Daddy Diary #9: Freaky Friday Father
Seeing through the eyes of his infant daughter, a first-time father learns parenting is a precious lesson in learning from an altered perspective
By Chris Lackner
I’ve decided fatherhood is a life-long version of Freaky Friday.
My baby girl and I haven’t swapped bodies (I’m holding out hope it happens before I have to do my taxes). But as a newbie dad, I often find myself trying to think like my baby (some would claim this isn’t a real stretch). My goal is to see the world anew through her wondrously wide, exploring eyes.
In the original 1976 film, and 2002 remake starring Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis, daughter and mother learned a lot from their fantastical body switch. A change in perspective was a catalyst for growth, wisdom – and comedy. The same goes for this daughter-daddy combo.
Just by putting myself in her tiny shoes, our little girl (now seven months old) has already taught me many valuable lessons. For example: I’ve learned that crying always gets you what you want (I can’t wait to employ this strategy at my next client meeting); that pure, unrestrained laughing fits always win over a tough (or tired) crowd; and that right now is always the most important moment.
I can only hope our daughter’s already learning from us. I’ll leave my better half to most lessons that are rational and practical (there’s not a practical bone or brain cell in my body), but I think I’m already on my way to convincing my little one to believe in the power of music, singing, imagination, stories, storytelling and finger puppetry. (What can I say? I have a very select skill-set).
Of course, our game of Freaky Friday will be lifelong. We’ll always be struggling to empathize and understand each other – to see the world from each other’s perspective, to learn from each other, and even to see past each other’s mistakes.
Here are some other kernels of wisdom I’ve picked up from my daughter so far:
You don’t know how much you’ll miss your mom and dad until they’re gone.
Some books should be chewable.
Narcissism is underrated. Looking at yourself in a mirror never gets old.
Nudity is an all-to-rare freedom. Make the most of it.
Look for the magic and wonder in everything around you. If you’re bored, you simply aren’t trying hard enough.
Lights and ceiling fans are a great focal point for meditation.
Blankets aren’t just for sleeping. They’re also for chewing, flag waving, Hide-and-Seek, and fort building.
Most things are worth putting in your mouth at least once.
Always have seconds… and thirds (even fourths if the option presents itself).
Nap times are always better when they start with a cuddle.
(Minus the cuddling), nap time sucks.
Our little girl already seems like she’s growing too fast, but if we swapped places tomorrow, here are some of the lessons I’d want to impart to prepare her for sudden adulthood:
Nap time rocks. Period.
Believing magic exists is often even better than finding it.
When someone starts a sentence with “you can’t” – especially if the next words are “…because you’re a girl” – or “there is no such thing as…” – even if the next word is “…unicorn” – always take it with some healthy, robust skepticism.
Never stop playing. The adults who do get boring mighty quickly.
You’re never alone with an active imagination – especially if it means your imaginary best friend is a mermaid, centaur, pirate or pirate centaur (I had a complicated childhood).
Nothing worth loving isn’t also worth losing. And some clichés double as truth. It is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all (unless you love gambling).
Friendships, children and plants are the three things in life worth nurturing (oh, and also Mogwai).
Being the one who laughs last is overrated. It just means you didn’t get the joke.
Ignore bullies. It’s not true that they don’t succeed. But even when do, they’re never happy, healthy people. (Even if they somehow become the President of the United States).
Not being a superstar athlete just leaves more time for daydreaming on the bench (and even superstar athletes need to daydream).
From my Grade 6 self: Never throw someone’s toy on a portable roof – even if it’s a Joey McIntyre New Kids on the Block doll, and they probably deserved it. Damaging other people’s property is almost always a no-no; damaging other people’s toys is unconscionable.
Just because someone hurt you doesn’t give you the excuse to hurt someone else.
Always be kind to animals; children, the elderly, and imaginary friends. The universe will pay you back in good karma, and a centaur pirate may one day give you his treasure.
Ideas may be the mother of invention. But pay attention in math and science. (Dad didn’t and we’ve already established his limitations).
Yes, your dad’s a geek. But the best sci-fi fantasy has just as much to teach us about where we’re going – and where we don’t want to go – as history and non-fiction.
Hide and Seek never gets old. But as you age, it begins to become unintentional.
Spend more of your waking hours outdoors than indoors.
You don’t always have to run. Take your time; take in the scenery. Try skipping. Or walk backwards. March, leap and jump to your own drumbeat. (Heck, invent a new instrument and march to that.)
Of course, this daddy also realizes two things: As she ages, my “wisdom” will briefly become even more important – and then become completely irrelevant… until it becomes important again. Also, inevitably, towards the end of our lifetime version of Freaky Friday, we may no longer share the role of teacher. If so, I’ll happily be her full-time, elderly student.
THE EX-PRESS, March 18, 2017