Daddy’s First Saturday
By BJ Bennett
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This past weekend was a wild one. Not because we visited some college campus with one hundred thousand others. But because we stayed at home with one.
Experts talk about the importance of the grip. And, believe me, proper technique is critical. Each hand must be positioned a certain way, the elbows tucked in close to the body. The forearms are used as protection, the palms as proverbial padding. The proper, by-the-book hold is often referred to as having the package "high and tight". The goal of trusting one's fundamentals here isn't necessarily to avoid the fumble. Rather to avoid the grumble, instead.
My wife and I recently welcomed our first child to the family and through all of the miracles and mysteries experienced the last few days, the ability of something so small to screech out noises so loud is a phenomenon that defies physiological reason. Making matters more interesting is the fact that each cry, apparently, has a very specific meaning or justification. Trouble with digestion can prompt staggered yells, fit with made-for-TV bitter beer faces. Hunger is not-so-delicately masked as overpowering bawling bursts. Think of a pterodactyl letting out a battle cry as it attacks its prey, mixed with an angry sheep bleating into a mobile home-sized microphone. It's like that, only louder. Then there's her occasional realization that it was my wife and I who brought her out of her warm human hammock into this cold, cruel new world. Via powerful osmosis, I'm learning the differences.
This past weekend, my first as a father, was the most attentive I have ever been on a college football gameday. I spent much of the day like a towel on a locker room floor, uncomfortably soaking as much up as much as I could while hoping for a later dip in the washing machine. The rest of the afternoon, with sleep being the measuring stick, went by like like a series of offensive drives against the Alabama Crimson Tide: I had my chances, though they were few and far between. After a few hours alone, I tapped my cap for a quick break from the game. My wife, still reeling from Wednesday, was the next to experience the rush. Even she would soon be taken down for the count, giving my family new meaning for the phrase 2nd-down-and-1.
It's fitting that my daughter's first full day at home was a Saturday. Football has long been a defining theme for my crew and, this past weekend, another stitch was sewn into our red and black, orange and blue and garnet and gold fabric. Maddux spent the afternoon swaddled in blankets, but also wrapped in the middle of an ongoing college football debate. Whether she knew it or not, this was not her first experience with such discussion. Days earlier in operating room, with daddy keeping his eyes closed and his mind focused on monster trucks, yard work and fishing, baby number one was born during a mid-week college football call-in show.
Casual talk of week four's schedule between the medical staff opened the door for me to step in. Finally, a venue where I was comfortable. Eyes still closed, I offered some insight. Discussion continued to the various allegiances in the room. One of the women, self described as a "Big Ten girl", had a degree from Ohio State University. Many of the other professionals were graduates of prominent southern schools. Even with major surgery in full swing, you can probably imagine what happened next.
"This baby is coming out slow," one of the sets of hands in the room stated. "Slow and plodding, just like Big Ten football."
Laughter ensued, followed by the ooh's and aah's that come with welcoming a new life. Having been tucked in the corner during the entire procedure, my name was finally called by the doctor as he showed me my daughter. The whole morning I had been envisioning dance recitals, tea time and future boyfriends on which I'd have to flex. What I saw was a storm trooper, a swollen mini-being that looked like it had just been dipped in blue cheese dressing. Needless to say, I was in love.
The next few days were an all-out blitz of friends and family. Visitors brought cards, flowers and all things dotted with baby bunnies and butterflies. Each oncomer had different words of advice, quotes and parables on how to handle the demands of parenthood. There were lessons on scheduling, sleeping and time management. Instructions on how to handle the challenges headed our way. As I struggled for big-picture perspective, not to mention a straight view of the television as Thursday night football was on, my mind kept wandering back to a solicited tip from one of the nurses we sat with in recovery.
"When they are little, the hardest thing is telling them no," she explained, after I asked this mother of two what the toughest task of raising a child is. "Once they get older, the hardest part is telling them yes."
As minutes turned to hours, I was taken aback while watching our parents care for our child. New sides of my mom and dad were revealed, a two-and-half decade turning back of the clock if you will. Our entire ward of the maternity center smiled when my father, in his military uniform, held Maddux Wednesday morning. While everyone else stayed and visited, dad then hit the road on assignment. Back for the weekend, he and his granddaughter then hit it off once again.
"You want to go hunting with poppa? Yes. You want to go fishing with poppa? Yes. You want to watch football with poppa? Yes," he asked and answered, while holding the first of his third generation. "You want to go shopping with grandma? Nooo."
One of the true characters to stop by in the days after delivery was my wife's grandmother, a veteran great-grandmother of 15. A central Georgia pro at child-raisin', she waltzed in the front door, went straight for the sink to wash her hands and then sat down in the chair for some good, old-fashioned baby holdin'. "Granny-Grace", as she is affably called, has a personality that warms like an indoor fireplace. She's from a slower time, a more meaningful era. With that in mind, she's keen for saying things she knows I just don't get. Ask her where anything is and you will get the same, chuckling response.
"It's way down yonder in the paw-paw patch," she'll say, to which I equate to "Roll Tide" or "War Eagle". I'm still not exactly sure what it means, but it makes everybody smile and that's all that matters.
As folks stopped by Saturday, so did their favorite teams. Alabama, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Florida and Florida State were all in the house, each with their own selfish motives to get pictures of our daughter somehow sporting their team's gear. If this continues, I may outsource legislation to the NCAA. Though I'm sure Lane Kiffin has challenged the status quo, one week old's cannot be pressured to make any formative decisions. For now, Maddux is committed to microfiber cloth and doing everything her daddy says.
This past weekend was a wild one. Not because we were out and about, or visiting some college campus with one hundred thousand others. But because we stayed at home with one. As is the case on most Saturdays, my emotions were in a constant state of flux. Every minute drug me in a new direction. This time, however, my heart wasn't in my throat. It, instead, spend most of the day in my hands.