The Competitive Advantage
I've never experienced boot camp myself, but from what I hear at least
they let you sleep through the night. Boot camp is also but a brief
moment in comparison to the 18-year program my five-month old son Skylar
has enrolled me in. He must think I'm prone to weakness, and he
wants to toughen me up before he's old enough to tell some other kid that
I can kick his father's ass.
Stage One of The Program employs sleep deprivation. My thought is
that Skylar wants to keep me sharp. He figures he can do this by
asking me to perform random tasks in the middle of the night. I
believe I have met the demands of stage one with fair success. My
mental stability and ability to reason in the dark have improved
immensely. I haven't seen my chart, but I anticipate that I am doing
better than the lab rats in my ability to wake up at 6am each and every
morning, including weekends. (According to Skylar, taking weekends
off is for the weak.)
I did recently experience a minor setback when we found a babysitter to
cover for us until 2am. "This is great," Rebecca and I
thought. We had a fantastic time. That is, until it was time
to wake up at 6am. I felt like such a fool for not having scheduled
a babysitter for after the babysitter, somewhat in the vein of needing a
vacation after your vacation. Certainly there's someone out there
willing to come over at 5:30 to punch in my timecard for me, so to speak.
5:30 to 10:30, that's all I ask. I'm willing to pay good money even.
Stage Two involves improving my daily workout. The resulting
positive changes in my physique are due to a phenomenon known as Dad
Strength. Fathers, serious medical studies have shown, tend to be
stronger than other kinds of men. Not the obsessed Soloflexaholic,
of course, but when compared to the guy in the next cubicle who counts the
time it takes to drive to the gym as part of his total workout. At
first glance, the facts don't seem to support the conclusion. After
all, new fathers tend to stop going to the gym and take even worse care of
themselves than when they were bachelors. The key to a dad's
success, however, lies in the fact that babies tend to make all of a
father's time a workout. Some people carry three-pound weights with
them when they go running. Dads start with a six to ten pound weight
the baby itself which they carry with them pretty much everywhere.
The Army gives you a sixty-pound pack to carry, but it's evenly
distributed around your body and you get to take it off after a few miles.
When I put my baby weight down instead of trying to do difficult home
repairs like fix a leaky pipe with one hand, its a demerit against my
final score punctuated by loud screaming. I figure I must be doing
well in this part of my training because Skylar keeps increasing the
weight I have to carry around.
Stage Three recognizes that there's more to having a competitive advantage
over another father you have to beat up than just physical superiority.
Efficiency maximization is a key aspect of the training regime. For
example, I've mastered such skills as speed building (how fast can I get a
bottle ready), cooperation (the Ropes Course is nothing compared to the
team-building experience Rebecca and I have had), thinking out of the box
(the extra diapers I thought would be enough weren't), memory (we've got
nine binkies lying around; where the heck is even one of them?), and time
management (how many things can I get done in the five minutes I've got
before he wakes up).
Stage Four is perhaps the most difficult, and in that the most rewarding,
stage of training: character building. Something happens to your
sense of self when you wake up each morning and wonder how you made it
through the previous day which you were positive you could never make it
through. You have to be a Superman just to keep your sanity.
Skylar tends to wax philosophic, exploring the importance of topics like
trust and doing the right thing, like getting out of my warm bed to check
a diaper I suspect might need changing instead of hoping it can last until
morning. I've also had to face issues such as honesty; nobody who
doesn't have children believes for a second that it's the baby's fault
that I'm an hour late. Anyway, being late is no excuse for not
having been prepared for a pop-puking or unscheduled tantrum.
There's also significant time spent learning about unconditional love,
with a strong emphasis on the word "unconditional."
I think I must have met a major milestone because we've progressed to the
next level of training: teething. Testing times are shorter and the
grading scale is much tougher. Skylar is a hard instructor who
believes that resting on previous success only leads to weakness.
The difference was so intense that at first I thought it was all over; the
lab scientists would step out from behind the two-way glass and declare
that I had failed and that Skylar had called The Program off. As
they took Skylar away to test his next prospective Dad, he would look back
at me, disappointed that I didn't have what it takes to kick another
But such is not the case. Skylar has the necessary faith in me.
And whenever I feel like I just can't do it anymore, he looks at me and
smiles, a smile that cuts through any mood of mine and inspires me to
greater heights of excellence. Before enlisting in Skylar's
Competitive Advantage Program, I saw myself as every man does: Above
I realize now that I am more a Superman than I had ever thought.