Two facets of fatherhood, and some mundane updates with cute baby pictures

I.

In many respects, I don’t feel like my life has changed tremendously since having a son. I had been preparing to have a kid for years and was very ready.

There have been some minor material changes. Less time to play video games. I don’t watch TV nearly as much. I need to be a bit more flexible with my time and willing to drop whatever I’m doing to take care of him. But it’s not a burden because I knew in advance that it was coming.

A lot of new parents go through a period of mourning and grieve their loss of freedom, but I mourned in advance.

Also, April is awesome, and I continue to marvel at how much of a difference having a great partner makes.

I continue to be thankful in all situations. We are blessed beyond measure.

Simon and Matthew — 2019-03-13

II.

There has been one significant change in me that was completely unexpected.

I used to hate “working with my hands.” I didn’t mind physical labor, but I felt like I was terrible at skilled physical labor, and I knew almost nothing about anything that needed to be done. So any work on the house was daunting to me. And because of this, I had almost no tools, which meant I never had the right tool for the job and that made any kind of work even harder.

Everything we did last summer wasn’t terrible but felt a bit like a sacrifice. It was worth doing, but not how I would have liked to spend my time. Now I kind of like this work. It really surprises me.

My father-in-law helped me build some bunk beds, and I am putting down flooring in our attic to make it easier to install ducts and bathroom exhaust vents. When I squeezed through the crawlspace last summer, it felt like a huge ordeal at first. Now, I’m working in the attic and it’s ho-hum no big deal.

Since we bought this house, I’ve been happy to invest in it. I don’t mind spending the money or hiring people to do things because this is our forever-home. We’re going to live here for as long as we can, which means we’ll get to enjoy all of the improvements to the house. But I haven’t wanted to do the work myself, even to the extent of hanging shelves, because I considered myself bad at it.

I’m learning that I’m not bad, that I can learn to be better, and that my family inspires me to invest the effort, not just the money. I’m happy to work on the house myself because it helps me become more familiar with it. And by knowing the house better, I feel like I can serve my family better.

It was a completely unconscious shift for me. But I was reflecting on my lack of dread when I crawled out of the attic for the first time and started thinking about everything that I needed to do. I needed to buy plywood, and a jigsaw, and build a floor, and cut holes in the roof, and install exhaust vent hoods, and and and… and it was all fine. No dread.

What changed? I want to take care of my son as best I can, and I want to prepare our house for more kids. Because someday, I hope that we’ll have a couple more, and they’ll all want to take showers, which causes humidity, which needs to be vented out properly because otherwise we’ll rot the decking and cause mold and that’s not good for anyone.

It’s like a switch flipped. I have a motivation to learn and grow in this area, and I guess that’s all I needed.

III.

Simon is now 6 months old, and a lot has happened since I last wrote about being his dad.

Simon and Matthew on the couch — 2018-12-09

At the same time, it’s all pretty mundane. Simon has a simple routine:

  1. Wake up around 6 a.m.
  2. Eat
  3. Play
  4. Eat
  5. Nap around 8 a.m.
  6. Sleep for 1 hour
  7. Repeat

And he goes to bed sometime between 6 and 7 p.m. Meanwhile, I’m working during the day while April devises educational games to keep Simon engaged and growing both physically and mentally.

At the Goeke Christmas Party — 2018-12-15

We had our first Christmas, which we celebrated quietly at our home with April’s parents and brother Adam. We typically celebrate Christmas whenever April’s other brother, Eric, and his wife Stephanie can visit, which meant this year (2018) we celebrated at Thanksgiving. So actual-Christmas was delightfully low-key.

Simon and Willow — 2019-01-16

Our dog Willow pretty much ignores Simon. This can be problematic when she wants to be on my lap and Simon is already there because she may try to crowd in anyways. She hasn’t actually stepped on or hurt Simon yet, but we’ve had a few close calls, so we keep a close eye on her.

She doesn’t dislike Simon… she just doesn’t seem to notice him.

