I turned 30 in May. My wife had thrown me a fantastic surprise party a week before my actual birthday. So on the eve of May 9th, I realized that in all the hoopla, I hadn’t really thought it over. I mean, you’re supposed to think these things over, right? So I began to ponder…successes, failures. Success = not being featured on any B-roll on network news stories about obesity (don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about.) Failure = not landing that part in “Mission:Impossible 3” (Tom Cruise had better hair). I’ll admit, it got a little existential up in here for a while on the eve of the big day. But a few months in, 30 and I are becoming fast friends.
Shortly before my birthday, I went over to the mall (armed with a coupon of course) to buy some new brown shoes. You know the ones, the wear-every-day, here-I-am-marching-into-the-office-with-the-rest-of-corporate-America brown shoes. The I’m-now-wearing-these-with-jeans-and-an-untucked-dress-shirt-to-look-casual brown shoes. The last few times I’ve bought them, I confess, I chose comfort over fashion. We’re not talking EZ-Striders here, but we’re not talking chic. Mainly because I have old-guy feet. (TMI, I know.) So this time around, I resolved to not choose a pair that were too, um, “Dad-ish”. After wandering back and forth through the bewildering maze of Macy’s footwear and sparring with shoulder angels named “comfort” and “fashion,” I grew increasingly aware of the stares of the workers. Protip, 9:30 PM isn’t a great time to shop retail. They’re tired, you’re tired, all God’s children are tired.
Just as they’re about to close up shop, I decide to take the plunge and buy a pair of very “un-Dad-ish” Steve Madden chukka boots. Simultaneously oh-so-proud of myself but wondering “can I wear these everyday?” I take them home and try them on with my also very “un-Dad-ish” quasi slim-fit Lucky Brand jeans (steep clearance, trust me.) I’m oh-so-pleased with myself. Look how not “Dad-ish” I look. Maybe there is hope I’ll still be cool by the time my boys are teens. Okay, that’s probably not happening. But we’ll all be wearing silver jumpsuits and living in Jeff Bridges Tron houses by then, so it should be a moot point. I’m still wearing them, though I’m thinking of throwing some Dr. Scholls in there soon (cover blown!)
There are parts of this phase of life that I absolutely love. I love being able to play air guitar in the Target toy aisle with my 2-year-old (once he’s 13, he’ll probably call security on me.) I love when my kids make me belly-laugh, like when I asked the aforementioned toddler what a toy fish’s name was, to which he pondered a while, and responded emphatically, “Fish.” I love seeing my little family grow and change and okay sorry, I’m going all Hallmark channel all the sudden.
But as any parent will tell you, to say this phase is tiring is like saying a hurricane is a small wind, or that Donald Trump is a little bit opinionated. I’ve had moments where I nearly accidentally (on purpose) slugged a well-meaning coworker who strikes up small talk with the ubiquitous “so, sleeping through the night yet?” My firstborn had colic and acid reflux from about 3 weeks old to 4 months. Colic is a word that has no actual definition, but the working definition is every level of Dante’s Inferno piled into one crazy, never-ending, unexplained cry that probably isn’t stopping no matter what snake oil you Googled and groggily drove to Walgreens at 11:30 PM to track down. Acid reflux will lead you to say things like “I just don’t want to smell like puke any more.” And as the proverbial cherry on top, other well-meaning people will share this encouraging maxim: “this too shall pass.” This confirms that they are too far removed from this phase to remember what it was really like.
If there’s any one thing in my house that symbolizes “30-ness,” it’s the double stroller parked in the corner of my living room. I was skeptical at first. Getting it in and out of the car would wear Tony Horton out, and how on earth are we going to maneuver this beast around Target? This Britax behemoth can be legally parked in a compact car spot (and costs about as much), and I’m 99% sure Morgan Freeman once peeled around the underbelly of Wayne Enterprises in it with Christian Bale in tow. Until you fully experience its greatness, it may just look like a Graco on ‘roids. But it is a GLORIOUS machine. It can comfortably seat two little Barbas, which is gold on a long hike through the King of Prussia Mall. It can hold multiple diaper and shopping bags in its cavernous cargo hold. And if necessary, it can plow a wide swath through a madding shopper crowd. My apologies to your ankles, pedestrians, but seriously, LOOK at this thing!
There are definitely parts of the “pre-offspring” phase I miss. Like having an evening. These days, the “evening” starts around 9:00 PM (if I’m lucky) and usually consists of tiptoeing around the house to avoid waking them up (creaky hardwood floors!) and browsing Netflix for 30 minutes before drifting off to sleep (I mean to a nap, because a short person is probably waking up soon.)
I’m at peace with being 30, and I love being a dad. I know this phase will be over before I can say “how did you pour an entire bottle of salad dressing on your plate so fast?” and inexplicably, I’ll miss it. So until then, I’m throwing on my Steve Maddens, grabbing my double stroller and hitting the mall at 7:15 PM, because before I know it, this too will have passed.