Savvy Is Born
Imagine a hospital room where a woman is about to give birth: nurses are
hurriedly coming and going, machines are going beep, beep, beep, a
doctor checks the dilation; and over in the corner some idiot is posting
about it on Facebook like he is doing a play-by-play.
That idiot would be me.
The soon-to-be, first-time Dad.
Posting on Facebook from the delivery room? Hey, there wasn’t much
else for me to be doing at the time, and we had created quite a Facebook
following – accidentally – about this oncoming birth. And the little
baby girl that was about to arrive was going to change my life in so
many ways, but I just had no idea at the time. No idea. What first time
This was even more the case with me: I was 46 years old and about to
become a dad for the first time in my life.
By that age, you have a lot of things pretty much set in your life. I
never expected baby stuff all over the place with a newborn. They
can’t really do much, right? How much stuff do they need? Within days
of bringing that kid home from the hospital, baby stuff was everywhere -
and my wife and I keep a pretty tidy home. My daughter Savannah, who we
nicknamed “Savvy,” was born at the end of March, and by the end of
the first week of April there was baby stuff in every single room of the
house. It was amazing. I think the kid was planning on taking over the
We made all kinds of new parent mistakes, too, even though you’d think
at our age we might have known better. One night in mid-April, the
kid’s about 3 weeks old or so, and I stupidly suggest that we put the
baby to sleep in her bassinette in our bedroom, while we watch TV
downstairs and listen to her via the monitor - which directly results in
my wife and I falling asleep on the couches and making the baby’s
quest for domination of the entire house complete.
Crafty little girl; the whole conquest only took three weeks.
By the end of April, I was convinced that I stunk! I couldn’t figure
out what the deal was. I thought, “I smell like baby formula all the
time. I smell it everywhere.” It had inundated my olfactory senses and
wouldn't let go or something. Oh, and I'm sure my Family Room smells
like ammonia because that's where the diaper pail is. Welcome to my
house; hold your breath!
But there were other things I never anticipated; amazing little
beautiful moments that you probably don’t realize will ever happen
pre-dad, and post-dad you really end up cherishing them.
Lots of things I never expected, and never expected that I’d enjoy
them so much; so deeply… you can call me a dork but I’m going to
tell you this anyway. We’re watching TV the other evening, me on one
part of the couch, my wife on another; the dog staked out a corner, the
kid, now 2, is playing on the floor. But it’s getting close to bedtime
so the lights are off and the room is only lit by the glow of the TV and
from the Christmas tree.
My daughter puts down her toy, climbs onto the couch, crawls into my lap
and says, “I love you Daddy.”
A moment later, she’s asleep in my arms, her head resting heavily on
I’ll probably remember that moment for 20 years; maybe forever. It’s
just a great moment.
There are bizarre moments, too. Like with Barbies. What is it with the
naked Barbies? You can walk into my living room any time of day and
there's a stack of naked 10” Barbie dolls over in the corner and my
daughter is playing with the dresses. I'm not raising a 10 year old boy
who is curious about the female form, I'm raising a 2 year old girl who
will meticulously arrange all the dresses in a row and then tell me she
needs MORE dresses, and meanwhile Barbie, Cinderella and all her friends
are looking like they are headed for a nude beach.
At least the 3” mini-Barbies have a leotard painted on. Those are
headed for the pool, I guess.
The thing is, she loves them and really enjoys playing with them. The
dresses, that is. Barbie is apparently just a hanger for the dress.
And there are some great dad-type realizations, too, that let you know
you’re probably going to be a good parent. After a month of having a
baby in the house, I noted: I love the fact that I can take a sleeping
baby into a room with a treadmill in it, and knock out a very noisy
1-mile run with the TV blaring - and she sleeps through it. But I hate
it when, at 2am, if she merely gurgles, I immediately wake right up.
Something’s wrong there.
And there are just millions of things you can do as a kid that you
forget all about as an adult. A kid can just get away with stuff that
adults can’t. At least, not without getting hauled away to the funny
farm. When you're a kid, you can poop right at the kitchen table, right
in the middle of dinner. You can’t do that as an adult! With a kid,
pretty much nobody even blinks at that. Somebody gets up to go change
your diaper and everybody else keeps right on eating. When you're a kid,
if somebody gives you something to eat and you don't like it, you can
show your displeasure by vomiting the offending item all over the
hostess's table. Simple things like a helium balloon are just freaking
awesome. And it's no big deal to brush the cat with your toothbrush.
