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THE DADDY ZONE




THE DADDY ZONE
From ParentingHumor.com

Date: Saturday, November 30 @ 12:08:53 EST
Topic: Daddy Dearest


In looking back at my seven years of experience as a father, there is one word that quickly springs to mind. "Na´ve". That's French for "Buddy, you don't have a clue."

I realized this early on as I recall that unanticipated feeling of trepidation when we first brought home our newborn son. For some seemingly inexplicable reason, I began to hear Rod Serling of Twilight Zone fame. However, he wasn't reciting the normal introduction to his television show. He was instead warning me of the Newborn Zone. This one-man welcome wagon offered the following words of wisdom:

You're about to travel to another dimension.
A dimension where time cannot be saved,
Where sleep seems a distant memory.
Where night is day and day is night.
But, where smiles and laughter are contagious.
It contains the depth of our fears and the height of our passion.
That's the crib post up ahead -
Your next stop, the Newborn Zone.


The euphoria of being a new father was being mixed with the reality of the moment. The product was apprehension. I suddenly realized I was pretty much infant illiterate. If ignorance were bliss, I should have been downright ecstatic.

Sure, prenatal classes had educated me somewhat, but I felt a sudden vacancy in knowledge of post delivery events. Namely, that larger area of time entitled "the rest of his life." It quickly dawned on me that, as a father, the handles of responsibility could be a little slippery at times.

Over the years I would, at times, feel a little more confidant in my new role of being a father. However, I'd then be awakened with the realization that I would soon be entering another "zone" of fatherhood without any firsthand experience.

I distinctively recall entering the Two-Year-Old Zone or the time frame more aptly referred to as The Rebel Without a Pause. It was then that my two-year-old shot me a disregardful look as I admonished him to not climb under the kitchen table. The look appeared to be an imitation of Robert DeNiro's tough guy imitation in Taxi Driver with his repetitive question of "Are you talkin' to me?"

As my son continued his journey under the table I was certain he was thinking, "Does that guy think he owns the place?" The showdown at the O.K. Corral had now occurred. I was taken off guard as he defiantly galloped far off into the sunset while I was still looking for my horse. I told myself he was just asserting his newly found independence.

Independence from what was my question. As his father, it seemed to me that his first two years had resembled a continuous, all expense paid vacation with a personal valet. I could have used a little of that "oppressive" regime.

I survived the Two-Year-Old Zone but fatherhood would next bring me into the Whirlwind Zone where my three-year-old consistently exhibited the energy level of the Tasmanian Devil. All the more impressive knowing he was doing it without the benefit of caffeine. Despite his remarkable stamina, it was at this juncture that I began to feel more assured I could handle all that came my way. I had been tried and tested. I was intrepid. I was poised. I was ready. I was wrong.

My misplaced confidence was never more apparent than with the arrival of my second child. Right when I was beginning to feel a little more secure, I suddenly realized I was now outnumbered.

The Multiple Child Zone was upon me. Of course, the beauty of a second child is all the joys of being a father and watching your child develop was coming around again. It also meant a return trip to previously visited "zones". I wished I'd taken better notes.

The next stop with my oldest child was the School Zone. Shortly after entry I realized we previously had an understanding. I could field any question thrown by him and serve up the appropriate answer. I had always looked forward to the Ward Cleaver part of fatherhood -- being the great purveyor of wisdom, the oracle, the sagacious dad. I admit that through the pre-school years I had only been hit with slow grounders, but I thought the hard line drives were many years away. However, this was the age of computers, the age of Carmen San Diego and History for Kids.

I quickly realized I had miscalculated my level of learning and underestimated my son's. As the questions became more difficult I recognized that my mind had become a virtual storehouse of insignificant trivia and the more educationally useful information had disappeared. Reverse evolution. Somewhere along the way I'd substituted Willie Mays' career batting average for my knowledge of Pilgrims and the Mayflower!

To avoid being discovered, I engaged in late night cram sessions to stay a half grade ahead of my second grader. I knew being a father would require work, but no one told me it would require as much studying.

Each year I take inventory and recognize that with all my incertitude and perplexity about fatherhood, a reassuring factor is found in the happiness and development of my children.

Despite my confusion when this fatherhood role began, I guess I must have learned a few things along the way. Nonetheless, I still hear Rod Serling's voice from time to time when I get a little too secure. As he would say, "Fatherhood is a lifelong journey. At times too incredible to be real, too real to be a dream. A continuous voyage into uncharted territory. Try to prepare for the unforeseen."

Bob Schwartz is a freelance writer who has had humorous essays published in national and regional parenting publications. He also has a weekly slice of life column for a local Michigan newspaper where he resides with his wife Robin and their A team of Adam, Andrew and Amy. He'd welcome your thoughts.

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