I have a four-month-old son, named Levi. He’s our first, which means I’m learning everything on the fly. I try to keep up with each stage he’s in so I know what he’s supposed to be learning, gauge how he’s progressing, and finally do the normal new dad evaluation, inevitably ending up believing my kid is at least a little “advanced.”
OK, maybe he’s not, but what dad hasn’t thought that?
The thing I’ve noticed most about Levi over the past few months is his new-found understanding of my wife and I. He recognizes us now. He watches us walk in and out the room. He laughs when I do something goofy (like dance and make fart noises). He sees what we’re doing.
And that’s starting to scare me, at least a little.
A few weeks before Levi was born my wife was going through the crap-we-need-to-get-done-before-he-arrives checklist. The car seats were the only thing left.
I had heard bad stories about installing car seats from just about every parent I know. And, frankly, these tiny seats with all their buckles and straps and circumstance always made me a little uncomfortable. So I had resisted the car seat purchase as much until the very last moment. But now the day of reckoning was upon me, I needed to man-up, get one for each car, and install them both… like a boss.
The first one surprised me: easy as pie. I was pumped. I think it was manufactured by kittens and kissed by angels before it was delivered to the store.
The second one was a different story.
As I was installing the second one the backseat of my car started to shrink, the temperature rose, all of my fingers turned into thumbs… I started to get pissed. None of my usual mechanical skills were working. After an hour of bending in awkward positions, sitting on the car seat base, pulling the seat belt tighter than Superman himself could pull it, I had my wife come out and read the directions.
Fail #1. If you ever have to have your wife read you the directions to make sure you’re doing it right, just stop. It’s not going to get any better so you may as well call it a day.
But I didn’t. Another ten minutes went by and it still wasn’t tight enough. I flamed out and gave up at that point… started violently unstrapping the car seat as my wife continued to sweetly read the directions.
Wife: What are you doing?
W: Why are you taking the seat out?
M: No reason. (Oh, but there was a reason, friend. I picked up the car seat base, literally pulled it over my head and then launched it as hard as I could into the middle of the yard.)
Me: There we go.
If they had the event, I would have definitely won the silver medal for Olympic Car Seat Base Shot-Putting. I’m not sure if it caught a warm air draft across my lawn but it went further than I expected.
My wife and I had a good laugh. It was funny. I wonder if my neighbors saw it. If they did I wonder if there’s a picture of me on the interwebs throwing a car seat base titled “Idiot in my neighborhood.”
Remember how I was talking before about how my four-month-old son, Levi, is starting to notice what I’m doing? If he can notice me walking in and out of a room, soon he’ll be able to pick up what I’m doing, what I’m saying, how I’m saying it and basically every other action or reaction I have.
I’m not simply living my life anymore, I’m influencing. In the past, any stupid actions I committed would just get me a look from my wife. Now I’m getting to the point where my son will start imitating me, start learning from what I do, not just what I say. That’s a new kind of revelation for me: “oh yea, my whole darn life is going to be part of shaping my son, my reactions, my actions, my words… the whole shebang.”
So, I’m not beating myself up over the car seat, but this little story does remind me that soon all the good, the bad and the ugly that comes out of me will be seen and probably imitated by my son.
The good news is we don’t have to be a perfect dads to do a great job. And I don’t have to pretend to have years of experience when I only have a few months. I can do it one day at a time. I can learn how to be a better dad as Levi learns how to speak, crawl and walk. We’ll learn together, and hopefully I can stay one step ahead of him.
Chris Neiger is a brand spankin’ new dad, writer and felt-tip pen collector extraordinaire (I’ll let you decide which one’s not true). He blogs about being a new dad, faith, and life in general at ChristopherNeiger.com.