Well, not to you, anyway; Mom has different thoughts on the subject.
When you’re a little kid, the step down from the sidewalk to the
street must be navigated very carefully. Stuff like this doesn’t even
register on an adult’s radar screen any more, but to a kid it’s all
new and exciting; something you still have to learn. It reawakens your
appreciation to see some little toddler figuring something out for the
first time, and if you’re lucky, you get to be alongside to watch.
And if you’re me, maybe you write it down.
Which brings us back to the delivery room, with me posting away like a
goofball. You must be wondering how we got here.
Well, not in the usual way, that’s for sure…
See, we are a bit older than the typical first time parents. By about 20
years. Not by choice, mind you, but that’s just how it worked out. It
took a little time for medical science to catch up to our problems in
conception, so by the time we were having our first kid, most of our
high school friends had kids that were going off to college. Some
friends were already grandparents.
So the shock of hearing about us finally being “with child” was
pretty interesting to a lot of folks. And their advice, since they were
trusted friends who had been there and done that already several times,
was invaluable to me. My wife and her mom are very close, but my own
mother had passed away years before; so it was really helpful to me to
have a bunch of friends who I knew and trusted, that I could ask basic
first-time dad questions of, and get good reliable information from.
But the information they passed along is probably timeless, too,
applying to the hopes and fears of any first time dad-to-be and
Oh, and rest assured, my friends loved reading about my dilemma –
dilemmas – and offering help with a side dish of humor. Or sarcasm.
But their input was comforting to a guy who couldn’t call his mom.
Plus, they got to re-live their own experiences with every question of
mine, and a lot of the time they were able to happily reminisce about
it. So it was good for them, and it was good for me.
See, when we first told everybody we had a baby on the way, there was a
lot of outpouring of support, but as time went by and I started asking
questions that anybody about to become a parents for the first time
would ask, I didn’t really have parents to go to; so I asked my
friends who had their own kids, and I did it on Facebook. They were
helpful, too, and as the due date crept closer and closer, it
inadvertently created a bit of a following that lead to me giving
constant updates about all kinds of things, almost like a soap opera
that unfolds in real time. People were logging in every day for updates,
and I was happy to provide them. I needed the info, and they were
enjoying the ride.
I guess I had recently discovered social media; let’s blame that. I
had shunned it for over a year as my wife and her friends all played
Gangster Wars, but one day I decided I was the odd man out, and I caved
in. I started playing and before you know it, I was hooked. Some of you
know the feeling. FarmTown or whatever. I had signed up over two
thousand or three thousand strangers as Gangster Wars friends on
Facebook, just to play that game, and I was even checking in on my
Gangster Wars casinos between appointments at work - to make sure no
rival gang lord had robbed them.
At some point, I decided I was taking it too far (ya think?), and scaled
back. Way back. I deleted thousands of my FB “friends” that I had
added just to play games with, and boiled it down to just a few – the
folks I’m really friends with, a few old high school pals that are fun
to correspond with, and that was about it.
Then a funny thing happened. While I really didn’t miss the gang wars,
I did miss the interaction with the old gang from high school. Keep in
mind, I hadn’t kept in touch with just about any of them, but there
was something fulfilling about reconnecting with people who knew you
well when you were just starting to become who you are. People who you
know and trust, whose families have known your family for decades.
That came in handy when we discovered that we had a baby on the way.
A baby! At our age?
Even something as normal and natural as having a baby, we couldn’t do
in the standard way. Remember, our friends from high school were talking
about the colleges their kids were going to. Some were about to become
See, for years we’d been trying, with no success. When we first got
married, we were trying to not become pregnant. We were focused on our
careers and putting money away, travelling… Then, we built a house and
we started not trying to not get pregnant. Not trying to get pregnant,
really, but not doing things that would prevent it. Then, after a few
years of that, we started actually trying.
And when that didn’t work, we thought maybe there was something wrong.
And there was. To put it politely, there were enough things wrong on
both sides for no baby to be coming any time soon. Maybe ever.
