In April, I became a father. Before my son was born, my wife and I read countless books and websites to learn the "right" way to parent. It was like starting a new hobby, like I did before my first homebrew. When Lucian finally arrived, I consulted those resources constantly. Was he eating enough? Was I holding him correctly? Did I really have to stick the thermometer there?
Uncertain and exhausted, I sometimes made little mistakes. That's normal, but in the middle of the night with your ears ringing from a baby's cry, the smallest mistakes seem huge. Occasionally when I couldn't calm him, I worried that I was ruining him forever.
Then one night, Lucian wouldn't stop crying. We tried every trick we knew with no success, growing more exhausted and desperate. By 4 a.m., I was a nervous wreck. And for just a moment, I wished I were somewhere else. Back in time. Off in space. Some-place sunny with good beer on tap would be nice.
That sudden thought of beer awoke something deep in me, reminding me that I was still a homebrewer, not just an overwhelmed new father.
Memories of homebrewing brought the mental escape I needed. I re-membered my earliest homebrews, when everything was unfamiliar. When I read Charlie Papazian and John Palmer over and over. When I searched online for tips and obsessed over every detail. Was the LME evenly dissolved? Was my fermentation temperature perfect? Little mistakes seemed huge. I wondered if I would ever get it right.
I know now that I was learning from experience. My first beers weren't perfect, but I enjoyed them because I made them. I soon realized that homebrewing isn't about being "right," but making choices. I learned to be comfortable with mine, knowing my beer would be fine despite the occasional little mistake.
Lucian's cry brought me back to reality, and I looked down at him. That's when it hit me: parenting is like brewing a person.
Sure, it's a bigger commitment and the stakes are higher, but both involve a similar mix of careful control and blind faith. Brewers make wort and create the best fermentation conditions possible. Parents lay the groundwork for the best life we can give our children. But at some point, you have to leave it up to factors you can't completely control: The yeast you pitch, or the free will of the little human being you made.
Then I remembered the famous words of Charlie Papazian: "Relax. Don't worry. Have a homebrew."
So I did. Well, I relaxed and stopped worrying at least. I drank the homebrew the next afternoon.
And I realized that with a little modification, Papazian's mantra is great advice for parents too: Relax. Don't worry. Be with your child.
Months later, it's getting easier. I can tell a hunger cry from a diaper cry, and I can turn it into a smile. I'm starting to experiment, like when I graduated to partial mashing. I'm improving processes, adjusting variables and developing my own style as a dad.
I'm already an all-grain homebrewer, but someday I hope to be an "all-grain" parent. Informed and experienced, I'll rarely break a sweat. I'll still make mistakes, but I'll shake them off and learn from them. Someday, friends will beg me for parenting advice like they now ask for beer recommendations. Strangers will heap praise upon my paternal skills like gushing judges at a homebrew competition. Someday.
And someday years from now, I'll pass my knowledge on to Lucian when he becomes a dad. Maybe when I do, we'll be sharing a beer that my son brewed himself.