Sunday, March 20, 2011

First Time Daddy, Long Time Fan

Before my older brother Andrew and his wife Alison became parents last September, I emailed him a few questions. Parenthood was the only thing I'd managed to accomplish well ahead of him, and I thought I'd take advantage of his momentary inexperience to do a little "before and after" segment on becoming a father. As usual, his view anticipating parenthood and now his answers six months into it prove why he's someone I always look up to--even if he's stocking up on diapers while my household has confidently moved on to pull-ups.

Interview with Andrew Maraniss, a few weeks before his first child, Eliza, was born:

What do you think you’ll feel the moment you first hold the baby?
I am expecting that I will be overcome with emotion the first time I hold Eliza. It will be so amazing to hold her and look at her and think that this little girl has her whole life ahead of her – Day One of a lifetime … Also, to think about all the events over the course of history that made this one life possible. And the responsibility as a parent to provide for her.

Who do you think the baby will look like?

I hope she looks more like Alison than me! Although it would be kind of fun to have another bald person in the family, even for a couple of days. Looking at other people’s babies, I feel like I can usually see how they look like their parents in various ways. I am thinking that it will be harder to do with our own baby.

What’s in your diaper bag right now?

Do we even have a diaper bag? I think we do – in fact, I think you gave it to us. I don’t know if there is anything in it, to tell the truth.

What do you typically do between the hours of 8am and 12 noon on a Saturday?

By 8 a.m. I have usually been up for an hour or an hour and a half … I’ve usually had breakfast, read the paper, checked emails and Facebook, and done some work on the book I’m writing. (A biography of Perry Wallace.) Usually work on the book till about 10, then will usually either go to the grocery store, run other errands, or do a little yard work. I am a morning person on weekends and like to try to get as much done as early as possible. Then I’ll crash in the afternoon and take a nap.

What do you think when you see a couple out for a walk pushing a baby in a stroller?
Not much, honestly. Obviously it has started to have a little more meaning for me lately. In the past, I may have just thought, “There goes someone with a baby…” the same way I would have thought, “There goes a jogger” or “There goes the mailman.” Now I think a little bit more about the bigger picture with that couple and their child, especially the fact that this is a mere moment in time for that person with the baby, they won’t ALWAYS have a baby in a stroller … They’ve been pregnant, been through labor, now they have an x-month old, etc. Person-with-baby is not always person-with-baby.

If you can anticipate this, what are a few things you and your family will gain as a result of bringing your little one into the world?
Most important, we will gain a new perspective on life. I can already FEEL that perspective coming – thinking about how certain events or decisions will impact Eliza’s life. I’m curious about the different kind of love that a parent feels for their child, and the way that sharing this experience will add a new dimension to my relationship with Alison. We will also gain a whole new childhood – experiencing life through her eyes and reliving life from the very beginning.

What are you looking forward to teaching your daughter?
How to throw a ball! I think she’s going to grow up to be quite a little ballplayer. An all-around woman. I’m also looking forward to teaching her how to read, of course …

What is one thing you wish you had time for that you just don’t?
I don’t spend enough time keeping up our yard. I could also spend more time on my closet! And working on the book. And exercising.

If you were to describe the kind of parent you think you’ll be –in whatever terms come to mind—what would you say? Is there a person you have as a role model?
I hope to be like mom and dad in terms of Eliza knowing that she is loved unconditionally ALWAYS. That is most important to me. I’m looking forward to providing her with diverse experiences, giving her a well-rounded childhood, hopefully traveling a lot … I’ve thought more about the experiences I’d like her to have than a parenting style. My own personality probably suggests I’ll want to be her buddy, but I know I’ll also need to be a disciplinarian at times, too.

What’s the plan for season tickets to all the sporting events you go to? Did you buy a third ticket? (or sling, to bring her along with you in...)
Very important question. We’ve already given up our Titans season tickets this year. I plan to keep my Vanderbilt football season ticket, though I probably won’t go to many games this year at least. We plan to keep our two Vanderbilt basketball season tickets, and we’ll bring Eliza to a few games this year. In a year or two, we’ll buy a third season ticket and bring her to the games. We’ve also kept our Symphony tickets – might be an excuse for a date every once in awhile.

