Dad gets his one-year checkup

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 11, 2010

My wife and I thought we had reached the finish line of a long endurance race Wednesday morning.

With our son in tow, we walked up to the pediatrician’s office door for Gibson’s one-year wellness checkup.

I don’t know what I was thinking, but that one-year milestone always seemed momentous.

I didn’t expect trumpets and confetti. Nor did I anticipate a certificate congratulating us for not permanently harming our child.

No, after the sleepless nights, dirty diaper changes, pacing in the wee hours of the morning and constant worry, my only real expectation was that things suddenly would get easier and there would be at least a few moments to catch my breath. A good night’s sleep and a couple of days off would be good too.

For all of the parents reading this — don’t laugh too hard.

It didn’t take me long to figure out Wednesday morning that this parenthood race we are running was more of an endurance race than a sprint. The one-year milestone was just one leg of a long marathon, it seems.

The only problem is that long endurance races require a certain amount of conditioning.

Ironically, it was Wednesday morning’s visit to the pediatrician that hinted that I might need to concentrate on my overall health.

As I followed the nurse down the hallway with Gibson in my arms, I felt a small twinge between my shoulder blades. Lightning fast the twinge turned into shooting pain as muscles in my upper back seized.

Quickly passing Gibson off to my wife’s waiting arms, I thought as I tried to straighten up, “I am not going to make it past the first year.”

As the nurse measured Gibson’s weight, height and head circumference, I was trying not to appear as if I was the one in need of medical attention.

Convinced that Gibson weighed more than 30 pounds, I was quick to dismiss my back problem to his increasing weight. Amusingly, the nurse informed us that our son only weighed 22 pounds, 11 ounces.

Now I had a bruised ego to accompany the back pain. Thankfully, I didn’t have to leave the office on a stretcher.

In the last year, I have not spent much time concentrating on the physical demands of parenthood. Most of the time has been spent focused on making sure my son’s demands are met.

Most of the stress has been more mental than physical. But as Gibson moves from barely walking to a full run, the physical demands have increased slowly.

Wednesday’s episode made me realize that as much as it is important to give my son everything he needs to grow, I must give myself everything I need to be there for him. By ignoring my own physical and mental needs, I am not only hurting myself, but my family as well.

It is not unlike the rules lifeguards and flight attendants apply everyday — save yourself, so that you may be able to save others.

It’s a hard rule for this dad to remember given the daily necessities of a 1 year old.

In the last few days Gibson shows no sign of slowing down. He is leading the pack with his mother and I right behind him. We just have to make sure we are able to keep up with him in the race.

BeN Hillyer is the Web editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540 or by e-mail at ben.hillyer@natchezdemocrat.com