Simon in his stroller — 2019-02-03

Early on, Simon wasn’t fond of the stroller so we always wore him when we walked. Now he’s liking it a lot, though the weather hasn’t permitted us to walk with it much. We’re looking forward to the warmer months a lot so we can get out and he can see more of the world.

Homecoming from an overnight work trip — 2019-02-12

My first work trip since Simon was born was an overnight to St. Louis. We used Google’s Duo app for a video call the night of the 11th and Simon recognized me through the phone and was all smiles, which was exciting. I was worried that he wouldn’t engage with me on the phone, but he did and it was heart-melting.

In April, I’ll be gone for a week, so we’ll be using Duo a lot

On the bed in the nursery — 2019-02-26

He’s generally happy playing by himself, happier when one of us is playing with him, and even happier when we’re all together

Simon in the alternate car seat — 2019-03-13

We’re finally making some good headway on saving up money and paying off all the recent home repairs, just in time to spend a bunch more money.

Both of our vehicles needed new tires, and the minivan had run-flat tires (supposedly they won’t go flat and you can drive up to 50 MPH for 100 miles or so on them even if they get shredded) that added a lot of cost. I had replaced the run-flats once before, but that was just a couple of years ago and I was shocked that they were already worn down. It turns out that these run-flat tires are 2x the cost while lasting half as many miles, and if you want to use regular tires (which last twice as long and cost half as much…), you have to actually replace the wheels too.

So in addition to new tires for the Civic, we got new wheels and tires for the Odyssey, which cost about as much as the run-flats would have. But now, when we need to replace the van tires in the future, it’ll be a lot cheaper.

While the van was in the shop, we used one of the car seats that Eric and Stephanie bought for storage at our house, and Simon really enjoyed having me sit in the backseat with him. It turns out that, with a rear-facing car seat in the Civic, the passenger seat has to be so far forward that I couldn’t fit into it.

Simon with Ophelia and Viola — 2019-03-15

Unlike Willow, the cats seem somewhat curious about Simon. But they don’t necessarily love him. Ophelia has bit at Simon once (though she didn’t actually get him), and they don’t go out of their way to snuggle with him.

I prefer their avoidance to Willow’s lack of noticing that Simon exists. And sometimes we can get cute pictures like this before they run off

Simon loves antibiotics — 2019-03-16

Simon got his first ear infection in March and he LOVED the medicine. We had to spray a saline solution into his nose several times a day, which he hates and screams and cries about, but then we give him his medicine in the morning or evening and it’s all smiles and delight.

Trying some food — 2019-03-21

Simon is trying food now, and sometimes he likes it! For instance, he hasn’t been fond of applesauce, but he does like applesauce with cinnamon. And he loves banana, but is less fond of avocado on its own. Avocado plus banana plus cinnamon is amazing.

Also, bone broth? He loves bone broth. Sadly, bone broth doesn’t love him as much.

On his side but not rolling or crawling yet — 2019-03-19

Simon is 6 months old today. They have probably been the best 6 months of my life, and I am so blessed to have the family that I do.

Being Simon’s Dad

Before Simon was born, I had the idea to journal regularly so I could look back and relive some of my thoughts and feelings from that time.

But I don’t really enjoy journaling, and I never did it.

And now, I’ve been thinking that I should write down what I’m learning from being his dad. 5 and a half weeks in, and here we are.

I didn’t know what to expect in terms of “feelings.” Would I feel some mystical bond with my son? Would I be overwhelmed with love? My only experience being overwhelmed with love was as a teenager, and on reflection, that had more to do with hormones than mysticism. We feel so strongly when we are younger, and I’m more even-keeled these days.

I find myself enthralled by Simon. I’ll be putting him into his car seat, or stroller, or bassinet, or just holding him in my arms, and I’ll look at him and lose track of time. I can’t identify the feeling there, but he becomes the center of my universe for a brief moment, and all is right in the world.

My priorities have shifted a bit. Hobbies have less pull on me, while resting is even more precious. Simon is sleeping pretty well, and April does most of the getting-up-at-night, but there’s still a lot for me to do. Having paternity leave is amazing, and I really love that I get to spend so much time with Simon here in these first few months.

