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The second “Holy shit!” moment my daughter induced came when we first brought her home from the hospital. It’s really surreal and impossible how tiny babies are when they’re first born—it just doesn’t make any sense for something so small to have all the parts that make a human a human—and I remember thinking as I held her in our living room, “What are we supposed to do now?”

We were in the hospital for a couple of days after my wife gave birth, and when you’re there, the nurses and doctors and other hospital staff basically dictate what you’re going to be doing and also provide a level of comfort and security because they at least seem to know what they’re doing.

And bringing her home that day made me feel like I’d just been handed the Hope Diamond and told to take it to the playground to keep it safe. “What the hell am I going to do to protect and care for something so small and delicate and soft and vulnerable?” “How am I supposed to hold her?” “Is it too hot in here for her?” “That noise she just made ... is that a normal noise?” “Should she always be wearing socks?” “HER FEET ARE SO TINY; HOW DOES SOMEONE EVEN MAKE A SOCK FOR A BABY?”

Anyway, it’s been two years since the first “Holy shit!” moment—which was when she was delivered and I saw her for the first time—and parenthood has taught me quite a few things that I totally, definitely, absolutely would not have known about if I weren’t a dad, including:

1. Parenthood has a way of eliminating distractions, and by “eliminating distractions” I mean “discarding fucks about things I already shouldn’t give any fucks about.”

During my talk at Morgan State Tuesday morning, I was asked by the student moderator if I was bothered at all when I received nasty criticism of my work, and she referenced some of the responses to the “Black Men Are the White People ... ” piece from a couple of months ago. I replied that I just didn’t really have much time to be bothered. If I allowed that shit any real estate in my mind, I wouldn’t have as much space and time to continue to write more shit.

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But also, I only concern myself with two questions:

  1. Does the work I do help to make the world a better place for my daughter?
  2. Does the compensation I receive from the work I do help me provide a better home for my daughter?

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As long as the answers to both of those questions is “Yes”—and I believe that they are—everything else is colored bubbles. A McGuffin.

2. Babies are the all-time, world’s greatest “Get out of social obligations to do things you don’t really want to do” card.

My God! You have no idea how many happy hours I’ve left early, parties I’ve come late to and events I’ve just outright skipped because of the built-in excuse that having a baby with a set bedtime provides me. I’ll never have to pretend to take a phone call just to leave a party without saying “bye” to everyone ever again. The baby gives you carte blanche to just dip out!

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Also, fellow introverts, trust me when I tell you that babies are the world’s greatest life hacks. Along with the getting-out-of-social-obligations thing, they give you company, they provide you the type of intense interpersonal connections you prefer and they laugh at your jokes (sometimes)!

3. Elmo is a warlock.

I’ve written about this before, but I don’t know whether to be bothered by the fact that my daughter’s first full sentence was, “Watch Elmo please, Daddy?” Which she now repeats literally every time I crack open my laptop. I actually think she thinks my full name is “Watch Elmo Please Daddy.” Which would be a weird-ass name to have!

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4. A baby can make you self-conscious.

So, my daughter’s general edict in life right now seems to be to do whatever she can to make herself (and others) laugh. She thinks everything is funny, and she fiends for laughter the way Deltas fiend for elephant insignia. There are times when we’ll hear her in her bedroom in the morning right after she wakes up, and she’s telling herself baby-gibberish jokes and cracking the fuck up at her own nonsense baby jokes.

Unfortunately, this affinity for mirth has made me a bit more self-conscious about my own attempts at humor. Because if I do something that tries to make her laugh, and she looks at me like, “Daddy, that joke is sooooooo 1997,” I can’t help but think, “YOU LAUGH AT EVERYTHING ELSE! YET YOU TORTURE ME WITH YOUR RELUCTANCE TO ACKNOWLEDGE MY WIT! BUT YOU LITERALLY JUST LAUGHED 15 SECONDS AGO AT A HONEY ROASTED PEANUT YOU FOUND UNDER THE COUCH! WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME, YOU TINY AND CRUEL BABY CLOWN??? WHY???”

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5. Baby food is actually quite tasty.

She’s not eating baby food anymore—she basically eats modified versions of what we eat—but all the Earth’s Best Organic shit is tasty as fuck. I wouldn’t choose to eat any of it, but I’ve definitely finished jars of food she’s refused to, and actually once secretly hoped she didn’t finish her Earth’s Best Organic sweet potatoes because I had my eye on them.

Does hoping my baby doesn’t finish her food so I can eat it make me a bad dad? Actually, don’t answer that. Because the greatest thing I’ve learned is that, no offense, but I don’t give a shit about how you feel about my parenting! I thought I’d care about other people’s opinions on how we should raise her, and I don’t give a fuck at all!

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Thank you, feminist-octopus-daughter-baby-person for helping me to learn all of that, and happy birthday!