Issue 12

Fatherhood: 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, it’s 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 father's ass.

                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 Average.

                I realize now that I am more a Superman than I had ever thought.



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