We were running late. Tension was already high. My wife was nine weeks from delivering our first child, and we were on our way to our first lamaze class.
Then came the question.
“Have you purchased a new camera yet?”
You have to understand, my wife is a planner. I’m not. If we were traveling from our home in Austin, TX to Tulsa, OK, she’d want me in the exit lane just north of Dallas. That to say, I’d yet to buy the new camera, and I knew this would irritate her.
“No, I haven’t bought it yet. We have nine weeks.”
What followed was predictable. I received a pregnancy enhanced lecture on our immanent need for a new camera. I didn’t handle it well. The ‘conversation’ escalated to a near boiling point, only to be relieved by our arrival at the class.
Somewhere between the instructor’s description of the birthing process, and her warning that next week we’d watch a video of a baby being born, she told all husbands (who she referred to as ‘birthing coaches’) to go home that night and pack a bag for the hospital. “The baby could come anytime,” she assured us, “You need to be prepared.”
I rolled my eyes.
My wife took notes.
The car ride home was a bit chilly, to say the least, and I could see the question coming.
“Soooooooooo coach….you going to pack a bag tonight?”
You would think I would have learned my lesson from the camera conversation, but I hadn’t.
“No. I’m not packing anything. We have nine weeks.”
Five hours later, I was frantically packing a bag for the hospital as firemen carried my wife to an ambulance on a stretcher. Yes, my daughter had decided to kick the door down. At 5:01 am, I would be holding my 3 lb. 1 oz little girl.
I’d love to show you a picture of that moment, but as my wife loves to remind me, we didn’t have a camera.
Twelve years later, and with still much to learn about being a husband and a dad, I’ve come to realize that my entrance into parenthood is almost symbolic of how parenting happens, and it’s instructive of one of the more important realities I must embrace as a dad.
Quick advice to all dad’s: Pack your bag and buy a camera.
What do I mean by that?
Pack your bag. These are the scripted moments, the moments we plan for ahead of time. Today my son and I rented a tandem bike and road Town Lake in downtown Austin. We’ve been talking about this event all week. I went into the day mentally and emotionally engaged. It was a great day.
Buy a camera. These are the unscripted moments, but they require a different kind of preparedness. You have to decide ahead of time that you’re the kind of dad willing to put his agenda aside when opportunities present themselves. We can’t always do this, but if we’re not mentally ‘camera ready’ we’ll miss some of parenting’s most important moments.
My daughter, the preemie who is now a healthy, vibrant twelve-year-old, likes to talk. I’ll be done for the day—talked out—and she’ll walk into the room, sit down, and command my attention.
“Let’s talk, daddy.”
With the objectivity I have at this moment, I know this is a golden opportunity. I’m on the brink of the day she loses interest in what I have to say. If I let this line of communication grow cold, she’ll satisfy her appetite for conversation with someone else—some punk kid with twisted ideas.
I have to say yes. Of course I’ll say yes. But sometimes I don’t, because I’m not “ready” for it.
But that’s the problem. Parenthood doesn’t happen when everything’s perfect. Opportunities don’t wait for us to have the energy or the time. Parenthood happens now. I have to have my ‘camera bought and ready,’ I have to be willing to lay my personal agenda aside.
I don’t do any of this anywhere close to perfectly. I have much to learn. But it’s happening, and I guess that’s the point. Ready or not, parenting happens, and wise is the dad who gives it a little forethought.
Image Credit: Stella Dauer