By: Jon Burks, father to "Jr. E-Males" Austin (37 wks; 2 yrs) and Eric (28 wks; 9 mos GA; 6.5 mos corr)
|Welcome back to E-Male, the column that discusses life with
a preemie from a Father's point of view. Today's topic is "Control:" why men
need it; why having a child, especially a preemie, seems to cause men to lose it (in more
ways than one); and how, after a slight retooling of outlook, Dad can regain a semblance
of C-O-N-T-R-O-L (where's Aretha Franklin when you need her?).
Most males I know, myself included, need to feel that we are in control. I know a lot of guys joke about "the CINC-House" (Commander-in-Chief of the house) and how "the little lady is in charge at home," but deep down, we really believe we are in control. I think this somehow feeds our deep-rooted need to determine our own destiny, and explains why men often do REALLY stupid things. The way we figure it, if a situation is spiraling out of control, we need to take action, regardless of how ill-conceived and ultimately destructive that action may be. This mind-set can be traced to such colossal blunders as "New Coke." The thought process goes like this, "Whoa, I feel myself starting to lose a handle on this situation. I'd better take some decisive action." <INSERT INAPPROPRIATE, POORLY RESEARCHED, JUST PLAIN CHOWDER-HEADED ACTION HERE.> There. My companies' market share may have just plummeted, but there's NO QUESTION who is in charge here."
Here's a famous example from baseball history. Babe Ruth began his career as a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. The Bosox owner at the time, Harry Frazee, was deeply in debt after his purchase of the team, and rather than lose control of the franchise, he "sold" the Bambino to the Yankees in 1920 for the sum of $100,000. Ruth went on to revolutionize the game. The Red Sox? They have yet to recover from this fiasco, and haven't won the World Series since 1918! All in the name of maintaining control.
Well, as we are all aware, there are few situations that are more uncontrollable than life with a preemie. From start to finish, the whole experience just plays against a male's strong suit. Preemies require nurturing, which many men are just plain incapable of. Preemies require patience, which most men don't...well, ... have the patience for! Preemies require blind faith, while most men prefer to deal in cold hard facts. Preemies require dedication and concentration, and most men are lucky if they can watch the same TV channel for more than 30 seconds! In short, taking care of this precious, but extremely "labor-intensive" (no pun intended) child requires that you relinquish some control of your life. You may have to forego watching the football game tonight because your child is sick (and no one does sick like a preemie). You may have to accept the fact that you aren't going to be able to go out with your spouse/partner alone for an indeterminate period of time because your baby is on a monitor and you don't have access to an appropriate sitter. You may have to accept the fact that your spouse has to stay home with your child for medical reasons and that there are significant financial ramifications to this decision. As we all know, these are the sorts of situations a preemie parent faces every single day. Any one of these "compromises" may be no big deal, but the cumulative effect can be overwhelming, and leads to the distinct impression that you are no longer in control of your life (as if we ever really were).
And above all, don't resent the child for forcing these changes on you. You may feel like you are no longer in control, but it's very clear that your child isn't either. (That doesn't come until much later) They rely on you for everything they need to thrive and be happy. If that's not control, I don't know what is!
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