “get out of jail free” card for … everything. Lateness, forgetfulness, procrastination—any and every thing I fall short of now can be blamed on something dad-related, and I plan to stretch this out until she’s at least 7.
It also helps me understand why some people have so many kids. Having a newborn is like carrying both jokers in spades.
9. I didn’t pledge any frats in college. Mainly because I was on the basketball team, which was basically its own fraternity. But also because it just wasn’t something on my radar. None of my cousins or uncles were in frats, either, so joining one just never was a thing for me. But being a new parent definitely feels like being in a fraternity. People give you special head nods and knowing daps, strangers share inside jokes, and random women offer to bring cooked food and do your dishes.
Oh, and people get extremely familiar. The first time someone asks if your wife is breast-feeding, you’re tempted to say, “Man, you better get my wife’s boobs off your mind and out of your mouth!” But by the 2,621th time, you’re volunteering formula-reheating strategies.
10. The one question everyone asks—at least everyone who has been a parent—is, “Are you getting any sleep?” My answer has varied depending on the day, but perhaps my best and most accurate reply was one I emailed to a friend earlier this week:
“We've been sleeping in shifts. Like prisoners, basically. Which is what parenthood apparently is. A very happy and fun and silly and surreal self-imposed prison. With a 2-week-old warden.”
Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VerySmartBrothas.com. He is also a contributing editor at Ebony.com. He lives in Pittsburgh and he really likes pancakes. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.