Life as the dad of a 19-month old son is different than it was in the carefree days of yore. Back when I was footloose and fancy free (in the late 1800s, apparently), enjoying a few beers didn’t require nearly the amount of preparation and forethought that it does today. Still, I’d argue—and I hope you’d agree—that this magical beverage is well worth the effort to fit into an ever-evolving paternal lifestyle. For that reason, I’ve come up with the following helpful reminders that other parents might find useful, too:
1) Harness the power of family naptime.
Sleep, glorious sleep! I yearn for those times when there were no loud cries during the night, or a precious little swaddled bundle whose breathing I needed to check on ten times “just to make sure.” Back then, my wife and I could stay out all hours of the night, hopping from beer bar to beer bar, encountering new surprises around every corner. There was also no fear of feeling -- let’s say -- groggy the next morning. Experiencing such lethargy while in command of a spirited toddler is now perhaps my single greatest fear. I fear it more than an angry herd of wild yaks; more than clowns. Fielding tantrums and flying Tonkas requires military-like precision and composure -- and a dull, nauseating headache paired with full-body fatigue will make such attentiveness all but impossible. My solution: family naptime. When my son goes down for a nap, so do my wife, our loyal hound, and I. No chores. No technology. Just one-and-a-half luxurious afternoon hours of the most revitalizing sleep one can imagine. Success is measured in units of drool.
2)Remember that beer is for lovers.
The State of Virginia may think it coined a version of the above sentiment, but nothing sparks romance like beer (and not in the way you're thinking, either). Last night, after our little buffalo fell asleep, my wife and I stood in our exceptionally tiny kitchen, comparing and contrasting two beers that arrived fresh from the speedy beer delivery service. We went so far as to open Beer Advocate and Untapped on our phones, in tandem, to see if our observations matched those of other people nerding out over piney aromas and hints of grapefruit. What a nice way to connect with my lady at the end of a long day. You and your person are equal partners in this baby mayhem -- never lose sight of that. Days will be tough, nights will be bumpy, and it’s easy to get on each other’s nerves because your bouncing bundle will always enjoy immunity, no matter how egregious the infraction.
3) Dream big.
I dream of having a garage. Though I have a fundamental issue with “man caves” (a little too Cro-Magnon for my taste), a garage is a whole ‘nother sack of potatoes. This may sound insignificant to you, but after a 16-year tenure in NYC, I thoroughly appreciate the value of space. I’ve never even had a washer/dryer to call my own, let alone the sweet, satisfying solitude of a garage. A space for parking, a space for tinkering, and a space for beer fridge-ing? Yes, please. My father, his father before him, and my father-in-law all had beer fridges. I want to follow in those paternal footsteps. My son should witness the great American tradition of sawing timber while shining the car and enjoying a crisp, light lager. That’s freedom, folks.
4) Don't overlook pastimes.
When I was growing up, it was all about soccer and karate, until it became all about marching band, which I’d rather not discuss. (Did I say “marching band?” I meant “football.”) Okay, I never donned pinstripes or batting gloves, but I grew up watching the Mets with my grandparents and taking in the occasional game at Shea Stadium. This was the foundation for a lifelong love of baseball. The roar of the crowd, the hype-music, the cry of the vendors. Incidentally: ain’t no beer taste as good as fresh ballpark beer. Everything about an ice cold lager pairs perfectly with a rousing rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” I’ve already taken my son to his first game (the 2016 Tampa Bay Rays season opener), and it felt incredible to include him in a tradition so close to my heart. It may not be baseball for you. Hell, it may not even be sports. But sharing passions with our children gives them a glimpse of us as kids and inspires them for years to come.
5) Get creative with downtime.
In the beginning, parenthood is a seemingly neverending cycle of eating and pooping every two hours. As the little ones mature into toddlerdom, the cycle evens out a bit, and you can add “calf roping” to the list. Which can make for some trying times as you attempt to maintain an identity beyond “Dad.” Remember: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” No guy is winning Father Of The Year if he allows himself to get completely strung out from fatherhood totally owning his life. Sure, things will change -- but that doesn’t mean you should lose sight of yourself and personal interests. I’ve found myself with a lot more downtime at home, especially at night. Perhaps it’s finally time to brew the award-winning beer I’ve been contemplating since college. Sure, everyone uses hops and malt, but maybe my cactus-dragon fruit-iceberg lettuce IPA will catch on!
Beer, as in life, is all about the experiences, stories, and memories. It’s about finding the simplicity in an otherwise chaotic day, or taking a moment to clink glasses with someone you love. If you’ve got your own beer-dad/mom tips, please share them with us in the comments section below. Cheers!