“First-time dad.”

That phrase always felt so meaningless. So many men (myself included) act like a dad from time to time, with the puffed-up chest, “Dad knows all”, “I’m always right” mentality. It’s always made me laugh.

How hard could it be? I’ve babysat my friends’ kids, worked at a kids’ camp, been to a kid’s birthday party. Yeah, I’ve got this!

Yoshi Hojin Hill was born at 9:21 p.m. on June 12, 2017. That was a day that changed my life.

I hear people say that all the time –“changed my life” — and I’ve never honestly never believed their life was actually changed. Mine was.

Growing up with all brothers and having guy friends around, I have aways wanted a boy. My wife was sure that we would have a girl because of how freaked out/mildly bummed I would be if we had a girl. But we indeed had a boy.

[Side note: I would have loved a little girl just the same.]

The day my son was born was not as I’d expected. I had always pictured the delivery to be something from a movie — screaming and nurses running around frantically, my wife screaming at me to help her, me confused and scared as hell.

None of that happened.

The delivery was amazing and the room was so calm, weirdly calm. When Yoshi was born and the doctors and nurses took him away to get him to wake up and cry, I followed them over to watch. As he started crying, I rested my hand on his tiny chest and, for a second, he stopped.

In those few seconds a million things rushed through my head.

Not fully understanding why, I began to cry. To see my son, the boy my wife and I created together, was magical. Things that I had suffered years before he was born, things my wife and I have gone through, all of these things aligned during that moment and our baby boy was all that mattered.

Five months later, I feel like I am getting the hang of being a dad (or “Pop,” as I have chosen to be called) though there are still plenty of challenges. I’d like to say I love being a Pop more than anything, but sometimes that’s just not true.

Hear me out.

My wife has gone back to work and I spend four days per week with him and I find myself getting frustrated beyond belief when Yoshi is crying and can’t tell me how to fix it.

I go through the “standard” steps to see if he is okay: feed him, burp him, change him, hold him, bounce him.

And sometimes, after all that, he is still crying.

I hold him and walk around my house, talking to him about climate control, about pains I still experience after a life-altering accident a few years back, about the latest sport stats, doing everything I can to soothe him until finally he falls asleep. 

As I put him down for his nap, ready to decompress or get some things done, I find myself instead lying on the couch just watching him sleep through the Nest camera we just purchased for his room.

When he wakes up, we take walks. I show him how to water grass and tend to weeds in the yard. I sit him in my lap and show him how to pay bills. And now he even thinks I’m funny!

The pros of parenting — the good feelings, the connection, the love — definitely outweigh the cons — the crying, the sleepless nights.

Now, all it takes is for Yoshi to smile or laugh. Then I know I love being a first-time Pop.

Photo Credit: Luke Hojin Hill