Fears Of A New Father

Cool Falls BoysMy 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, “It’s okay, Daddy … you’ll live.”

Fatherhood has grown on me, as it does other men. In addition to Grant, I now have a five-month-old daughter, Katie. I’ve come to know that, as fathers, we don’t always know the answers, but we manage nonetheless.

But the intimidation of being a new father is something I’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 someone’s dad.

And I have no earthly idea how to do that.

  • http://www.journeymancook.com Paul DeLuca

    Jason, writing that blog post was evidence enough that you did know how to be a great father to your kids. I think we are very lucky to live in a time when more people are writing about what’s important to them so that others can share in it. It’s also a time when we as fathers are more open to thoughts, ideas, and actions that our own fathers may have found foreign or uncomfortable to express. I grew up with a great dad, but he never would have shown or expressed his vulnerabilities. Here’s what I wrote to my 4-year-old son in 2001:

    One day, you will understand these things.

    You will understand what soft is. You will understand what clean smells like. You will understand tenderness.

    You will understand what it’s like to be protective. You will know what it’s like to have another person be completely dependent upon you. You will look in the eyes of your child and see unconditional love, trust, and devotion. You will feel those things too. You will feel real responsibility for the first time. You will understand how unconditional love can make every problem you have disappear.

    You will understand what it’s like to laugh, and cry, with pure joy. You will understand how innocence can be compromised, and how it can heal. You will understand how to give love at times when it is needed most, and at times when it’s not needed at all.

    You will understand the power of triggered memories. Memories like feeling the breadth of a small soft back with just the width of your hand. Memories of story time, of simple books with simple truths and snuggling in fuzzy pajamas. Memories of love expressed effortlessly through the greatest hug in the world from a four-year old. Memories of small voices calling you in from another room just to say, “I love you Daddy.”

    You will understand the contentment that can come from holding a small hand in yours as you smell the sweetness of spring in the air, run through the park on a summer day, walk through the autumn leaves, and pull a sled up the hill one more time.

    You will know why time is precious. You will understand that you will not live forever, that the things you find joy in now will change, that you need to make time for them when they present themselves, for they will never come again. You will look around you and appreciate all that you see changing before your eyes.

    You will long for the time when play was all that mattered. When make believe was more powerful than reality. You will see things come alive again through the eyes and in the hands of your child, and wonder will overtake you once more.

    You will understand how having the rest of your life ahead of you can change into days that pass as minutes. You will wake up one day and take stock of your life. You will ask yourself “What is my legacy?” And you will answer yourself based on how you are living your life. You will realize how little things can be significant and how seemingly big things are not.

    You will understand the sacrifices that were made, the unpleasant decisions, and the hard line that was drawn. You will understand why there were rules, and you will make your own, based upon what you have learned.

    You will understand much of what you do not now understand. And you will look back and be grateful. You will want to call, you will want to just sit and talk. You will want to spend time again, just being with your Dad.

    You will understand why I sometimes look at you with a wistful wet eye, and smile.
    You will understand what it is to be mature.
    You will understand what it is to be a man.
    You will understand what it is to be a father.

  • http://www.journeymancook.com Paul DeLuca

    Jason, writing that blog post was evidence enough that you did know how to be a great father to your kids. I think we are very lucky to live in a time when more people are writing about what’s important to them so that others can share in it. It’s also a time when we as fathers are more open to thoughts, ideas, and actions that our own fathers may have found foreign or uncomfortable to express. I grew up with a great dad, but he never would have shown or expressed his vulnerabilities. Here’s what I wrote to my 4-year-old son in 2001:

    One day, you will understand these things.

    You will understand what soft is. You will understand what clean smells like. You will understand tenderness.

    You will understand what it’s like to be protective. You will know what it’s like to have another person be completely dependent upon you. You will look in the eyes of your child and see unconditional love, trust, and devotion. You will feel those things too. You will feel real responsibility for the first time. You will understand how unconditional love can make every problem you have disappear.

    You will understand what it’s like to laugh, and cry, with pure joy. You will understand how innocence can be compromised, and how it can heal. You will understand how to give love at times when it is needed most, and at times when it’s not needed at all.

    You will understand the power of triggered memories. Memories like feeling the breadth of a small soft back with just the width of your hand. Memories of story time, of simple books with simple truths and snuggling in fuzzy pajamas. Memories of love expressed effortlessly through the greatest hug in the world from a four-year old. Memories of small voices calling you in from another room just to say, “I love you Daddy.”

    You will understand the contentment that can come from holding a small hand in yours as you smell the sweetness of spring in the air, run through the park on a summer day, walk through the autumn leaves, and pull a sled up the hill one more time.

    You will know why time is precious. You will understand that you will not live forever, that the things you find joy in now will change, that you need to make time for them when they present themselves, for they will never come again. You will look around you and appreciate all that you see changing before your eyes.

    You will long for the time when play was all that mattered. When make believe was more powerful than reality. You will see things come alive again through the eyes and in the hands of your child, and wonder will overtake you once more.

    You will understand how having the rest of your life ahead of you can change into days that pass as minutes. You will wake up one day and take stock of your life. You will ask yourself “What is my legacy?” And you will answer yourself based on how you are living your life. You will realize how little things can be significant and how seemingly big things are not.

    You will understand the sacrifices that were made, the unpleasant decisions, and the hard line that was drawn. You will understand why there were rules, and you will make your own, based upon what you have learned.

