Nothing really prepares you for parenthood. It’s one of those jobs that you need experience for, but none is really available. You can read all the books you want, get all the advice from others but try as you might, the only way you’re going to get experience is by being a parent. So how does one prepare for that daunting task? How many baby books should you in fact read? What other kind of pre planning is necessary? Why are there 12 months in a year? That last question isn’t relevant, but then again so are the others because no amount of planning can prepare you for the next 18 years, minimum.
I sat down with someone who just became a dad and asked him what it was like being a new dad. No, I wasn’t asking for any reason nor was I asking for a friend. Im not expecting a child and this isn’t research. I started this project to have real conversations with people about varying topics. This just so happened to be about parenthood because I knew he just became a father. Also, this conversation was about a lot of other things and not a lot of it about being a dad. The majority of the conversation diverged off topic to a wide variety of things. So to say this is an insight is kind of a stretch as it really is just a conversation that happened to have baby talk interspersed throughout.
Here’s my conversation with Austin Graff and his daughter Adelynn. One’s a first time dad and the other is a first time baby. We decided to meet at Maketto, a really awesome space in DC, to grab coffee and chat.
I chose to sit in the bar like seating area as there was a massive window with a flood of light. I began to pre-visualize some shots to take advantage of it. As soon as Austin came up the stairs and sat down, Adelynn took over the show.
As he started undoing his harness and sat down pleasantries were exchanged.
“Hey man, hows it going? Thanks for coming out” I said to him as I looked at Adelynn and her big ol' eyes.
“Hey no problem man, sorry we’re late” he replied as he got comfortable.
As he sat down, Adelynn stared at me very inquisitively as most babies do. It was as if she was sizing me up thinking,
“Are we going to have a problem? Are we going to get along or am I going to have to make a lot of noise to get my human to get us out of here”. Luckily for me I’m awesome with kids.
The more we spoke, the less it became about what it was like to be a father and the more it became about getting to know each other. It was through this that aspects of being a father shone through. I had the opportunity to see how a father acts, reacts and thinks in the presence of his child. I know it seems obvious, but seeing it first hand is something different. You get to understand what it really means when there isn’t a love more pure than the love shared between a father and a daughter.
It’s while seeing this and as our conversation became more friendly and personal that I started sharing my own dreams of when I become a dad. As I saw how focused Austin was, I quipped;
“I can’t wait to be a dad. I may be a bit mad though since I want 4 girls”
Austin looked at me with a certain shock as if to say, man are you mad? It is mad and whilst I would like that, I do admit that probably won’t happen because that’s a decision that wouldn’t be up to me, it’d be up to the woman I have kids with. She's the one who's going to have to be the one to bear them. However I would prefer to have two because being an only child isn’t fun.
It’s as I said this that Adelynn reached for Austin’s coffee as if she too was conflicted with my previous statement and she wanted something to process what she had just heard. I can only imagine what she was probably thinking.
“Four! You mad mad fool.” or “Four! I knew I liked you for a reason. You’re going to help with the eventual takeover. I approve of your decision making skills.” as she tries again to drink coffee.
We continued talking about a variety of things, like my military experience, why I'm doing this project and where he grew up. I started to realize though that Adelynn was getting restless and it dawned on me that maybe we should just get out and walk around. She was more used to that anyway since they do spend a lot of time outdoors.
So off we went! To walk around to find alleyways and cool spots to take photos.
I understand that this wasn't fully what it’s like being a dad. It was more a summary of my time spent with Austin and Adelynn. What I will say though is this, after our time together and hearing what his routine is when he’s with her, it told me a lot.
It showed me the patience one needs to be a parent in general. No matter what your life is, when you have a child your life operates at their speed. While they’re exploring, reacting and experiencing the world, your job is to keep them safe and make sure that you’re there when they fall.
What was more important though was the concept of this project. It’s all about meeting people and having conversations with them. Yes they start out topical, but usually diverge into something completely different. Basically, each conversation flows as naturally as possible.