It was recommended that I try some different underwear. Then it was
recommended by our doctor that my wife and I have sex every day for
weeks on end - which is not as much fun as you’d think, although
there’s really no pressure to perform, because the goal is just to get
the little guys in there to get to work.
Then when that didn’t work, some experts looked around and recommended
a number of surgeries. Some were covered by insurance, and some were
not. So, we’d plan a vacation to a specialist, take some time off, get
the surgery, and tour the local wineries. A few weeks or months later,
we’d find out we still weren’t pregnant. My wife would be
devastated. She’d cry, and I’d scramble to try to find some reason
to keep looking forward. “Our kids are out there,” I told her, “we
just have to work harder than other families to find them.” And when
we did finally find them, we might appreciate them even more.
I also said to myself that these crushing defeats were so bad that it
was probably better to stop than to keep letting my wife get her hopes
up just to have them plunge off a cliff and smash all over the rocks
Then, a new doctor had some new ideas.
And all of a sudden, we had a positive blood test. That means,
somebody’s actually WITH CHILD.
Well, alert the media! Call the press! Phone the parents!
No, you don’t do that because, due to the age of the parents and the
lack of prior success, it was better to wait and make sure. That takes a
few more months.
So, on Labor Day, we happened to have a bunch of family over to our
house for a party, and we had our positive blood test, and we decided to
announce that sometime in March or April, a new member of the family
would be arriving.
Cheers and celebrations all around. Even though both sets of our parents
had already been grandparents for quite a while from our respective
brothers and sisters, grandparents love the idea of more babies, and it
was like fireworks. What a great way to announce the news to everyone.
Except, this being a private thing, and me being a private person, I did
not mention it to my friends on any social media, or anybody at work, or
anywhere else, really.
For a while, anyway.
Every guy, when his wife first tells him that he’s going to become a
father, he’s fired up. It’s a happy moment but it also has a scary
element to it. While he sincerely just wants a healthy baby with ten
fingers and ten toes, and a wife that emerges unscathed from the
birthing process – and he will say that repeatedly as often as
possible, whether asked or not - when he starts to think about it later,
he wants the baby to be a boy.
The first one, anyway. It’s not a sexist thing; guys figure, we
understand boys. We were boys once; it’s familiar territory, most of
it. And guys will candidly admit, we barely understand women. There’s
a chance we’ll screw up a daughter. That’s a scary thought. Right or
wrong, we think there’s less likelihood of screwing up a boy if
we’re trying not to, but given our track record with women, there’s
a better chance we’d mess up a girl even if we’re doing our best and
really trying not to.
And have you ever seen one of those families with four kids and
they’re all girls? That dad was going for a boy! He figured,
eventually the odds would work in his favor – but he’s 4 and 0 and
he’s still thinking he can talk his wife into number five. She’s
thinking about vasectomies.
My kid goes to swim class with a little girl who has six sisters, all
between the ages of about 10 and 3 (the one in my kid’s swim class is
three years old). Their mom looks… tired. They’re great kids, too,
how they all pitch in and help with things. They cheer for each other
when their different swim classes are going on.
And there’s a last little Bundle Of Joy that the mom has in a
I haven’t had the courage to ask if it’s a boy or a girl.
It’s the guy’s fault, too, if he has seven girls. He’s the one who
contributes that X or Y chromosome that determines it. So he can’t
blame anybody but himself, no matter what King Henry the 8th said.
See, a guy knows about boys. He knows he can teach his boy to throw a
football or baseball, even if he was terrible at it himself (mainly
because he knows he’ll be more coordinated and stronger than his kid
during most of that early training on how to throw a spiral pass, and
compared to his kid, he’ll look like Joe Montana for most of it). What
does a guy know about Barbies? We had G.I. Joe! What we know about
tumbling and gymnastics is only what we picked up from our wives every
four years during the Olympics, and we were just being a good sport
about watching that – it’s on for one week every four years; we’ll
trade that for almost six months of NFL every year (if you count
pre-season through Super Bowl). We can’t teach a little girl to
tumble. We can’t tumble. Not on purpose, anyway.
Excerpted from "Savvy Stories: Funny Things I Learned From My Daughter [Kindle Edition]" by Dan Alatorre. Copyright © 2013 by Dan Alatorre. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.