    You will understand much of what you do not now understand. And you will look back and be grateful. You will want to call, you will want to just sit and talk. You will want to spend time again, just being with your Dad.

    You will understand why I sometimes look at you with a wistful wet eye, and smile.
    You will understand what it is to be mature.
    You will understand what it is to be a man.
    You will understand what it is to be a father.

  • http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com Jason Falls

    Paul, that is beautiful and touching and fits nicely into what I wrote. I’ll make sure when Grant is old enough, he comes back to read this. Thanks for sharing that. Great way to start a day with the boy and girl.

  • http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com Jason Falls

    Paul, that is beautiful and touching and fits nicely into what I wrote. I’ll make sure when Grant is old enough, he comes back to read this. Thanks for sharing that. Great way to start a day with the boy and girl.

  • http://www.stickyfigure.com Steve Woodruff

    Thanks for sharing this, Jason. I remember well the fears as a new father, and I live daily with the anxieties of being a further-down-the-road father. One huge plus: kids are very forgiving. And often (until they turn about 13 or so), somewhat oblivious to our many failings…

  • http://www.stickyfigure.com Steve Woodruff

    Thanks for sharing this, Jason. I remember well the fears as a new father, and I live daily with the anxieties of being a further-down-the-road father. One huge plus: kids are very forgiving. And often (until they turn about 13 or so), somewhat oblivious to our many failings…

  • Mike Campbell

    I’m glad Chris liked your blog and that we got to see it today. I, too, have a three-year-old boy. It’s my favorite age. Of course when he was a newborn, that was my favorite age. When he was learning to walk, that was my favorite age. I’ve learned that my favorite age is whatever age my kids are right now. Thanks for the blog post.

  • Mike Campbell

    I’m glad Chris liked your blog and that we got to see it today. I, too, have a three-year-old boy. It’s my favorite age. Of course when he was a newborn, that was my favorite age. When he was learning to walk, that was my favorite age. I’ve learned that my favorite age is whatever age my kids are right now. Thanks for the blog post.

  • Roger

    “I can change a diaper. I don’t know if I can shape a mind.”

    Yep. This is spot on. I’ve been looking for a way to verbalize this sentiment.

  • Roger

    “I can change a diaper. I don’t know if I can shape a mind.”

    Yep. This is spot on. I’ve been looking for a way to verbalize this sentiment.

  • http://www.dirtandrust.com Nathaniel

    Wow. Wonderful post! And the comments are fantastic as well.

    Now that my daughter is older I see every day as my “Favorite Time” with her. I don’t miss her first 18 months (she hardly ever slept in all that time!) and she’s just as intense and sensitive as I am, but it all washed away when she first told me she loved me. When we first held hands.

    Pure joy; that’s what it’s all about.

    My fraternal-twin brother is thinking about having a child and what I tell him is that you have to really give up being selfish in order for it to work. That was the hardest part for me, giving up feeling like I was the center of the universe. :)

    I wish someone had told me what fatherhood was like. It’s possible to do, but I think no one does because they don’t want to scare you off from actually doing it!

    Again, thanks for the great encapsulation of the fatherhood experience.

  • http://www.dirtandrust.com Nathaniel

    Wow. Wonderful post! And the comments are fantastic as well.

    Now that my daughter is older I see every day as my “Favorite Time” with her. I don’t miss her first 18 months (she hardly ever slept in all that time!) and she’s just as intense and sensitive as I am, but it all washed away when she first told me she loved me. When we first held hands.

    Pure joy; that’s what it’s all about.

    My fraternal-twin brother is thinking about having a child and what I tell him is that you have to really give up being selfish in order for it to work. That was the hardest part for me, giving up feeling like I was the center of the universe. :)

    I wish someone had told me what fatherhood was like. It’s possible to do, but I think no one does because they don’t want to scare you off from actually doing it!

    Again, thanks for the great encapsulation of the fatherhood experience.

  • Pingback: Five in the Morning 092908 « StickyFigure

  • Pingback: Five in the Morning 092908 « StickyFigure

  • http://www.santaferanch.com/category/santafe.western_decor.western_bedding/ Western Bedding

    do you guys change diapers? I tried but it only ends up hurting my boy lol :D

  • http://www.santaferanch.com/category/santafe.western_decor.western_bedding/ Western Bedding

    do you guys change diapers? I tried but it only ends up hurting my boy lol :D

  • http://www.santaferanch.com/category/santafe.western_decor.western_bedding/ Western Bedding

    do you guys change diapers? I tried but it only ends up hurting my boy lol :D

  • http://www.santaferanch.com/category/santafe.western_decor.western_bedding/ Western Bedding

    do you guys change diapers? I tried but it only ends up hurting my boy lol :D

  • http://www.santaferanch.com/category/santafe.western_decor.western_bedding/ Western Bedding

    do you guys change diapers? I tried but it only ends up hurting my boy lol :D

  • Justin

    i have been a stepfather for 6
    Yeas. I came into my son life
    When he was just a month old.
    From that point on i learned how to be a dad, but i am about to
    Have my vary own child. On june
    24 2011 my little girl will be
    Born. I have never been more
    Scared in my life than i am now.
    I have had so many emotions
    Running through my mind, its
    Hard to think about anything else. I know they say grown men are not supposed to cry, but i would have to say that i have come
    Close to doing just that. I still
    Have no idea what i am doing.
    But i know i will have a great
    Time being a new farther and a
    Dad to my stepson.