Joining the Club
I’ve never been one to accept much credit for things I’ve done, or think highly of myself. My self esteem is not the greatest, and I tend to doubt my strengths and focus mainly on my weaknesses. I tend to complain more than I praise, and I have some really long eyebrow hairs that make me look like an owl. So on my first official Father’s Day I find myself asking, do I deserve the adulation that’s being thrown my way?
Why would I not want praise for being a good father to my daughter? Why am I selling myself so short when I’m clearly over six feet tall? Why let my issues with myself come between what I have done to help keep this being alive and relatively happy thus far? Is it because I can just never be happy? Why not enjoy what I have while I have it?
My mind wanders back to the first few months of parenthood, dealing with a baby who was very fussy and gassy (you’re welcome). There were a number of nights where I just didn’t think I could take being woken up by the sound of her cries anymore. It’s 2 a.m., she’s screaming and I don’t know what to do, the tenants who live in the surrounding apartments must hate our guts, and I feel like jumping out of a window. My wife became my role model for learning to be patient, and after 3 months the baby calmed down and began sleeping longer and on a more regular basis. I grew more patient, she just grew, and after another month she began the next phase of her diabolical plan to destroy both of us.
My role as father has been somewhat low key thus far, especially since I lack breasts and the ability to produce milk. My wife wants to keep things as natural as possible for as long as she can, which I completely support and want for both of them. Because of this I tend to be my daughter’s second favorite person in the house, and I’m forced to nurture her in other ways. So I show her how much I love her by taking out the trash, washing dishes, cleaning the house and other chores. You know, the glamorous stuff. But that’s what needs to be done, whether I think it’s glamorous or not. I wonder if instead of aprons that say ‘World’s #1 Dad’ they make ones that say ‘World’s #1 Trash Taker-Outer.’ Maybe that’s what I’ll be getting next year.
My wife tells me that doing these chores is, in its own way, helping our child. I’m taking care of these things so that my wife can spend more time tending to the baby’s needs. I guess I should be thankful that one of the hardest parts of parenting thus far has been keeping the mold out of our bathtub. Do I think that’s important? Sure, especially when I think about needing to give our daughter a bath and seeing a sparkling tub. But I guess I never thought that would be something that was important in the grand scheme of raising a child.
Maybe I need to go back even further, and think about my own childhood. My father and mother divorced when I was about 10, so I didn’t really get to know him as a role model and have him as a major influence in my life. My first stepfather seemed alright at first, but he and I clashed a lot in my teen years. I never felt like we ever truly bonded, and it seemed like he preferred the company of my younger brother more. It also didn’t help that most of my memories of him involve him being annoyed with my mother, them bickering with one another, and me hiding out in our basement playing video games. My current stepfather entered my life near the end of my college years, while I was preparing to venture out into the world with my future wife. We got along very well, and still do, but we do not have the bonds that time and experience lend to a father-son relationship.
So am I down on the importance of my role as a father because I haven’t put the time in yet? Am I measuring how good a father is by how long he has been with his family, and what he has done with that time? Does this mean that I won’t start giving myself any credit until I’m on Father’s Day number ten or higher? I think I need to acknowledge that while menial things are still menial, they also serve a purpose. My job right now is to keep the house running, step in when I can, and keep both of my girls happy and healthy. Doing the dishes doesn’t seem like something that helps out, but it does. Plus, when our daughter is old enough to do chores she can do the dishes and learn about responsibility. It’s the circle of life, minus the singing meerkats and boars.
I’m sure there are parents out there who would laugh at the things I’m saying, and perhaps they’d even want to trade shoes with me. From what I’ve heard, this is the easy stuff. Once our daughter is mobile and can talk, parenthood will become a master’s course in psychology. The sounds of birds and frogs chirping from her rainforest themed play mat will be replaced with songs from children’s TV programs or, even worse, adolescent boy bands. Her twelve pounds of weight that grow heavy on my shoulders as I try to rock her to sleep will turn into hundreds of pounds of pressure on my brain as I worry about where she is, what she’s doing and who she’s doing it with.
Just like every other parent out there, I want for her the things I never had. Or at least, the things I wished I had more of as I was growing up. I want to be involved with her life, I want to teach her things and I want her to teach me things. I want to tell her to follow her dreams, money be damned, but to remember that dreams don’t put a roof over your head or food in your belly. I want her to have a father who stays in her life no matter what happens. And, I want her to have normal eyebrows.