dad from day one: Nervous, Preoccupied and Spaced Out

Thirty-nine weeks.

Today was my wife’s last doctor’s appointment before the due date (November 11th), which it just one week from today.  She is dilated one centimeter and effaced 50 percent.  However, the nurse told us today that it is common for first time moms to go a week past their due date.  But still, it could happen at any time.

For the past week now, I’ve noticed that I have been completely spaced out.  My mind is obviously preoccupied with knowing that our “Jack-in-the-box” could spring out any moment.  People have asked me if I’m getting nervous- to my surprise, the answer is yes.  I thought I was over that stage.  But the first time I got nervous, around a month ago, it was because of the realization I don’t really know what to do with a newborn baby.  Now that we’ve finished our Lamaze course, I’m much more confident on the basics of how to help care for Baby Jack.  The thing that makes me nervous now is knowing that I have to see my wife in pain and discomfort, for hours.  No matter how easy it could end up happening, it will still be difficult.

People have asked me if I think I will pass out during the delivery.  The answer: a simple “no”.  Blood and guts don’t bother me.  Besides, unlike the reality TV star of the moment Kody Brown (Sister Wives), I will not be on the “receiving end” while my wife is giving birth.  I don’t need to see his head coming out.  Instead, I will be holding my wife’s hand, or at least beside her, as he’s being born.

Speaking of blood and guts, my wife and I have come up with some exciting plans for the weekend- that way, even if our baby isn’t born in the next few days, at least we can be busy and entertained otherwise.  And we don’t have to just sit around getting anxious.  So either way, we win:  Saturday morning we have brunch plans with some friends- I’m very excited about the meatloaf and mashed potatoes at the place we’re going.  Then Saturday afternoon, my wife and her mom (who is in town for the next couple of weeks) will be getting a facial.  (I guess I’ll read a book during that time.)  Next, we will go to the matinee: I will see Saw 3D (finally explaining the “blood and guts” reference), while my wife and her mom see something a little more light-hearted, yet appropriate for the upcoming event: Life as We Know It.

That’s right- my mother-in-law got into town Sunday night and plans to be here through the end of the month.  If the audience of dad from day one was male, I would have to take a page to humorously explain that though my mother-in-law is living with us, it’s not a wacky, cliché sitcom sort of deal.  I can’t complain.  When I come home from work, dinner is already ready- as my wife has had help preparing it.  As well as the fact that her mom immediately takes care of the dishes afterwards.

People have asked me if I’m planning on taking off a while from work once the baby is born.  At this moment, I’m thinking I’ll take off just a couple of days.  Because fortunately, I won’t be leaving my wife alone- she will have her mom there with her until I get home.  We are very blessed that my mother-in-law has chosen to stay with us.

Those are my final thoughts as a man who has yet to see his son.  Everything is about to change.  Unless Baby Jack stays in past his due date, the next dad from day one will be “Baby Jack is Here!”  Pictures of him will be included, of course.

All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:

Blog- www.photojoeblog.com

Website- www.joehendricks.com

This is our friend Nickie's baby, not ours. Did I fool ya?

Drinking Kool-Aid and Watching the Smurfs

Childhood isn’t a place too long gone for me; it’s what the attic of my head is wallpapered in.

For many of us, childhood was one of the brightest, most promising times.  Therefore, it remains today as a safe, heartwarming place in our minds.  A place where we can return to, like remembering a good dream, whenever we want.  And thanks to the people who are still alive who share those memories with us, we have access this seemingly imaginary fantasy world that we were all once a part of.  In a land called The Eighties.  Or Nineties.  Or Sixties.  (There are several to choose from.)

My literary teacher Michael Chabon explains it (he doesn’t know who I am, in reality) in a way that would make me jealous that he thought of it first, except for the fact if it weren’t for studying his style, I wouldn’t be the same writer I am today.  He refers to mutual collected memories in his book Manhood for Amateurs as “an entire network of tunnels, secret passageways, into the past”. 

We carry the exclusive memories of each other in the hard drives of our own minds, sporadically reminiscing to make sure of the validity of the events, and to glean from the enhanced emotions attached to them. 

The way my mind works, I can’t just simply open a file in my head entitled “Childhood: 1981-1993”.  Instead, these scattered gems are embedded along with all other memories and knowledge.  So when I click on one file, there’s sure to be a random childhood memory hanging on to it. 

And sometimes I just have flashes of them.  Like the Spring and Summer of 1989 (2nd grade) when I played baseball.  The pings of the aluminum bats, the crickets singing their alien songs in the moist, freshly cut baseball fields.  The sun going down as each game began. 

