Fatherhood, like all things worth doing well, is a work in progress. It is a day by day, minute by minute, think on your feet, lose your mind, what the hell just happened, and this is absolutely wonderful kind of thing. If you’re in it, you get it.
It is subjective, relative, personal and public. It is a cry in the night, a laugh in a moment, homework much harder than we remember, and a hand to hold. It is all these things and more, because fatherhood, much like the universe around us, is always expanding to create new things, push new boundaries, and boldly go into the great unknown — no matter how many books or blogs we may have read for advice and guidance there is only one way of learning all this dad stuff, and that is by doing. Always doing.
I have been a father for 11 years, and I never saw it coming. It’s a funny thing to plan and dream for things you cannot understand.
We all walk the line called fatherhood, and our balance is precarious at best. The edges are smoothed by kind words and warm hugs. Our feet slip upon surfaces left wet by tiny tears and so many accidents. Balance is something we laugh about as we try our damnedest not to fall—some laughs are lost between tears and words best left unsaid. It happens.
It is a path that our fathers walked before us, but our world is vastly different and it is always changing. That is our doing. We are that change, and we wish to see it.
It is a path that our peers, friends, and men everywhere stand upon, some more firmly than others. Yet the path is our own. It started where we started and it will end where we end. There will be steps backward and jumps ahead, and though it may often seem the contrary we will never be alone.
There is no harness for fatherhood and there is no net. We are daredevils on a tightrope and to fall is to fail, and to fail is not an option. And yet failure is the greatest teacher we may ever know.
Fatherhood is complicated and layered in metaphors. Luckily, it breaks down easily. The aforementioned “doing it” is as simple as it sounds. To do it is to be there, and to be there is everything. Our children need us, sometimes more than we need them, and the best thing a dad can do is to be available, whether “there” is a place, a conversation, or an outlet for emotion, it all comes down to being present, and that gift is as good as gold whether giving or receiving. Fatherhood is full of rewards, and we bank them like memories.
I have been a father for 11 years, and I never saw it coming. That is to say, I always wanted to be a dad, and I thought that I would do well by it, but it is a funny thing to plan and dream for things you cannot understand — real life can be better than we ever hoped it would, and that is a pretty nice way of living.
It hit me the moment my first son was born. My wife had been in labor for nearly 16 hours, which is about a lifetime longer than my own experience, and when our son was born, big and beautiful in the small, quiet hours of a rainy summer morning, it hit me like a ton of everything. That was love turned to 11, and it floored me to think that I had been taking it all for granted. The first thing I did was step into the cool, wet dawn and call my parents to apologize. I really had no idea.
I feared that my love and joy for one child could not be shared, doubled, or replicated.
I admit that I was worried about baby number two. We had had a good run. Two-and-a-half years as a family of three had led to routine and comfort, and we grew lazy in our happiness. I feared that my love and joy for one child could not be shared, doubled, or replicated. I was afraid that I would do them both an injustice.
That lasted about nine months, until the moment our second son arrived, and then, in the timeless words of Yogi Berra, it was deja vu all over again, except the sun was shining and it was warmer out.
Suddenly fatherhood had gone up a notch, and I braced myself accordingly.
I have retraced forgotten steps to search for items dropped hours after their loss and minutes into the crying. I have wandered blocks from strange places to find substance in the hours when no child should be hungry and the night had left us tired and unprepared. I have looked into my sons’ eyes and said things that embarrass us all.
I have slammed doors and stood behind them beneath a soundtrack of tears.
I have slept in small beds, curled around my children like a blanket of security, and felt my legs grow slowly numb and my toes start to tingle.
The line is not straight. It loops and knots and forks, and maps are useless and hard to fold.
I have healed wounds, and I have been healed when I was broken. We have met in the middle and found much happiness there.
The line is not straight. It loops and knots and forks, and maps are useless and hard to fold. Road signs consist of frowns and smiles, and many things we cannot read.
We run, we skip, and we dance upon it — coming, going, and back again, to places near and far.
When we pass each other we nod and wave. We tell tales of where we are going and stories of where we have been. And in the distance there are children laughing loudly and growing way too fast, each breath a beacon and a breadcrumb guiding our footsteps to the place that we call home, and that is the place where we long to be.
Fatherhood, like all things worth doing well, is a work in progress. Enjoy it.