Why I Was So Unprepared To Be A Father + Why That's A Good Thing
“Welcome to the club, man!” I had just announced to my colleagues that I was about to become a first-time father, and had immediately been given this overzealous, bright-eyed congratulation from one of the only other guys in the office who had kids. You know him — mid-40s cargo pants-wearing guy, scribbled crayon drawings adorning his office walls, never goes out to the bar because he has to “get home to the family.”
Great. I was now becoming a member of a club I'd never wanted to join, and whose members I really didn’t want to be around for more than five minutes at a time.
Here’s what I know now that I didn’t know then — I love being a member of this club. It’s not even that exclusive, but it’s a club that can't be fully appreciated until you earn a membership card.
My first discovery upon joining was that all of the eye-roll-inducing clichés I've heard all my life but chose to dismiss as hyperbole are actually TRUE. There’s a reason the word “miracle” gets thrown around so often in reference to bringing a new life into the world. The cynical, jaded hipster, pre-father side of me knows that birth (a thing that happens every minute of every day all over the world) is not technically a miracle, but I can think of no other word to adequately describe what I witnessed and experienced when my daughter, Alice Bee, was born.
Looking into her eyes, watching her grow and develop, seeing certain mannerisms and expressions that remind me of me, or my partner, Jen, or Alice’s grandparents, is miraculous. Listening as she learns to speak our language while at the same time modifying it, deconstructing it and putting it back together in ways I would never have conceived is miraculous. I know that all the other members of our special club also experience these exact same “miracles,” but that doesn’t diminish one bit how amazing every single day is for me now that Alice has joined our family.
That day I was so heartily welcomed to the club by my colleague, who seemed so desperately excited to have me as new member, I couldn’t help but think of my other former friends who had become recent parents, and all of their cringe-inducing, quickly-hidden-from-my-Facebook-timeline videos, blurry photos, and overly personal status updates about the bowel functions of their little “miracles.” I swore to myself that even though I was about to grudgingly become a member of their club, I would never become one of “those” parents — the ones who are constantly telling anecdotes, posting millions of photos online that all look exactly the same, and generally boring the crap out of the rest of us.
What I didn’t expect or realize was just how perfect and amazing my daughter was going to be. I wasn’t prepared at all for how much I was going to completely, insanely, unconditionally love this child. I'd been assuming that life would pretty much go on as it had before, only we’d now have a new roommate that we’d have to feed and clean up after for the next 18 years.
But (cliché alert) from the first second that I held her in my hands and looked into those perfect blue eyes, I knew that everything had changed. In the three and a half years since that moment, I haven't stopped thinking about her, loving her, or talking about her to anyone who will listen. I need to tell the world about my little miracle, and I find myself in the decidedly unhip position of not giving a damn about whether my status updates, photos, and endless stories that begin with “You won’t believe what Alice did …” are boring the tears out of my friends, colleagues, and random strangers. I even find myself regularly liking, favoriting and hearting those same baby photos and status updates that I used to so quickly and cynically hide.
I get it now. I feel like the Grinch at the end of the story when his heart grows three sizes. And that’s what I was most unprepared for as I headed into fatherhood — that my daughter would be able to so easily change my heart, make me less cynical and less dismissive of all of those others who, like me, are proud members of this fine club.
It used to be that if I learned a friend was having a child my initial reaction was to mourn the inevitable loss of our relationship. These days, however, when I hear this type of news my eyes get a little brighter, I hitch up my cargo pants and enthusiastically, zealously welcome them to the club.