As a recently inaugurated father, my wife and I will occasionally make jokes about our short stint as a married couple without kids. Yet when we try and recall what we did with all our free time, it’s as if we both suffer from amnesia. In hindsight, it’s probably because those moments were so comparably relaxed. But, when asked to describe some of my “unexpected” moments as a father, I can still say, with a bit of optimistic, untainted naiveté, that fatherhood itself has been and continues to be one endless, awesome unexpected event.
I mean, let’s be honest. None of us really know what we’re signing up for when we become fathers. It’s a leap of faith, borne out of our love for our partner, cultural and societal expectations and norms, maybe our attempt to make the world a better place one tiny human at a time; who the heck knows?!
So for me, the unexpected has certainly been every single moment from the second the doctor handed us our oldest daughter, umbilical cord still attached, to just this morning, when my 2-year-old son woke me up with an MMA-style eye-gouge at 5:30 a.m. with a finger that’s been God-knows where.
I remember settling in the recliner in August of 2012 with our first child, then just two days old, asleep in my arms. I thought: What are we supposed to do now? Isn’t there a book or a blog I should be reading on what to do next? Are we really capable of doing this right? If this little girl knew how clueless I was right now, she wouldn’t be so peacefully sleeping!
So in that light, I can admit that those questions and doubts never go away, but my comfort level with the uncertainty and ambiguity of parenting has become more natural. Finally, the unexpected for me has been the inspiring change, much like the Grinch, of my own heart. I truly believe my heart has grown three sizes since having children. Parenting has become the ultimate challenge. The ultimate challenge that never ends, that changes daily, that provides a mirror into my own heart and mind. A reflection of the worst of me and of the best of me. And for those reasons, I hope all those trials ultimately make me more understanding, more appreciative, more introspective….hopefully more human, so that I can be some semblance of a moral compass for those screaming crazies running around my house who sometimes, I swear, are just my Dad’s grandkids.