Montgomery: Let’s talk about parenting …

Well, hey there, everyone. It’s nice to be back.

It’s been a while since I last appeared in the pages of this newspaper.

I’m guessing most readers don’t remember me. Those that do probably think of me as the old “Biz Buzz” guy.

About 19 months ago, I bid farewell to the Telegraph Herald and started working as a writer at McCullough Creative, a marketing agency here in Dubuque. I’m still employed there, but when I had the chance to do a column in the TH, I couldn’t pass it up.

It’s an excitement that stems not only from where I’ll be writing it, but also what I’ll be writing about …

A column about being a Dad.

There’s a certain irony — and a lovely symmetry — about the existence of this column.

Two years ago, a desire to commit more time to parenthood was a big part of what inspired my departure from the TH. Now, parenthood is what brought me back.

Before we embark on this adventure, let’s establish a few ground rules:

First and foremost, this is not an advice column. If you want parenting advice, ask my wife. That’s what I do.

  • Hopefully, this will be funny. My two kids — Elizabeth, 4, and Christopher, 2 — make me laugh harder than any adult ever could. I’m not entirely sure my words can do justice to their hilarity, but I’ll try.
  • Lastly, I will always attempt to be honest. This space will never be used to convince the reader I am a great Dad. It’ll be a place to discuss what being a Dad is actually like.

So let’s get after it …

If I had to sum up my first four-plus years of parenting in a single sentence, it’d be this: A slow transition from terror to comfort.

Terror, you ask? Um, yeah. Prior to having my own kids, I had spent very little time around children, especially young ones. I had no idea what I was doing.

There are a couple stories that encapsulate that feeling.

I distinctly remember a moment, about six months into my wife’s first pregnancy, when one of her close friends, a school nurse, gave me a lesson about how to save a choking infant. I watched the video tutorial closely and aggressively slapped the back of the baby doll in hopes of removing the hypothetical obstruction … Patted the back a little too hard, it turns out.

You killed it, my wife’s friend deadpanned as she looked at the doll and I.

The fear grew. And it didn’t stop once the actual child arrived.

The first night I was alone with my first-born (a terrifying proposition at the time) she happened to come down with a stomach bug. She awoke a mere 30 minutes after Mom had left, bawling at rock-concert volume. I dutifully picked her up to comfort her. Within 20 seconds she turned toward me, releasing a heinous stream of projectile vomit.

It was like that scene out of the “The Exorcist,” only scarier.

I don’t bring this up to gross anyone out. But it is a glimpse into what it’s like being a new dad.

My daughter didn’t actually fall ill because her mom left. But it sure felt like she did.

Back then, parenting was terrifying. It still kind of is. I think it always will be.

How does ones confront their most important job in life without a lingering fear about messing it up?

Over time, though, I have noticed a gradual, yet significant shift in my mindset — and my blood pressure — in the moments I am around them.

What once induced horror now feels like a haven.

The moments I am with my kids are the best ones in my life. In their presence, the callousness and complexities of the real world melt away and a new one comes forth.

My children know nothing of work stresses or social norms. They demand only an authentic and engaged version of myself. And in my hardest moments, that offers the most beautiful reprieve:

Be here and be real.

I can do that.

That’ll be my goal in this column. I’ll be here once a month. And I’ll attempt to be real every step of the way.

If any topic deserves authenticity, this is the one.