Interview with Andrew after six months of being a dad:

What did you think the moment you first held Eliza?
I felt an elation I have never experienced before. I was relieved that she was healthy and that she was finally "here" after a long labor, and just amazed to hold someone that was the creation of Alison and me. She was so small and seemingly helpless and fragile, and a feeling of responsibility washed over me that I hadn't anticipated. I remember she looked up into my eyes and at that moment I knew my life had changed forever.

Who does she look like?
When Eliza was born, I was a little surprised that she looked to me like my late Grandfather Elliott! She had a bit of a dark complexion and dark hair, and of course seemed so tiny. She still has that dark hair but looks a lot less like an old man these days. She has a wonderful smile, which she flashes ALL THE TIME!

What’s in your diaper bag right now?
I haven't looked in it all that recently, but I know there are some diapers in there, wipes, a small bottle of formula, some clothes ...

What do you typically do between the hours of 8am and 12 noon on a Saturday?
Eliza usually wakes up around 6 a.m., and I'll change her diaper, give her first bottle, play with her a little bit, and then put her back to bed for a nap. Alison usually pumps and then handles the second feeding. Sometimes I'll take a nap along with Eliza. I'll eat breakfast, read the paper, do some work ... Not as productive as I used to be on Saturday mornings!

What do you think when you see a couple out for a walk pushing a baby in a stroller?
Well, since spring has just sprung, I haven't seen many babies out in strollers recently, but running into parents coming and going at daycare, I feel a little more "connected" to parents than I did before. Certainly feel like there are many aspects to parenthood that you literally do not understand before you are a parent yourself. So, I feel a bit of that kinship, and I understand the joy and frustrations these other parents are experiencing better than before.

What are a few things you and your family have gained as a result of bringing your little one into the world?
Alison and I have both commented that we feel a different kind of love for Eliza than we have ever felt before; one we didn't know existed. We realize that we talk about her an awful lot, and wonder what we ever talked about before. We have gained a little buddy and someone who makes us very happy every single day. I feel like I have also gained a deeper appreciation for the sacrifices my own parents made, and I'm more interested in learning things -- or re-hearing old stories -- about my own childhood.

What are you looking forward to teaching your daughter? What do you like to teach her now, as well?
More so than looking forward to teaching anything to Eliza, I'm really curious to find out what she enjoys doing ... whether that's a certain sport or playing an instrument or certain kinds of books or a favorite subject at school -- really looking forward to seeing her interests develop. In the meantime, it has been great fun to watch her discover her feet, to watch her react to things she thinks are funny, to see her get stronger and so alert, to watch her interact with her little friends and her teachers at daycare (a secret life of her own that we only see glimpses of!), and to watch her learn to eat her rice cereal from a spoon.

What is one thing you wish you had time for that you just don’t?
I wish I had more time to work on the book I'm writing, and to exercise more. Going to work, taking care of Eliza, and basic stuff around the house consume most of my energy.

What’s the plan for season tickets to all the sporting events you go to? Did you buy a third ticket? (or sling, to bring her along with you in...) Any regrets or revisions to this policy?
We missed just about all of the pops series at the symphony this year ... We kept our Vanderbilt basketball tickets, and Alison's parents babysat so we could attend most of the games. We dropped our Titans season tickets last year, and won't get them again this year either (if there IS an NFL season). We did renew our Vanderbilt football tickets, but Alison doesn't like to watch them lose anyway, so I'll probably just go with friends. Eliza hasn't been to a game yet, but I'm really looking forward to the day that we can attend some Vanderbilt basketball games together as a family.


Tim Morrissey said...

One of my mentors said a critical task was preparing the appropriate questions.

Brilliant questions, Sarah!

Anonymous said...

good questions. good answers. Save that list of q's for five years down the road.

Jack and Alex Manning said...

This is a great post, Sarah! And I adore your title - it's one I'd use about my own husband, who was a father-in-waiting when I met him...

Val @ It's Always Sunny in Somerville said...

I was lucky enough to work with Andrew a few years ago and when I saw this on his FB wall, I had to read. Great post on a great dad!

Fran said...

this entire series was so well depicted - before and after answers to some terrific questions from a thoughtful and well-versed mother. excellent Sarah, and to Andrew et al - warm congratulations!