DadWarrior Story: Jonah

I’m not just a dad – I’m a parent who’s of equal footing with my counterpart. Yeah, we’re talking about the dynamic duo, the talented tag team, the perfect pair. When my college sweetheart, Andrea and I had our first child in January 2017 - a stunning, funny, clever girl named Amory - it had been such a long time coming. Andrea and I had known each other for nearly 20 years, and way too many details and calendar flips aside, were finally ready start a family. When Amory popped into this world (OK, it was more of a slow, painful push, as Andrea would attest), I already knew what kind of parent I would be. More than 15 months later, I still know. It’s what I didn’t fully know that has surprised me. 
 
I grew up in a wonderful home alongside seven siblings. We loved, we fought, we played, we got into trouble. Basically we did everything kids are supposed to do and not supposed to do. You get the good and the bad with kids or else they wouldn’t be kids (frankly, I think the job of a parent would be boring without the occasional hubbub). My mom and dad were polar opposites as parents, as mom was the perpetual protector, the person we would radiate toward for everything. She took us clothes shopping, bought us cakes for special occasions, nursed us when we were sick, and made sure that if we needed something – anything – that we could rely on her. My dad was the businessman – aka 'the provider' – which I know in the ‘70s and ‘80s (and way before that) was the way many families operated. We didn’t spend much time with him and didn’t get to know him the way we knew my mom. That’s just how it was. I’m not sure that kids take the time to sit back and think about who their parents are and how they parent. They have too many boys and girls to chase, too many parties to attend, too many extracurriculars on the docket. It’s not until we are older and wiser, more aware of where we came from that we truly start to understand our parents and why they made the choices they did. 
 
For me, what hasn’t surprised me as a parent is that I have the biggest crush on my daughter. I expected that. I also expected to kiss her hundreds of times daily, even when she has her claws out because she’s not in the best mood. I also expected to want to hold her when she’s sick, feed her when she’s hungry, read to her when she’s bored, and give her water when I’m thinking she’s thirsty (let’s call this parental intuition). I also expected to feel a little sad when she takes a nap or goes to sleep for the night, because I really miss her, but realize that all of us (baby and mom included) could use the break.  
 
So what has surprised me? It’s not something I could put a finger on and say, “Yeah, that’s it!” or make total sense of in a journal, or see coming from years away. This something is the importance of having two of us on equal footing who are equally present and equally sold into the complex role of parenting. I see it every day with Amory and think about situations when Andrea clearly needs a break, so I step in and play with our little girl. Or vice-versa. Or the times when Amory just wants to be held while listening to Taylor Swift. Sure, we shouldn’t give in to every single demand of hers, especially when we’ve heard “Shake It Off” 20 times this month, but isn’t that a better use of our time as parents than burying our faces in our phones for hours? I now fully believe that every micro-moment we share with Amory – even if it’s just the 3 minutes, 39 seconds of Taylor crooning about “the fella over there with the hella good hair” – only strengthens who she is now and who she’s going to be when she grows up. 
 
As a parent, you have to be there. Kids are smart and they pick up on this probably at a very young age. If you’re not there, they know it, and they’re going to miss out on all of the great things you can add to their lives. That could mean 100 less trips to the park, the museum, the movies, the candy shop. Countless hours of help with homework may never happen. The same to laughter, advice, kisses, hugs, shoulders to cry on and pats on the back. If part of a parental unit is absent, even if it’s just a teeny-tiny part, I feel that babies turned kids turned adults forever miss out, and that’s really sad to me. 
 
I won’t let that happen with Amory, I just won’t. Because I want to be a parent and I understand what the role entails. Yes, life and work and everything else will get in the way and set up challenges and countless opportunities for us to make excuses. All of this is expected. But so, too, is being present and overcoming all of it the best we can – together, on equal footing. 
 
About Jonah: 
Jonah is a longtime search engine marketer who lives with Andrea and Amory in the south suburbs of Boston. When he’s not optimizing stuff, he’s probably showing off his little girl to family and friends, writing in his journal or talking about the maple syrup farm he wants to start one day. Or maybe he’ll just write a book about maple syrup. Or at the very least, continue to drown his flapjacks in it.