Keeper of the Plans

This Father’s Day is a little different for me: How life changed as a first-time dad

Wichita Eagle reporter Matt Riedl reads to his son Henry on their front porch recently.
Wichita Eagle reporter Matt Riedl reads to his son Henry on their front porch recently. The Wichita Eagle

It was a year ago, almost to the day, when my life changed.

Last Father’s Day my wife, Sydney, and I found out that by the time Father’s Day rolled around in 2019 I would be a father myself.

At the time it was hard to process all of the swirling emotions that accompanied this news.

You always wonder what it would be like to be a parent, but the reality of it never seems to hit until you’re about to become one.

I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a bit of fear involved. We had just moved into a new apartment in North Riverside and were still adjusting to married life.

But that fear of the unknown turned into excitement.

And as every OB-GYN appointment last year came and went, it became ever clearer that Sydney and I were going to be blessed with a healthy baby boy.

When Henry was first born on Feb. 8, he was a bit of a handful — to put it lightly.

We never really got an official diagnosis, but once we got home from the hospital he certainly exhibited a lot of the symptoms that come with colic. He had a certain time frame every evening like clockwork where he would just cry inconsolably.

I like to think Henry’s colickiness was some sort of cosmic circle-of-life deal, because my parents have told me I was a pretty difficult, fussy baby myself. I guess it’s just in his DNA.

And in this age where every moment of every day gets shared on social media, it can be hard when you see friends with their new babies, who seemingly are adapting so easily. We learned early on that comparing ourselves to others on social media is a very slippery slope, one you don’t want to go down.

But while it seems like those moments will drag on for eternity while you’re in the thick of them, they do pass.

All of a sudden, seemingly, our little boy is a happy-go-lucky baby who smiles not only at us but also at strangers.

It used to be that our “conversations” were pretty one-sided, with him screaming at us for extended periods while we tried to soothe him, fruitlessly.

Now he coos and almost starts to giggle if you smile at him long enough.

And while not every day is all roses — he still has his fussy days or those days when he is firmly resolved against napping — we’re realizing that he’s growing fast.

We were stunned when we put him on his stomach the other day for “tummy time,” as it’s called, and he propped himself up on his elbows, holding his head up for a long stretch of time.

It just doesn’t seem possible that he could grow so much in a span of four months — and that four months have gone by so quickly.

So I’m writing this for all new fathers out there, or ones who are preparing to become fathers in the next few months:

Dad life (#DadLife) is pretty sweet.

First and foremost, it gives you a legitimate excuse to dip into your repository of bad puns for any given situation. (They can’t say anything! It’s a dad joke!)

And while everything can seem pretty scary in those months leading up to birth (and even the couple months afterward, to be totally honest), you’ve got this.

Kids can grow up in the toughest of situations all the time and turn out OK,” I always told myself — and it’s true, kids are pretty resilient buggers.

Maybe not the most inspiring piece of encouragement, but we all need something to get us through.

This Father’s Day I’m just grateful to be a dad — thankful to have an awesome little guy that Sydney and I get to spend our lives with.

I don’t really need a gift or anything.

He’s already here.

Matt Riedl covers arts and entertainment news for the Wichita Eagle and has done so since 2015. He maintains the Keeper of the Plans blog on Facebook, dedicated to keeping Wichitans abreast of all things fun.