Last weekend I celebrated my first Father’s Day. It was a day of fun, food, rest, joy and, since the Cavs won (!), contentment. It was a great day.
The weekend before, my wife was out of town on business, which meant I spent the entire weekend alone with my daughter for the first time. It was a weekend of anxiety, stress, doubt, confusion and self-loathing as I was regularly outwitted and emotionally manipulated by a 6-month-old girl.
I also learned quite a few things. Here are a few of them:
1. Single parents deserve prizes—and by “prizes” I mean “literally every prize”: trophies, certificates, acknowledgments, cash, the Nobel, the Pulitzer, an Oscar, a Tony and even an NBA Finals MVP trophy.
Taking care of my daughter on the weekend was stressful. But since I didn’t have to work or even really leave the house, it was manageable. I fed her on time, made her laugh an appropriate number of times, bathed her, read her a couple of books, watched Veep with her and even learned to distinguish between her “deep in baby thought” face and her “I’m taking a s—t right now” face. (Which is practically the exact same face.)
I can’t, however, imagine doing the solo-parent thing while working full time and relying on a single income. I barely had time to shower, eat and s—t on my own; I used her moments of sleep to sneak away like a hostage at the world’s cutest war prison. How the hell do single parents manage to do … anything? Like, I know women (and men) who are raising their kids on their own and manage to work and go to school. HOW THE F—K DO YOU DO THAT?
2. Child carriers are designed by the devil.
I know, I know, I know. A simple Google will tell you that child carriers are made by companies with names like Infantino and ERGOBaby, and not the devil. But all this tells me is that these are the devil’s shadow companies. And that if you gathered their tax statements and investments and shareholders and followed the money, it would lead you straight to Satan. And if not Satan himself, one of his earthbound minions. Like Tyga. Or Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert.
I’m convinced of this because only Satan’s bitch-ass would take something as essential and seemingly intuitive as a child carrier, give it 117,000 reckless and petty-ass straps, and make you feel like Steph trying to guard Kyrie while putting it on. I lost at least 10 percent of my self-esteem that day.
3. Doing the bare minimum as a dad will make people—strangers, family, even your own children—consider you Father of the Year.
So I needed to wear the carrier because I needed to take my dog for a walk and couldn’t leave my daughter home by herself. And after a half-hour or so of attempting to 1) keep my daughter from crying, 2) figure out how to wear the carrier and 3) figure out how to wear the carrier and place her in it without dropping her shin-first onto the hardwood floor, I said f—k it and just strapped her in her car seat.
So there I was, walking around my neighborhood with a dog on a leash in one hand and a 19-pound baby in a car seat in another. I looked ridiculous. Well, at least I thought I did. But everyone who walked or drove past me gave me one of those “Damn … that’s a good black dad right there” looks. One woman even beeped her horn and said, “Right on, brother!” like I was running a marathon in a black movie from the ’70s. I was so high from the acknowledgment that I was even able to ignore how numb my arm was getting from carrying two dozen pounds of daughter and a car seat for a quarter mile.
4. Maybe I should listen to my wife (sometimes).
Before she left on her trip, my wife offered to give me a quick tutorial on the child carrier. Confident that I’d figure it out by myself, I declined, telling her, “I’ll figure it out myself.”
She replied, “You sure?” and accompanied that question with a face that basically said, “I know you, which means I know you are totally not going to figure this out for yourself. I am not going to force you to do this, though, so please just look at my face and know that there’s a zero percent chance this will happen properly without my help.”
Naturally I ignored the face and continued watching Silicon Valley. And I wish I hadn’t done that, because it’s been 10 days since that walk and my arm is still sore.
5. Being the sole person responsible for someone’s life is nerve-racking. And rewarding.
Of course I knew this already. But it didn’t quite dawn on me until that weekend, when everything she did—eat, play, sleep, s—t, etc.—was a direct result of something I did. The first time I got her washed up, changed, fed and in her crib by her bedtime by myself felt the same way it felt when I finally made a 5:20 mile in college.
And then waking up to her talking to herself in the morning, going into her room, and seeing her smile at me and seeing that she was still alive was vindicating. Like “Holy s—t! She made it through the day and the night alive! Nothing I did harmed her! I’m a parenting-ass motherf—ker!”
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.