I’m Ready for My Baby. But Am I Ready for the New Me?

A cool dad-to-be looks at the road ahead.

Illustration by Jonathan Bartlett.

Dear CJax,

Don’t panic. We wouldn’t do that to you. It’s just a nickname—a hybrid of Cecilia and Jackson—until you finally let us meet you.

“Don’t you want to know?” friends ask, expecting blue or pink cupcakes and baby-room paint swatches. They’re right to think I would, seeing as I typically have every meal of every vacation plotted before the plane pulls back. But this is different. There’s no risk of an underwhelming dinner.

Your mom and I had just downed a Black & White milkshake at Good Stuff Eatery. It was a pit stop on a purposely full day on which a phone call was due. Your used-to-getting-their-way parents hadn’t been getting it over the past months. I pulled the car over along Stanton Park, where I’d once pedaled a tricycle myself. Your mom answered with her right hand, clenching mine with her left. It was our turn. You were real.

“Are you ready?”—people’s usual follow-up question, but not targeting the usual preparations. They know the nursery will be meticulously set, that I’ll have sprung for the stroller, that the ride to the hospital will be thoroughly rehearsed.

They mean the other “ready.” Is the guy who has made a sport out of chasing down Washington’s restaurants ready to ask for a highchair—at places that have highchairs—and eat while it’s still light out? Is the NFL superfan with a standing reservation at Crystal City Sports Pub’s table number 320 ready just to watch highlights, and with the volume turned low? Is the respectable golfer ready to be, well, less respectable?

The truth is I’ve spent the last 32 years focused on maximizing the quality of my own life and, over the last decade, my life with your mom. The hostess may have scared away those old-timers by quoting a two-hour wait—not us. We’ll get drinks nearby till she texts. The cleaning lady for the family upstairs may want to come on Saturday mornings. Too bad. We’re still snoozing.

It’s been a terrific, never-boring run, right up through our “babymoon” to Paris and Spain. Lying on a beach for a week wouldn’t do. Your mom and I—mostly I—needed to have one last adult adventure: to navigate, to translate, to see if I could still drive a stick. One night over tapas, we enumerated our travel history on a napkin. It was hitting me: This was something of a farewell tour.

As sure as I am that I got my money’s worth out of the last decade, I’m even surer that I don’t want another ten years of the same. I know there’s more.

At our 20-week ultrasound, with both of your grandmothers there to swoon over your wiggles, a grumpy technician pointed out a possible concern that a first-time father didn’t understand. My heart quickened, eyes lasered, face reddened. I’d felt a version of this panic before when summoned to the principal or boss’s office, but this was different. I could fix those conversations, take care of myself.

It turned out to be a false alarm, but the hook was in. Now I think about and worry about and plan for you, instead of me. I don’t need to line up to eat at Little Serow—I’d rather hang at the Diner with you. I don’t need to watch eight football games at a time—I’d rather take you to one. And I don’t need to break 80. I’d rather teach you the game.

Matt and Jennie Hendrickson’s firstborn is due March 10. They live in Adams Morgan. Matt can be reached at

This article appears in the March 2016 issue of Washingtonian.