I’m a big sports fan, so it’s probably fitting that Ashley and I found out that we were having our daughter on Super Bowl Sunday. In 2009, I spent the day with my good friend, Ryan Vooris in our favorite sports bar, Benchwarmers. They charged a $15 cover to enter, and all the food and non-alcoholic drinks were free.
It’s telling that at 26, I probably spent 12 hours that day watching plays like this, eating wings, and drinking the generic soda that they served (Honestly. As anyone will tell you, I hate the taste of alcohol, and do not drink it), and at 33, I spent the day crying with joy about my impending fatherhood…and worrying.
Here’s the thing: I sort of suck at building stuff. Have you ever been called into a meeting you were unprepared for, and you had to act like you knew what you were doing there, all while silently hoping someone else would take the lead? That’s how I felt last month trying to help my 6-year-old nephew build something out of Legos. Usually, when I try to make stuff, it goes about as well as that time that Homer tried to build a grill.
So you can imagine the general feeling of unease I was dealing with. Because almost immediately, while I was celebrating with my wife Ashley, my mind started jumping ahead to all the things that our daughter was going to need us to make. Ashley—in case I haven’t mentioned it yet—is a total badass, and she’s never hesitated to jump in headfirst when it comes to fixing things around the house. But that’s not something that’s really come naturally to me.
Some of that is probably CP-related. While my disability primarily affects my legs, it does impact my upper body as well, mainly my right hand. It mostly manifests itself in my lack fine motor skills, which are kind of important when it comes to building stuff—or holding exploding playing cards like Gambit, my favorite member of the X-Men.
So, not only was I going to be unable to make my living as a Cajun thief with a permanent 5 o’clock shadow, I was legitimately worried that I wasn’t going to be able to take care of my daughter by putting things together for her. Some of these things—like say, a sweet Duplo train set—could wait until Christmas 2019 or so. But others, like her crib, Pack-n-play, or even painting* the walls of her nursery, we kind of needed to get a jump on.
*Okay, so painting walls isn’t exactly “making” something. You get my point.
The first thing Ashley and I decided to tackle was the nursery. Our landlords gave us permission to paint one room of our apartment a light color, so we went to Home Depot and, in between their bags of free popcorn, picked out the color.
This is a good time to mention that I named this blog “Parenting on Wheels” and not “Daddying on Wheels” for a reason. To say that my wife is amazing is a total understatement. She’s an absolute rock whenever I find myself filled with self-doubt, and in this situation, like so many others, she’s the reason everything worked out great.
Ashley and I began by removing everything from the room, and putting down drop cloths and painter’s tape. Then, we threw on our masks and got to work on our daughter’s walls. I handled most of the middle ground, while Ashley took care of the top and bottom of the walls, and most of the edging. We even designed and pulled off an accent wall!
There were times when I would get frustrated, like when I struggled to put the tape on straight, or when I had trouble with the big roller.
It truly was a job worthy of some high-quality local root beer. And it really made me feel amazing.
We were just getting started. Painting the nursery was just the beginner course. As far as baby stuff goes, few things rival a Pack-n-Play for sheer annoyance. These photos generally do a poor job of illustrating how frustrated I felt at times during its construction. As I mentioned, my CP is mostly a pain in the neck when it comes to fine motor skills. Trying to bend pieces of plastic and jam things together is a whole different story than using a paint roller.
But my frustration went deeper than that. Painting a room pretty colors, while nice, is also a luxury. Every other room in our apartment is a nice, boring, shade of white, and we came out just fine. The Pack-n-Play, on the other hand, was something we were planning on having our daughter sleep in, because at this point, a crib was looking dicey (more on this in my next post.) To me, a Pack-n-Play was about my daughter’s safety and security, and I really wanted to prove to her that I could “build” something to take care of her.
So when I was struggling to understand the directions, or make one piece of plastic fit inside of the other, I couldn’t help but worry: “Does this mean I’m not going to take care of my daughter?”
As usual, this is where Ashley stepped in and made everything better. Not only did she help with the trickiest parts of the construction process, she made me take a deep breath and realize, that, yes, I can make this. And yes, I will be able to keep my daughter safe and secure.
About an hour after we started, Ashley and I finished up the Pack-n-Play. We tested its seaworthiness, and then we celebrated with more root beer. There were other things to build, but with two projects in the books, I was feeling confident and happy. Of course, that doesn’t mean I didn’t still harbor insecurities about my impending fatherhood, or that there still weren’t challenges to overcome (that you get to hear about). But with each passing day, my wife and I finding ways to deal with them.