By Tam Nguyen, NGUOI VIET
My son’s first birthday. Good day for a swim. It is time for bed.
When they’re expecting, new moms read all the books, reminisce about family with their own mothers and sisters, chat with their friends about motherhood.
There isn’t as strong of a network for first-time dads.
Thirteen months ago, my wife blessed me with a healthy baby boy. Right after he was born, I held him like a football, concentrating on not fumbling him. Even though I fell in love with him the instant I held him, I knew it was going to be a challenge to raise this child. You see, no one told me the right way to hold him, and he didn’t come with an instruction manual.
At 27 years old, I am father to this little one. He is my firstborn, and life changed the minute he came into this world. I was afraid at first and didn’t know what I would do when I needed to watch him alone. My first time changing a diaper was like making a pit stop in auto racing. It needs to be quick. Mixing formula was like high school chemistry.
More than a year later, I have the basics mastered and can enjoy my son without fear; one look at him turns a bad day into a good one.
I now have sat down with my family as well as some other dads and reflected upon the first year of fatherhood. In hindsight, I wish I had done it before my son was born.
My father, for one, recalled the day my brother, the oldest of three, was born.
“I remember when I had your brother; it was like something else,” he said. “I see you grow with your son, and it makes me feel that I have raised you well.
“Seeing you raising your own makes me feel my life has reached full circle,” my father said.
Someone just beginning that journey, like me, is Terry Nguyen, a 30-year-old Westminster resident who has two daughters.
“With my first baby, I was scared I wouldn’t be a good father and what if my daughter didn’t like me,” he said. But, “when I held her the first time, I knew life was just beginning for my wife and I.”
Nguyen also never appreciated and needed his mother and grandmother as much in his life. Whenever he needed something, he called them for advice.
“Both of them are my lifesavers when it comes to raising a baby,” he said.
But, as his children have grown, so has his sense of being a family.
“Every time I have a chance to come home early from work, I just want to be there as fast as I can to see my girls and wife,” he said.
His wife, Jennie Dinh, 32, appreciates the help.
“I couldn’t have done it without Terry and didn’t expect how easily he made the transition from being a man to a father,” she said.
He was helped along the way by his own father, Phuc Nguyen, a father of six and grandfather of five. Taking care of Terry, his firstborn, wasn’t as easy as he thought it would be. He thought feeding, bathing and diaper changing were enough.
“I thought those three things were the only things to do for a baby, but boy was I wrong,” said Phuc Nguyen.
“I remember when I first held Terry, it was like holding a fragile piece of jewelry,” he said.
Terry and I shared our experiences and agreed that no words can describe the feeling of being a father. As my baby has grown, I have grown to be a better man than I was before. I also understand why my parents told me that I wouldn’t understand how much they loved me until I had children of my own.
Lots of emotions and feelings pour out as I think about my son’s first year. Being a dad is one of the best things in life, and I know that I must set good examples as my son will watch everything I do as he grows up.
Even though I didn’t get a lot of advice before my son was born, I have some for men about to be first-time dads. Cherish the early moments. The little ones will grow fast, and there’s no time to look back.
My son’s first birthday.
Good day for a swim.
It is time for bed.