I never really wanted to be a dad. Not that I wanted to NOT be a dad…it just didn’t really seem like the thing that fit me. Somehow, though, five years ago today Fate decided that it would send me down a new road that I’d never been down before and didn’t really set out to go down in the first place.
I’m not that good with kids. Not naturally, at least. I talk loudly and often, I tend to laugh loudly and often, and I slip in pretty salty language in between both. I’ve mellowed in my old age, but I can still pop off without realizing that I’ve got a two-legged tape recorder at my knees taking in everything that I say that just so happens to resonate above most of the other voices in the room. I have learned to pretend to be fairly decent with kids, which is nothing short of a miracle if you ask any of my friends who knew me in a different life.
There are lots of things I wanted to “be” in life. At one time, I wanted to be either a doctor, a lawyer, or a singer in a heavy metal puke band. After life actually happened, turns out that I didn’t have the stomach to be a doctor, I’m nowhere near studious or smart enough to be a lawyer, and my heavy metal wail sounds more like an ambulance siren with a loose wire. Being an Aggie was what was most important to me, and it’s probably the thing I identify with most. However, I enjoy being a loyal friend, a doting husband, an archenemy ready to fight at all times, an underachieving son, an annoying brother, and sometimes just a guy that people are just a little bit wary or afraid of to really get too close to. It’s easier that way in most instances, but at times I need to be pretty good at all of those things. More often than not, I am not…I’m either marginally acceptable or even downright unacceptable.
The one thing I never really put much thought into “being” was a dad. But here I am, five years to the day when I got to “be” that very thing. It makes me laugh when people have kids and say something like “they don’t send these things home with instructions” or something pseudo-witty like that, but the truth is that Amazon.com is filled with all sorts of instruction books on babies, so the excuse is moot. Amazon.com might even know me by first name after all the purchases I made pre-birth, sometimes with determined agenda, sometimes in late night insomnia-induced panic in front of the computer wondering what my offspring would look like or if he/she would have an extra arm or an extra asshole or something that would take an extra-ordinary parenting effort that I wasn’t nearly prepared to tackle. After all the books and websites and magazines and blogs and articles, the only true way to comprehend something so unique as being wholly responsible for another sentient human is to just be given one and then have the helpful professional walk away and let you both ‘cut your teeth’ (so to speak) on your own. It’s amazing what you’ll learn when given the chance to fly and fall and break something. Admittedly, it helps to have a muted sense of smell when raising a baby, especially with the aforementioned career-determining weak stomach. Plus, it’s a damn good excuse for not changing a poop diaper. It really helps to have an equally-yoked partner with a coyote-keen sense of smell, almost comically.
Five years later, and I’ve learned a lot from this entire experience. I’ve learned what it’s like to go face to face with one of those poop diapers in the middle of the night, and I’ve even learned what it’s like to go face to face with the source from whence it came while trying to get a new diaper in place. I know what it sounds like to hear the F word, innocently repeated by the lips of an angel, and I know the feeling of absolute helplessness when you see blood pouring from a wound or hear the unmistakable sound of silence right before the soul-bending screech of sheer unadulterated pain from stubbing a toe or falling on the floor. I’ve never run so fast nor have stopped so suddenly as I have chasing a crawling 12-month old. I used to stare down parents in a restaurant with an infant for making noise, and now find myself so zoned out in a restaurant when my kiddo is acting like a damn monkey because of the spoonful of perspective I’ve taken for the past five years at least once a day. Being a dad makes me a better son. It makes me a better son-in-law. I think it makes me a better husband, but my wife might tell you that my superhero sense of ignoring is so powerful that it can leap tall buildings in a single bound. Some things are too far gone or even too far-fetched for my personality and/or hypocrisy, but those days of going and doing and seeing and experiencing all on my own are forever gone. Regardless of where I go or what I do or what I see, it will never be the same now that I see my own flesh and blood go thru the pain and struggle of everyday life that I went thru. It seemed hard at the time I was going thru it myself, but it’s so much harder now knowing what lies behind each corner for my little son. All these years of fighting my own dad mean so much more when I see that he was just doing the same thing I’m doing now. He’ll laugh about it now, and I’ll laugh about it someday too, but in the moment it scares me to even let myself ponder the possibilities of my might-have-been’s if not for such a great protector.
I’m much more keen to foul language or inappropriate content on tv. I can self-censor pretty well, but still have trouble not singing the bad words in songs mostly out of habit. Beer tastes good, but not nearly as good as when the house is totally silent during those moments when I know my little guy is safe in bed asleep. I check locked doors and windows and keep an eye out for sharp edges, but it’s second nature for me now. At one time, it was a struggle to perform these checks because I was having to think about them. I don’t have to think about them anymore…it’s like being Neo in the Matrix. The Patrix. You see the Patrix in lines of streaming code and milk after a certain point.
Five years in, and what I take from it all is that I’m still pretty loud and obnoxious, I still use salty language and still tend to be bigger than the room more than I should be. That’s just who I am, and it probably won’t change. What has changed is my perspective on how it affects everyone else in the room. For that reason, I both apologize to everyone I know as well as stand arms wide open in defiant confidence, knowing that I am what I am. For any other kid, I would be a terrible dad, and most kids annoy the hell out of me. Fortunately, I’m not a dad to all those other kids.
It wasn’t fate that I become a daddy…it was fate that I became my son’s daddy. And it’s the best thing I’ve ever “been” or probably will ever “be”, and at the end of my days I’ll die happy, knowing that I’ll be remembered merely as my son’s daddy, if not solely.