And when I go to that place, I remember how I had the biggest crush on Meg Guice, who never had a clue.  Yes, those were the days were drinking Kool-Aid; my favorite flavor being the short-lived “Sharkleberry Fin”, only second to Hi-C’s “Ecto Cooler”.  When Saved by the Bell hadn’t quite arrived, so The Smurfs pretty much taught me what I needed to know about society. 

Memories of being in Cub Scouts, riding the bus from school every Tuesday to the First Methodist Church, where my parents (the scout leaders) met us there with the aforementioned Kool-Aid and some adventurous craft assignment, like a bug collection (in which Matt Hall brought in a dead bat) or brainstorming about the upcoming Pinewood Derby race (which I won 1st place overall in 1991, thanks to my dad’s craftsmanship). 

I could go on, but I have a feeling by this point, some of your own childhood memories have been stirred up.  Don’t let me interrupt that for you.  Have fun.

To Catch an Audience/The Center of Attention

It’s fun to pretend we’re psychologists. To think we’ve got someone figured out based on their OCD or their “middle child syndrome” or their relationship with their father. We can look at personality traits and family history as clues as to why a person thinks they way they do. And often when we do this, we can correctly analyze them. Without a psychology degree.

I am one of those people who likes to study personalities as hobby. Currently I am on my 2nd book written by Dr. Kevin Leman, who specializes in birth order and how it determines a person’s personality. While it is fascinating to learn about everyone else in this world, it’s also interesting to learn about myself. I want to know why I think and behave the way I do. What sets me apart from others in my unique perspectives?

Here is what I recently learned from Dr. Kevin Leman:

Some people need an audience.

That is me.

But here’s what sets me apart from the obnoxious “attention hogs” I’ve met throughout my life. Because of my drive to constantly accomplish something admirable through hard work to gain the approval of adults (a first-born burden), I only want to be the center of attention if I’ve earned it.

I know when to be quiet. I can easily go long periods of time without speaking. I do not speak in a group setting unless I have something relevant and worthy of saying. I, unlike many centers of attention, do not like the sound of my own voice. I am “a” center of attention, not “the” center of attention.

Looking back on my life, here are some of the things I’ve done to make sure I had an audience: In Elementary School, I created my own cartoon characters and stories as a kid (eventually getting published in the school newspaper in 4th grade), as well as headed up the Nickbob Ability Test (click here to find out what it is http://wp.me/pxqBU-r9). In high school I fronted an alternative rock band (and for what it’s worth we played out of state a few times). During college I taught elementary school and Junior High Sunday School, while recording three CD’s of music I wrote, playing small shows in the coffee shop circuit. And for the past 4 ½ years, I’ve been writing my “commentary on life” web posts. And of course, as mentioned in Stage Presence (http://wp.me/pxqBU-2m), I grew up being in plays and musicals.

There has always been an audience. My subconscious had made sure of this.

This past weekend as my wife and I were reminiscing how it was three years ago this month that I asked her on our first unofficial date, she said it was the fact that I always had something interesting to talk about that made her feel so comfortable with me. A lifetime in training of capturing an audience ultimately led to me meeting and marrying a girl I have always felt was out of my league. It paid off.

It’s always been hard for me to understand America’s fascination with sports and particularly a man’s ability to keep up with all that trivia about which teams played each other when and the scores and the names of the players. Another Jewish trait I have is that I’m not good at sports (and never cared about them). So I’ve channeled that energy into entertainment.

I have made myself an expert on 1983, the heights and ethnic background of celebrities, the meaning behind all lyrics of the Beatles, holistic and clean living, Intelligent Design, and Jews in American entertainment, just to name a few of my specialties. I always have “random conversation material” in the archives and in the works.

I was quite hesitant when I first tried to process that idea I have to be the center of attention. Because it makes me think of conversation hijackers, drama queens (and kings), and any person I’ve ever met whose whole demeanor screamed, “Look at me! Look at me!” People who appear needy.

I have to be found. That’s how I operate differently. People have to find me. They have to come to me. Because typically those are the exact people I want to entertain. Takes one to know one.

In a party, I’m never the real center of attention. I wander to the back corner of the room, next to the food, and recruit party guests for random conversation. I have this desire to be the alternative choice in entertainment.

In fact, there have been times where people have tried to elevate me to the center of attention position, and I have escaped it. I have to be able to think in my mind that I earn when I get. For example, in high school, one of my good friends Allison Hardin was planning a surprise birthday party and I found out about it. I found a way to keep it from ever happening. Because I strongly resist the idea of being the center of attention when it’s obvious that I am.

I don’t want to be the official man of the hour. It’s too much pressure. I function best in my ad-lib form. Recruit, entice, inform, motivate, entertain, and provoke thoughts in others. On my own terms. That is my niche.