Little Bird’s First Father’s Day: What I’ve Learned in 7 Months 9

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Happy Father's Day, Banksy Style

“Whoever does not have a good father should procure one.”

— Friedrich Nietzsche

364 days a year, America doesn’t think twice about fatherhood.

The Father’s Day holiday  – a hasty complement to Mother’s Day – almost didn’t exist.  The New York Associated Men’s Wear Retailers (collectively known as the Father’s Day Council, a council of businesses that would profit from the sale of  traditional presents to fathers) saved the day when they saw the profitability of Mother’s Day and figured a “Father’s Day” could be equally profitable.

Here are 4 things I’ve learned over the last 7 months. (Not only is it Father’s Day, but Little Bird is 7 months old today).

1) I now “get” Dad-scrimination.

Doctors, nurses, retailers – you name it – view Dads involved in  pregnancy and  early infancy as a novelty – a cute anomaly.  Rob over at Treyton’s Posse nailed this in an earlier post (See his Suggestion #6).

In the first ultra-sounds Momma Bird and I went to, not only did the ultra-sound technician talk about me in the 3rd person, but she also used an almost sing-songy, baby-talking tone: “Awww, how cute that Daddy came today”.

I heard the same voice from the day shift nurse in the NICU, the lunch-lady at Yankee Bird’s school, neighbors I ran into walking Little Bird, and judges who granted hearing and appeal extensions for my clients so I could take “paternity leave”.   My boss on the other hand, was awesome and supportive: he gave me paid paternity leave – probably because he is a man (although more likely because he’s me).

Do you know how hard it is to find:

  • A changing table in a men’s public bathroom?
  • A “nursing room” in an airport or mall where Dad can quietly sit and feed baby a bottle?
  • A Baby Bjorn that fits a mans frame/shape?
  • Diaper bags that don’t look like purses?

I couldn’t even imagine going through infancy as a Single Dad.

I’ll talk about “Dad-scrimination” more in my new category “Life in the Dad Lane”.

2) There is no difference between being a Dad and a Step-Dad.

When Momma Bird was pregnant, folks told me about this new feeling, this revelation of sorts,  I would have after baby’s birth.  My response (“But I’m already a step-dad”) always drew this retort: “It’s different, you’ll see”.

I’m here to tell you – I don’t see.  Being a step-dad is no different from being a biological dad.

I feel the same joy when Little Bird hits a milestone as I do when Yankee Bird gets picked to be on the Little League All-Star team.

I feel the same pride when Sister Bird wins an award in school as I do when Little Bird says “Da-Gee”.

I feel the same fear – and excitement – about what this world might do to or for each of them.

In 7 months, I’ve found 2 differences between being a Bio-Dad and a Step-Dad:

1) Yankee and Sister Bird don’t call me Dad; they call me by my first name.

2) The Courts don’t give Step-dads any time with the kids on Father’s Day, so only one of my kids is here today.

There end the differences.

3) In the blog world, there is too much Venus & not enough Mars.

A Daddy I know who doesn’t  blog (but really should) said this to me: “Venus is a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.”

Amen, brother, preach on.

I know of only 2 other active blogs by Dads of children with Down Syndrome. [If you know of others beside these two, let me know.] 

Noah’s Dad:  Noah’s Dad educated me about Down Syndrome more than any other blog out there.  Little Bird’s diagnosis came at birth; I knew nothing about it.  Without Noah’s Dad, I would have been lost in a sea of bullshit; someday, I would like to say “thanks” to him in person.

Treyton’s Posse:  Rob’s blog is amazing: he’s a thoughtful Dad loaded with wisdom.  I have many of his posts clipped in an Evernote notebook for future reference. Check out his GREAT post “Advice about Down syndrome for fathers in honor of Father’s Day.”  His “Posse” rocks, too: Treyton’s mama was even kind enough to send us her list  of Treyton’s “reach-and-grab” toys, which helped Little Bird’s Momma a ton.

Dads and Moms interact with the world in very different ways, and Noah’s Dad and Treyton’s Posse helped me learn some of the ropes better than any of the other Venus-centric DS blogs out there.

I expect my blog will be different, in tone and message, from both of the above blogs. I hope it will be complementary.

I’d like to show Dads of newborns diagnosed with Down Syndrome, or Dads-to-be that just got the prenatal diagnosis, that it’s not the end of the world to have a baby with Down Syndrome.

True – the learning curve is steep & some changes will need to be made.  True – it takes a year to get through the first six months of infancy.  True – society will probably treat you and your family a little different. And true – it is a LOT of work particularly for a two-income household.

But a DS diagnosis need not shatter Dad’s world.

I say that knowing my family did not face the many medical complications that can accompany Down Syndrome and without knowing what the road ahead holds.

And yes, my spelling of Downs Syndrome is intentional.

4) It takes a family.

Father’s Day? Pshaw.   How about Family Day instead?

The job of Dad is so much easier when Mama is one tough-cookie and a true warrior in the world of all things baby.

The job of Dad is so much easier when the older kids help with feedings, playing, burping and occasionally (and I do mean occasionally) doing a chore around the house.

The job of Dad is so much easier when the family dog …. well, okay, the family dog is pretty useless.

Here’s the truth:  Without a family, the job of Dad would be so much harder.

There are single dads out there living that truth every day – I admire you guys for doing what I wouldn’t be able to do.  There are  military dads that don’t get to experience that truth while on deployment to war-zones.

So, to all you Dads – particularly the single dads struggling to get it done every day, the step-dads that get short-shrift from the rest of the world,  and the military dads that are away from your family today – you guys rock for all you do!

I’ll raise a glass of Guinness in your honor this afternoon.

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