One night, while lying on the bed and looking into the bassinet to try and decide if Simon needed his diaper changed, needed burped, or just needed the pacifier returned to him, I had the words “my son” go through my head.

And as I reflected on those two words, I felt strongly that I do not own Simon. He is not mine to do with as I will. I do not own his future; he is not beholden to me. Rather, I am his caretaker and teacher. I will do my best to guide him, but ultimately, he belongs to himself.

I have two follow-up thoughts on this.

First, when I became Christian, my conversion included God returning my soul to me. I know that’s throwing out a weird statement without any backstory, but this blog post isn’t about my story, so my apologies for dropping that and just moving on. What was relevant about that moment in the context of this story is that I had sold my soul, and God returned it to me, and I felt it both physically and spiritually. And my response was to thank God and immediately offer Him my soul. And God refused.

He told me that I was created to be me, and that no one owned me. I choose to be part of God’s family, and God gave us free will, which that never goes away. Similarly, Simon is part of my family, but he belongs to himself.

Second, ownership and debt was wielded against me frequently when I was growing up. My parents regularly told me about how I owed them for all the wonderful things in my life. Things like clothes and food and being taken to or picked up from school. Further, they told me that I was expected to pay them back later. Some of this was joking, but often it was said in moments of frustration or angst, and I interpreted it verbatim.

Consequently, I feel strongly about making sure my son knows that he owes me nothing. He did not choose to be born. We chose him. And we choose him over and over. And my job is to provide for him, and take care of him, and provide the best education and examples for him that I can. I chose that job. He doesn’t owe me for doing it.

We have an election today, and having a child hasn’t changed how I vote. But it has given me a new perspective. I feel like I have a new place to stand when examining the world and I how interact with it. More importantly, it is bringing new depth to my theology.

The most important thing I can do in this life is to be holy like God is holy. My aim is to serve Him, and for a long time I thought/hoped that meant being a good husband and a good father. Over the last month, I have come to feel that deep in my soul. Being a good dad means taking care of my son so he can grow up safe and secure, and from that position of safety and stability, learn about and engage with this world. Becoming holy, and having the opportunity to think about and wrestle with that, is so much easier when you have food and shelter and stability. I speak from experience.

So as a Christian dad, my duty is to give my son the opportunity to learn about God and, hopefully, to choose to follow Jesus and work to become holy like God is holy.

I would give almost anything to make that happen. I can’t spoil him, because that’s not good teaching, but I can build a good home for him.

Shouldn’t we be doing that for everybody? Not just kids? And not just our kids? As Christians, shouldn’t we want everyone to have their basic needs met so they have the mental and emotional capacity to engage with the Church and meet God? As a Christian, does anyone owe us anything that must be repaid before we begin the work of providing for them physically and spiritually?

When I think about all the good things I want to do for my son so he can become a good person, my mind turns to how we, as a country, all seem to espouse many of the same beliefs. We want to leave the world better for our children. The problem is, I think a lot of us are only thinking about our children, as in our individual children. And if I only think of Simon, then I am not being like Jesus. Jesus didn’t just think of his biological brothers or family. Jesus didn’t just think of his disciples. His commission is for the entire world.

What about building a good home for the children of asylum-seekers who have been separated from their parents? What about building a good home for asylum-seekers coming to the USA? What about building a good home for the homeless? What about building a good home for minorities suffering from systemic oppression?

I’m looking forward to taking Simon with us to vote today.

The two political parties in the USA are not the same. Both have problems, but the Democratic party of today far better aligns with Christian morals, ethics, and values. I will continue to vote Democrat to provide a better future for my son and for everyone else’s sons and daughters.

I’ll also keep reading, because that provides a good example for Simon to follow. And we’ll keep talking regularly, and I’ll hold him when he cries, not because my holding him magically solves everything, but so that he knows that he isn’t alone. And we’ll grow and learn and change, because he is changing every day.

And I hope that we’ll make the future better together.