I became a father for the first time in 1983 with the birth of my son, while on active duty in the Air Force. I spent the nine months prior to his birth in a bit of a state of shock and denial, unable to fully grasp what was in motion as the pregnancy moved inexorably forward.
Yes, I could see the progression of his development. Yes, we made plans, painting walls of the nursery, buying a crib, dresser and all the accoutrements that come with caring for a baby. And yes, we even took Lamaze classes.
But I was in a fog. A thousand yard stare. Because as much as much as I knew I wanted to be a father, I was sure I was not ready. I didn’t have the knowledge or patience. I didn’t have the wisdom. What if I screwed it up? What if I wasn’t really cut out for being a dad? What if I failed?
Could I financially provide for my soon to be born son (and the two daughters who followed?) . Would they be able to depend on me?
You see, I had big shoes to fill. I know because I used to try his shoes on when we wasn’t home. .
I wanted to walk like him, talk like him, shave like him, and sing like him. I wanted to be a good hunter and fisherman like him. I wanted to be a good husband and a man of God like him. I wanted to be a good dad like him.
But as my son’s arrival drew nearer, I grew more anxious because I knew I was not ready. I was not the man my dad was, and I felt the weight of this new responsibility as it lay increasingly heavy across my shoulders.
I have lived most of my life with the constant thought in the back of my head that whatever I did I wanted dad to be proud of me. That thought has been behind most of the decisions I made.
Years later I know that most guys are never ready for fatherhood, even if they pretend to be. Even if they want to be a dad more than anything. We learn as we go. It’s on the job training. We screw it up from time to time, but we don’t give up. We don’t always have the answers but we can always listen to the questions. We cant always protect our kids but we can always love them and let them know that no matter what happens, that love is unshakeable.
I learned that from my dad.
Thanks for still being there for me. I love you.