Last weekend I was in New York City for the first time as a visitor since 1988. And since I’d only been gone around six weeks, it felt as normal, as if living in New York were just like riding a bike. Actually, however, living in Ann Arbor is like riding a bike. Living in New York is like riding a Ducati 1098 with a wet polecat around your neck.
I was in town to speak at the New Parents Expo, which featured expo signs like this one (see left) and a hashtag, #newparentsexpo, that suggested we were all shagging at the post office. I was on a panel about modern fatherhood featuring Lance Somerfeld, Jim Higley, and Greg Bishop, speaking to a huge crowd of adoring faithful who wondered why the hell Dr. Karp wasn’t on stage yet.
Toward the end of our talk, a man in the front row asked us if there were any true absolutes that every dad should know. And I came back with the facile response that “the only absolute is that there are no absolutes.” Which, though true, sounds like something Geddy Lee would sing.
Every new parent, mothers and fathers, would like to own a definitive road map toward the promised land of Ideal Parenthood. And it’s disconcerting to admit that there isn’t one, because so many cartographers have such disparate views of the terrain. Modern parenting has set the stakes so high, that we labor under the anxiety that Failure Is Not An Option.
I met a lot of new dads that afternoon, and many of them (behind that newly-sleepless glaze) had the look in their eyes that they had a pretty good bead on things. And that’s testament to how many more of us are availing ourselves of the myriad parenting resources and developing a discerning eye for what makes sense and what doesn’t. That said, I daresay that most of those guys don’t have a clue what they’re in for–how their relationships, their worldviews, and their views of their place in the world are about to be altered so profoundly.
So if there is an absolute on which every new dad can rely, it’s to recognize that, once your first child is born, your life is far more out of control than you ever imagined. And when you feel over your head, it’s no crime to ask directions, and seek out other guys who’ve worked through all manner of physical and mental obstacles. Resources for this sort of thing–including, yes, dad blogs–are multiplying every day. And with a little research, you’re more than likely to find more men who have learned vital lessons and are more than willing to pay them forward.
Parenting is a lot like riding a bike blindfolded. Training wheels aren’t required, but they can’t hurt.