With the possible exception of what I might tell you about which used CD shops in Manhattan will pay you the most for old Ned's Atomic Dustbin albums, my advice generally isn't anything all that novel. That said, I would like to think that I've managed to accrue some knowledge on the subject of parenting in the past two and a half years. While I don't have any great secrets about diaper-changing (only that it gets to be routine, but never not unpleasant), I do have some practical tips on what sort've activities dads-to-be -- and maybe those gents out there who are considering becoming dads -- should start entertaining with all speed. The first one is an obvious one:
#1. SLEEP LATE - Sure, it sounds like a cliché, but that's only because it's completely true. Sleep is an activity you probably take for granted right now. Once your first child arrives, let me just tell ya: it all goes right out the window. Those lazy Sundays where you and your significant other could laze around in bed for hours until you finally decide to go have a nice relaxed outdoor brunch somewhere? OVER! Let me really put it in perspective: since mid-March of 2004, I haven't had a night of uninterrupted slumber and I haven't had a morning where I've woken up any later than 7 a.m. Sleep now. Relish it. Wallow in it.
#2. SWEAR A LOT - Seriously, get it out of your system now. Release your inner potty-mouth and cuss up a storm, `cos once your kids arrive, words like cocksmoker, motherfucker and cunt just ain't gonna fly. Laugh now, pay later.
#3. LISTEN TO LOUD MUSIC - Another sort've obvious one, but one that didn't sink in for me until it was kinda too late. Once your offspring arrives in the house, the days of cranking Iron Maiden or Venom or Einsturzende Neubauten `til your neighbors are phoning in death threats are largely done, relegated to those fleeting afternoons when your goodly Mrs. is nice enough to take the child out. Hell, even listening to mellow stuff is pretty much out of the question, as it'll invariably be waking some little person up at the wrong time. So rock out now while you can.
#4. GO OUT TO DINNER - Alot of parents are going to tell you that early on, you can still go out to eat with your child, being that by and large, they tend to sleep a lot. While this is true to an extent, the experience of having a nice dinner out with your wife is simply not the same when you've brought your newborn along (and forget about dining out with a toddler). It simply isn't that restful. And the more you try to replicate the experience of dining out, the more it'll make you miss it. Dine out now. Paint the town red. Go to that expensive restaurant and order the special and a big ol' bottle of pricey wine. You won't be able to again for a long damn while.
#5. BUY YOURSELF SOMETHING EXTRAVAGANT - When Charlotte was born, I splurged on a new iPod, knowing full well that pretty much all monies spent from there on in would be devoted to kiddie gear. And I was right.
#6. GET RIOTOUSLY DRUNK - This is not to suggest that when you have kids, your drinking stops (some would argue the contrary, actually, although the drinking happens on your couch and not in a bar). That said, having a hangover and dealing with a screamy infant just DO NOT MIX. Go out now and tie one on. You'll never have a completely open-ended, carefree, anything-can-happen evening again once you have kids, as there will always be a little voice in the back of your head telling you how much you're spending on the babysitter and how that babysitter is going to be gone at 6am, when your head is on fire and your child is screaming. Whoop it up now. Party like it's 1999. Be irresponsible while you can.
#7. CONNECT WITH YOUR SINGLE FRIENDS - This is an important one, as it's a sad but unavoidable fact that once you become a parent, you tend to fall somewhat out of touch with your friends who don't have kids, and almost completely with your single friends. It's just a shift in circumstance and priority, and it's very hard to make it work. See them now and enjoy yourself.
#8. SEE LIVE MUSIC AND GO TO THE MOVIES - Much like dining out or drinking irresponsibly, you just won't get the opportunity to take in concerts as often as you would otherwise. Likewise, getting out to the movies -- something you probably take for granted now -- becomes laughably out of the question. With movie tickets now well over the ten dollar mark, when you factor in babysitter fees on top of that, a seemingly simple evening becomes a costly investment. And everyone's going to hate your guts when your babysitter calls you in the middle of the movie to tell you that your beloved toddler has just barfed all over the sofa.
#9. GO RIDE YOUR BIKE - Or goto the gym. You'll certainly still get your excercise when the baby arrives (your shoulder muscles will get a massive workout from attempting to rock them to sleep, your calves will become hard as rocks from all the bouncing and stretching and bending you'll be doing, and you'll get in plenty of walking time from pushing that stroller around town), but the "me time" aspect of bike-riding (or jogging or working out or whatever it is you do) will be hugely diminished.
#10. PREPARE TO HAVE YOUR WORLD ROCKED IN A MANNER THAT IS HERETOFORE INCONCEIVABLE - Again, it sounds like a cliché, but having a child completely turns your life upside-down. Things that seem desperately important to you now will take on an air of juvenile trivia. Your priorities will change. You won't notice it -- and you'll insist that you're the same louche, devil-may-care rock'n'roll brigand you've always been -- but you'll gradually find yourself becoming a totally different person with a totally new way of looking at the world around you. And you'll experience a love for your child in a manner so indescribably intense that it'll make your head spin and make all the compromises you've made seem laughably insignificant.
So, seat-belts on, guys. But don't forget to enjoy the ride!