You'd like to think that fatherhood would bring a certain level of maturity to men around the world and that we could put our Darwinian instincts to rest. But the truth is that we can't. Worse yet, fatherhood just amplifies the competitiveness. Sure, you no longer care if you can beat your buddy in a farting contest, but you do care if your baby beat his baby in a farting contest.
Which leads me to last weekend.
My nephew Christopher is three months old, which is three months younger than his cousin (my daughter), Ella. Up to this point, Ella has done everything first—smiled, rolled over, slept through the night, peed on Grandpa—and that makes sense. She's supposed to. She's older. It fits with the natural order of things. In fact, I like to think that she leads Christopher by example, and because of this he reaches goals at a slightly younger age than she did.
Then something disrupted the natural order. Christopher showed up at my dad's birthday party, took off his coat and gave his trademark grin. Although something was different. When he gave us that smile, something popped out. It was a tooth! One beautiful tooth. I couldn't believe it! Three months old and he is the proud owner of a gorgeous chomper. I turned to Ella and looked in her gummy mouth and found nothing but waterfall of drool.
Now don't get me wrong, I was incredibly excited for Christopher. But this wasn't how it was supposed to go. Ella was supposed to get teeth first. She was supposed to show them off. She was supposed to be the one to give Christopher a tooth-brushing demonstration. This wasn't the natural order.
The minute we got home from my folks' house I turned to Brittany and said, "We need to get those teeth to come on through. She's falling behind the curve!" Now my wife, typically the voice of reason, smacked me upside the head and pointed out that teeth come when they are good and ready and that I shouldn't be pressuring my daughter over something where she has no control.
Just like a woman—accepting defeat!
So like any good man I nodded in agreement, promised I'd leave well alone and gave both a kiss and went to bed—and then set my cell phone alarm for 6 in the morning, woke Ella up and brought her down to the living room to work on growing teeth.
"OK, Ella. Today's the day. Let's sprout a tooth!" I figured the most effective way to get teeth was to let her wear down her gums. I let her gnaw on my finger for about 45 minutes. Then I let her gnaw on a teething ring. Then the remote. Then the couch cushion. Then the leg to the coffee table. Then the other leg to the coffee table. Then the rubber ducky bath toy. Then the thingy we use to suck boogers out of her nose. She gnawed and she gnawed until her gnawer was sore, and yet still had no teeth to show for all that hard work.
Unwilling to give up, we switched gears to plan B: Encouragement. I sat Ella down in the middle of the room and started rooting her on. "Come on, you can do it! Grow those teeth! Grow those teeth! Soooooo big!" I admit, I sounded a little less like a dad and a little more like a high school cheerleader. Unfortunately, she only half-understood the concept and instead of pushing out teeth she pushed out something else.
Time to wake up mom.
When my wife made it downstairs, she was none too happy. I'm not sure what angered her the most—that I pressed my daughter to do an impossible task or that everything in our living room was dripping with slobber. She lectured me for the next hour about how we have to let nature take its course teeth will come when they're good and ready. I would have argued with her, but she was waving a dirty diaper in her hand—and you do not argue with a mom waving a dirty diaper in her hand.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized my wife had a point. Growing up isn't a competition, it's a celebration. We're always in a rush to see our kids walk and talk and throw a 90-MPH fastball that we don't take a moment to enjoy what they can do now. In my quest to follow my idea of the natural order, I failed to recognize that my daughter has developed her own.
So I apologized to Brittany and Ella and promised to ditch the competitive attitude and adopt one of lovingness and acceptance. It won't be easy; after all, I'm a guy. But I'm sure if I dig down deep I'll be able to set myself straight.
Minutes later, the phone rang. It was my sister.
"Christopher just sprouted his second tooth!"
"I bet Ella can fart louder than him."
I guess I need to dig a little deeper.