Frequently asked questions about Matt, specifically, being a dad now

Frequently asked questions about Matt, specifically, being a dad now
Freddie, loving solid food

Q: So, uh, how's it going?

A: Geez, you're not wasting any time, are you? Couldn't you have started with a more straightforward question? Like, "damn, how about this weather?" or "big plans for the long weekend?" You know, small talk. Let's break the ice a bit. Build up to the hard questions.

Q: "How's it going?" is small talk. It's like the platonic ideal of small talk. It's literally the question people think of when they imagine small talk. How is "how's it going?" a hard question?

A: Okay, this is already weirdly hostile, which is especially surprising because the same person is writing both the questions and answers in this FAQ. But, fine. Let's just plunge right into it like this is a proverbial pit of colourful plastic balls.

"How's it going?" is a hard question to answer right now because the answer varies on a minute-to-minute basis. Sometimes being a dad is the best thing in the world. Sometimes it is frustrating beyond belief. Sometimes it is tedious. Sometimes it is weird as hell. Sometimes, as I've said, it's gross.

And, you know, not to throw a metaphysical curveball at you, but I think the answer I'm landing on with your unfair "how's it going?" question is, well, fast.

It's going fast.

Freddie turned five months old on Sunday. Five months! It doesn't feel like I've been a dad for five months. It feels like I have been a dad for five minutes.

Baby next to a cake

Q: Geez, sounds like the days are just flying by.

A: I get why you'd think that, but they're not. The days can be long.

Lately, Freddie's favourite thing is to stand up. Except he is five months old and totally incapable of standing up on his own. He doesn't have the core strength or the mental aptitude. I'm not criticizing him. I'm just stating the truth. So I have to hold him up, his feet planted firmly on my lap.

Sometimes this is literally all he wants to do for hours on end. He weighs about 20 pounds already. There are times when I realize it'll be at least two hours until he naps again, and all he wants to do is stand, and my arms hurt, and I am trapped, and all I can do is stare at the clock, and watch it go tick, tick, tick.

Q: Sounds like torture!

A: But that's the amazing part. It's not. It's the best goddamn thing in the world. He just stands there while I hold him, looking like he just uncovered the meaning of life, a total look of pride on his face in the form of a goofy-ass wide-mouth toothless smile. I love it. It hurts. I wish it would stop. I dread the day it will. I'm bored. I'm enthralled. I'm frustrated. I'd rather be nowhere else.

Baby and a cake

Q: It's a complex stew of emotions.

A: Wow, exactly. A complex stew. That's almost poetic. You should be a professional writer.

Q: Doesn't sound like it pays enough. Anyway, what's with all the cakes?

A: I don't understand the question. What else you got?

Baby and his dad in a rocking chair
Two dudes

Q: You mentioned Freddie likes to stand up now. What are some of the other new developments since your last post, after which I assume many people harshly judged you for endorsing an absurdly expensive wifi-connected bassinet?

A: I accept and understand their judgment. I judge me too.

New stuff with Freddie includes developments like rolling over (front-to-back) and eating solid foods.

"Eating" is definitely an overstatement. "Solid" is also an overstatement, come to think of it. He sits in his IKEA high chair and chews on his plastic spoon and rubs his hands in whatever mushed-up stuff we put in front of him. Apparently, this is how babies learn to eat. It's a messy but fun activity.

I like to do that thing where I pretend his spoon is an airplane coming in for a landing, even though he doesn't know what an airplane is and also the implications of a commercial flight flying into the gaping maw of a baby are beyond tragic. There'd be no survivors.

The other development is less fun: eczema.

Q: Eczema?

A: Wow, look, we can both spell it. That wasn't true a month ago. Freddie had a flare-up a couple of weeks ago that's been a challenge to tamp down. In my head, I know this is something a whole lot of babies deal with, and it's generally short-lived and non-serious, but in the moment, when it happens, you just want to figure out what's causing it and fix it immediately.

That's not generally possible. But still, I try. Things we've bought since this started include new soap, new lotion, new moisturizer, new clothes, new laundry detergent, new dishwasher detergent, a new nipple sterilizer that purports to use UV technology but may just be a silly plastic case with a flashing red LED light, several brand new bottles, a half-dozen different kinds of baby formula, and a mini-fridge to keep his bottles separate from the rest of the stuff in our fridge.

It's generally under control now. We got some steroid cream from the dermatologist which seems like it could be effective. Hopefully things keep trending in the right direction. (The bad news is that since Freddie is on steroids now he is ineligible for the Baby Olympics.)

But damn if I can confidently pinpoint what caused it. Eczema is like an elaborate murder mystery that goes on for hours upon hours and then ends in an entirely unsatisfying way. Like maybe the guy died because he tripped and fell off the balcony. Maybe the butler did indeed do it. Maybe it was a very tiny asteroid that only hit one specific guy and did no other damage. We'll never know. Outcome is inconclusive. All anybody can do is just move on. Roll credits.

Baby and a cake

Q: Weird. Okay. Speaking of inconclusive outcomes, I'd really like an answer on all the cakes.

A: What is with you and your obsessive fascination with cakes? Cakes are just a food. They exist. People have them. And people eat them. Though not simultaneously, obviously. There's an old saying about that.

Q: Just seems like there have been a lot of cakes. But okay. Last question — how's the sleep? Still way better than you expected?

A: Finally, a good question. Yes, it is hard to complain about how good this kid is at sleeping. His naps have gotten more defined lately, though they're still not entirely consistent. We can usually count on a 90-minute or two-hour stretch in the afternoon. That's been great.

He's still sleeping pretty well at night, too, though his bedtime and wake-up time are shifting. After several months of total night-owl habits where he'd sleep between 11 p.m. and 10 a.m., he's moving to a pattern closer to 9 p.m. to 8 a.m.

This will probably work out better for him in the long run, as he'll need to do things like go to daycare and school, both of which have the utter gall to start before 9 a.m. every day. It's a real challenge to achieve a life where you can get up at 10 a.m. most days. I mean, I did it, but it took years of effort and sacrifice.

But while the shifting sleep schedule means I get more time to myself in the evenings, I already find myself missing his old ways. We spent a lot of quiet nights together on the couch as I waited until he'd finally drift off to sleep. It's weird to think those days are gone, and not coming back. There are so many phases to parenthood, and they all come and go in the blink of an eye.

Like I said to your first, terrible question — "how's it going?" — it's going fast. There are moments that feel so profound and then they're just gone, never to return.

But the good news? There are new moments, constantly. New things. New experiences. New feelings. A look or a sound or a movement that'll just bowl me over. Does that ever stop, for parents? I hope not.

Q: Before we close, I'd like to take one more attempt at getting an explanation for the cakes.

A: I don't have to put up with this kind of relentless gotcha journalism. To hell with you and your godforsaken profession.

But fine, whatever. I'll explain. We have decided to celebrate every monthly birthday, for the first year of Freddie's life, with a cake. So far, we've been sourcing cakes from Butter Baker in Toronto. Recommended. Yes, this plan will result in us having 12 cakes this year. I don't see how that could possibly be a bad thing. The cake is good, and the ritual of it helps us capture the moments as they come by at breakneck speed. Time moves fast, but at least there's cake.