Becoming a father

Note: this was originally sent as an email to Upright Health clients and newsletter subscribers on a Friday afternoon. A surprising number of  people asked that we make it available in a shareable here it is! Enjoy!

My son was born three months ago.

Leading up to the birth, everyone kept asking me: "Are you excited?"

And I honestly didn't know what to say. I didn't know what it was going to be like.

Was I going to be exhausted and angry? Wallowing in a pool of baby poop and regret?

matt with his son

First to blink loses.

Or would I be helplessly in love with the little beast, hovering over him like a hypnotized sycophant?

"Excited" wasn't an accurate reflection of my feelings. "Unsure" was much more appropriate.

Like many men, I have never been particularly comfortable around babies. Kids I could handle (sort of). I knew how to interact once the little things could use words and walk.

But a baby...that was a different thing.

The good news is, I think I've gotten pretty damn good with handling a baby. My son is squirmy and spirited. He eats like a horse.

Or, rather, he would eat an entire horse if we blended it down and put it into a bottle. His appetite is crazy. Which makes sense, because HE DOESN'T STOP GROWING.

cute horse

Sorry, darling. He would eat your horse too.

He's already out grown Newborn size diapers, and we're about to switch into larger shirts and onesies...AGAIN.

But overall I'm glad my wife and I decided to make one of these things. I've learned a lot of things watching how this little machine works.

First of all, he's not that different from a full grown adult in many ways.

His joints make random cracking noises - just like adults. His shoulders make those pops and cracks we all get from time to time. I'll be shifting him on my lap, and I'll hear a crack and feel the light clunk/pop around his shoulder.

It's just a normal thing shoulders do. From day one.

He has trouble sleeping on his own - just like adults. He likes staring at ceilings. At walls. At shadows. At the mobile hanging above his changing table. And even when he's tired and yawning, he wants to keep staring at stuff. He'll keep staring.

Until he's so tired he's angry.

And then he cries.

Just like I do with my phone or the computer or that latest Netflix Original on life in Nazi Germany...

He's not even one year old, and he wants to binge watch. Even if it affects his mood the next day.

It's fascinating to see that. There are some things that are hardwired in us. That ability to maintain focus and wakefulness can be great if harnessed properly.

And it can be not so great if misapplied (I'm reminded of my college days, going to bed at 6AM after a long night of ... nothing memorable).

And it can be downright harmful if regularly misused. Constant sleep deprivation, overwork, and poor eating can turn any human into a hot mess.

But the point is that some things like this aren't flaws. They're nothing more than the way this particular human operates.

And individual humans operate differently! Some are more susceptible to binge watching. Some can produce loud burps. Some maintain lean body mass easier. Some build strength quicker than others.

There are countless variables. And a huge lesson I'm learning from my son is this:

You must respect and accept those variables.

I've heard of babies that drop into nap time while they're playing. I've heard of one baby who started sleeping through the night after only two weeks. I've heard of babies who won't eat off the boob or bottle who need to be spoon-fed!

I'm so hungry, I could eat you and poop you out as a ghost. 

Babies are different. People are different. And you can't treat them or judge them all the same way.

This where I think I get into trouble - where a lot of us get in trouble. It's when I think I need to be the same as someone else.

"I need to be as strong as that guy. I need to be as flexible as that guy. I need to be as wealthy as that guy."

It's easy for those thoughts to sneak into the mind. Sometimes it can be motivating. But it can also be a quick road to frustration if it gets out of hand.

What I'm trying to say is this: it's okay to want more out of life. It's okay to want more out of your body. But we all need to remember to respect our unique variables.

We all have unique histories, genetics, and experiences.

Don't waste your energy getting mad about stuff that might not be changeable. I'm not going to waste my energy wanting my son to be a daughter. Or wanting him to be a Capricorn instead of an Aquarius...or to be taller...or to have blonde hair...

But DO try to change what you can change in a healthy way.

Learn to work with your body and your context. I AM going to teach my son to use his body as best as he possibly can as he grows up. He will learn to move - whether it's in sports, dance, or underwater basket-weaving. Heck, I'm already having him do assisted bodyweight squats in my lap (seriously! maybe I'll post a video of this). 🙂

Whatever you're up to - whatever your goal, focus your energy on the stuff you can change, and be accepting of those that you can't.

I think someone said something like before...right? 😉

Embrace your limits. Embrace change.

And now, go embrace the weekend!



About the Author

Matt Hsu is a trainer and orthopedic massage therapist. He fought a long battle with chronic pain all over his body and won. He blends the principles he learned in his journey, empirical observations with clients, and relevant research to help others get their lives back.