My son was born a little over three years ago now. He surprises me daily with a new word, phrase or expression that makes me laugh. Friday at dinner, I was annoyed we were out of ketchup. He cocked his head to one side and said, â€œItâ€™s okay, Daddy â€¦ youâ€™ll live.â€
Fatherhood has grown on me, as it does other men. In addition to Grant, I now have a five-month-old daughter, Katie. Iâ€™ve come to know that, as fathers, we donâ€™t always know the answers, but we manage nonetheless.
But the intimidation of being a new father is something Iâ€™ll never forget. Fortunately, I was blogging then on an old personal blog that no longer exists. This is what I published on March 11, 2005, just 10 days before Grant was born. I thought it was an appropriate first share as a contributor to DadOMatic since it was my initial foray into fatherhood itself.
The nursery is finished. The crib is built. All the clothes sized for newborns are washed with the special detergent for such articles. There are shelves full of stuffed animals and colorful toys. The cradle my mother once used to rock me to sleep is along side our bed with a music-playing mobile clamped to one end.
The cabinet that used to contain stadium cups and water bottles is now lined with neat rows of plastic baby bottles in various sizes. The rack that used to contain earth-toned pot holders is now draped with lightly colored bibs.
I even opened the hall closet yesterday and was conveniently buried by eight Sam’s Club-sized boxes of diapers. If there is a such thing as being ready for a baby, I don’t know if my wife and I are, but our house certainly is.
I walked into the nursery the other night and turned on the Winnie the Pooh lamp sitting on the Winnie the Pooh table. I studied the Winnie the Pooh prints that I hung around the room and quietly counted the Winnie the Pooh stuffed teddy bears sitting on one shelf. I ran my hand along the edge of the crib, decorated with Winnie the Pooh linens, and rubbed a Winnie the Pooh onezie on the top of a basket of clothes.
My mind wandered through fields of wonder and over valleys of fear as I finally allowed it to grasp the reality of the coming days. I smiled and I scowled. I laughed and I cried.
Becoming a father is single most important transition I will ever make. This isn’t a house project or even a new job. I am not allowed to screw this up. Yet, I have no experience or credentials to show that I am remotely capable of doing this.
My father — and he admits this — didn’t exactly provide good role modeling. For the first 10 years of my life, the most important decade in the development of a young man, there weren’t many men around for me to model myself after. The only consistent one was my uncle, for whom my son will be named. While my stepfather turned out to be one of my best friends and most important influences as I matured, my impressions of the world around me and how I interacted with them were formed long before he came on the scene.
Family and friends encourage me, saying that I was 11 when my brother and sister were born, so I know how to take care of a baby from my years of being the built-in babysitter. While that is all true, there is a vast canyon of difference between wiping something’s butt and building someone’s character. I can change a diaper. I don’t know if I can shape a mind.
So, the house is ready and the hospital bags are packed. The if-then scenarios with taking time off work have been ironed out and shared with the principle players. We have a call tree to spread the news and commitments from parents and family for visiting and helping out once he’s born.
But the new dad may not be ready for this.
I want more than anything to be a good father for my child. I want to protect him and teach him and enlighten him and care for him. I want to teach him about the world. I want to answer his questions and ease his fears.
I want to teach him to play catch and help him build a fort and take him to the beach and show him how to ride a bike. I want to take him to a baseball game and watch him play a few himself.
I want to teach him to not judge others and to treat everyone with respect. I want him to grow up wise, responsible and kind.
But perhaps most importantly, I want him to one day sit in the soft-lit nursery looking at the decorations and running his hands over the terrycloth jumpers in the final weeks of the pregnancy and not be afraid to be someoneâ€™s dad.
And I have no earthly idea how to do that.