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The Parenting Game

I had intentions of blogging about something sports related, like a recap of 2018 and glance back at the top moments in North Dakota high school athletics. Or I could write about how nerve wracking a “win and in” situation will be on Sunday for the Vikings. How about I discuss if “Die Hard” is a Christmas movie or not?

No, I’ll let my colleagues Jay Elsen and David Brown handle that. I’m going to write about the one thing that has consumed my life more than anything else this past month. On November 16, Harrison James Norstedt entered the world and changed the lives of my wife and me in an instant. We’ve been thrust into the “sports” of parenting – and we’re learning that it’s a new game every day.

The Super Bowl

The day Harrison was born was our Super Bowl victory. We had been preparing for this moment for nine months. Of course, my wife, Amy, had to endure the toughest challenges that come with producing a life inside her. I, on the other hand, tried to be the best teammate that I could be.

I thought it was tough watching from the sidelines when I first made the varsity football team. That helplessness doesn’t come close to comparing to watching Amy go through the uncomfortable moments of pregnancy, followed by labor. She was the MVP and continues to be as a first-time mom. She’s absolutely the best teammate I could ever ask for.

But, back to the Super Bowl. I’ve held trophies before. I’ve won fantasy football championships (I won my third title this year), intramural high school basketball titles, and I have a third-place wrestling trophy from fifth grade on my desk in the office. Surprisingly, none of those – even that third-place trophy – compared to the feeling of when the nurse handed me Harrison for the first time.

The baby we had dreamed about, prayed for and prepared for was finally in our arms. We were minutes into the “game” of parenting, but we had already won the Super Bowl.

What we soon realized is that, in parenting, you start with the Super Bowl and then comes the regular season.

No Preseason

There is no preseason for parenting to get your feet wet. You can take as many classes as you want to prepare yourself, but it’s a learn on the job experience, no doubt.

Regular season games are played every day. NFL teams play 16 regular season games, MLB plays 162, NHL and NBA each play 82 days out of the year. But parenting? There are 365 games on the schedule. No days off for general soreness (sorry, Jimmy Buckets), no bilateral leg weakness (sorry, Joe – congrats on retirement!), not even a slapshot to the face will get you out of a day of parenting. (Maybe it will, but I’m not about to find out.)

Welcome to the League, Rookie

Let’s get into the day-to-day grind, shall we?

To be honest, I’ve felt like a rookie quarterback dealing with him sometimes, and I’m not talking Carson Wentz. I’d compare myself to Nathan Peterman, who was intercepted five times in the first half in his debut with the Buffalo Bills in 2017.

One of the craziest feelings is when my wife and I got home from the hospital with Harrison, and we came to the realization that there would be no more check-ins from the nurse on how he’s doing. No more having someone answer every single parenting question that popped into our heads. He was ours, and we were about to start our adventure as a family.

It was one of the single greatest yet nerve-wracking feelings you could ever imagine. I think by day two at home I had 20+ internet tabs open on my phone that were baby related: “How do you get a baby to sleep?” “How many times does a newborn poop in a day?” “How to calm baby after bath?” It felt like I was trying to learn a playbook that had an infinite number of pages.

In-Game Adjustments

As they often say, every baby is different, and we’re finding out our little guy might be a little tougher than the average bear to get to sleep. Harrison’s crying can get loud – like Georgia Southern loud. (NDSU football fans will get that reference.)

Getting him to calm down for nap time is a series of trial and error. My play-call chart has grown over the last month. I’ve tried rocking him in the chair, rocking him while standing, holding him vertically, holding him horizontally, patting his back, rubbing his back, playing lullabies, playing Garth Brooks, shushing him to the tune of “We’re going to win, Twins, we’re going to score” – the list goes on and on. It really is all about the in-game adjustments.

The other night, I walked with him around our kitchen/living room area fast enough to compete in the greatest Olympic sport, racewalking. After 30 minutes of speed walking, I was exhausted and, thankfully, so was he. I went upstairs and laid him down. As I watched him continue to snooze, I had a celebratory feeling that I’m fairly certain only racewalking gold medalists could relate to. It gave me so much pride to see him sleeping there and knowing that I pulled off a remarkable feat.

Ten minutes later, my dream, and apparently his dreams, were over. Time for a new play call.

Halftime

As a sports fan, halftime is typically the most boring part of any game. Yes, it gives you time to grab a snack or run to the restroom, but often times, it gets to be way too long.

In newborn parenting, our halftime is Harrison’s naptime, and we cherish every single second of it. It gives us a chance to grab a snack or run to the restroom. Sound familiar? It’s also a good opportunity for my wife and me to regroup and go over what did work and what didn’t work in his last awake session.

Of course, we also get to talk about how cute the little guy is and how in love with him we are. It’s crazy how much fun it can be to just gaze into your own child’s eyes. It’s a feeling that never gets old.

Clock Management

This one is a juggling act because a newborn doesn’t care what plans you have for the day and what your schedule looks like. As parents, we can alter our plans as best as we can to make sure we feed him before taking him with to run errands, but the fact of that matter is that he can wake up at any moment to let everyone hear his booming future broadcaster voice – whether he has a dirty diaper, is hungry, or is just simply agitated. Side note: DVR comes in really handy when you want to watch a live sporting event but need to tend to a crying baby.

Personal Fouls

Rules? Newborns don’t play by any rules. In our first seven days at home, Harrison peed on me four times during diaper changes. At any sporting event, I’d like to think that sort of conduct would be penalized. But, in his room, it’s allowed. (Seriously, the kid has shown some great distance. He managed to hit the wall five feet away from his changing table and hit a few other “targets” in his room.)  

He also unloaded a surprise for mommy when her hand happened to be underneath his butt at the wrong time. The moments may sound gross, but for some reason they make us laugh. I guess that’s part of becoming a parent.

Teamwork

Teamwork and communication are critical in parenting. Amy has taught me a lot and coached me through some things since she’s been home with him every day, while I’ve returned to work. Just like any teammate relationship, we have moments of frustration and backseat parenting, but we try our best to be supportive and encouraging to one another.

For instance, I really struggle to swaddle Harrison. I feel like he breaks out every time, while Amy is a pro at it. So, I have to swallow my swaddle pride and ask for advice from her constantly on what I’m doing wrong. It certainly helps having a great partner in parenting.

Takeaway

If you took the time to read this, thank you! Harrison has certainly been a lot of work (and will continue to be), but every time I look at him, I’m reminded that I’ve already won the Super Bowl! Being a dad is so special.

If you’re a parent, I hope you can relate and that a few of these things bring back good memories from the baby years. Also, thank you for being a parent.  If you’re a newborn parent, enjoy every single moment whether they’re tough or fun!

I’ll leave you with this quote that I plan to recite to myself tonight when I put Harrison down for a nap. It’s a slightly modified version of the famous speech from Herb Brooks before leading Team USA to the upset of the Soviet Union in the 1980 Olympics for the Miracle On Ice.

“Great moments are born from great opportunity. And that’s what you have here tonight, Jody. That’s what you’ve earned here, tonight. One nap. If we tried to get him to nap ten times, he might resist nine of them. But not this nap. Not tonight. Tonight, we stick with it. Tonight, we calm him down because we can! Tonight, you are the greatest dad in the world. You were born to be a dad. And you were meant to be here tonight. This is your time. His awake time is done. It’s over (for now). I’m sick and tired of hearing about how awake Harrison is. Shush ‘em! This is your time!”

Thanks for reading! Wish me luck on that next diaper change.

Filed Under Football | Basketball | Varsity Sports | Hockey | ND High School