Contemplating fatherhood

It happens in every marriage. Sooner or later, a couple discusses having children.
Mrs. Happy and I do so fairly regularly, sometimes in passing and sometimes
in earnest. Right now, a variety of loose-ended issues prevents us from making
a firm decision one way or the other. I get frustrated about that because,
of course, on this issue there is no middle ground, no fence to straddle. To
put off deciding means to decide not to have children for the time being, and
time doesn’t stand still while we work out the details. I’ve received this
advice more times than I can count: “Don’t wait to have children until you’re
ready. You’ll never be ready. You just have to do it.” That may very well be
true.

This past year, I think, marked the first time that I’ve been emotionally ready to expand our Happy Family. Before now, the thought of that much responsibility has terrified me. Now I’m not afraid of the responsibility; in some ways I even crave it. What concerns me now is the effect a child will have on my ability to function as a human being.

Sometimes (it happened today, in fact) I look at my wife and she overwhelms
me with her humanity, her
person-ness
. Sometimes she makes me realize that she exists as an individual
as much as I do, a revelation that always brings me to my knees in awe of the
wonder of her being. I think times like those are the closest I ever come to
seeing another person the way God sees them. God, however, is omnipotent and
capable of functioning while fully comprehending the power of His creation’s
existence. In that state I, on the other hand, tend to just smile until it hurts,
cry
uncontrollably,
and babble on about beauty and love.

So if my wife affects me that strongly as often as two or three times a week, I can’t imagine how I will function in the presence of a little girl who looks like the woman I love more than life, frantically playing, eagerly seeking out new experiences, and protecting any helpless creature she encounters…or a little boy who asks probing questions and follows his imagination wherever it takes him without being burdened by preconceived notions of reality (a boy, by the way, who has also exchanged all the morose, odd-bird tendencies he inherited from his father with the corresponding good qualities he learned from his mother). Living with a child whose every word reveals an absolute proof of humanity, whose every thought broadcasts a world of meaning on an utterly sincere face, who calls me “Daddy” at every opportunity? I’m afraid that would put me in a perpetual state of disarray and complete uselessness.

I recently voiced these concerns to a friend of mine who has a three-year-old
son. He waved his hand dismissively and said, “Meh. You get over that.”

On a slightly different note, I received an e-mail today from Adam, a friend of mine who has been a father for exactly one month. He shared some thoughts on fatherhood:

Around 5 o’clock Sunday morning, as I held my son so Sarah could get some
sleep before getting up for church, I began to realize Austin is smarter
than I think. Here are twelve thoughts I am convinced have gone through
the mind of my little four-week old son:

  1. “If I wait a few more minutes,
    Dad will almost be asleep. Then
    I’ll start crying…”
  2. “Dad, if you were a real man, you wouldn’t need sleep.”
  3. “Don’t call me beautiful! Beautiful is for girls! the
    word is handsome, people!”
  4. “They almost have the new diaper on…almost…hold it…hold it…there’s
    the first strap…Now! Go! Pee again!”
  5. “Dad’s right…one of life’s most underrated pleasures really
    is a good poop!”
  6. “Mommy’s more patient than Daddy is when I scream
    in the middle of the night.”
  7. “Nothing satisfies like a cold wet one…pacifier, that is.”
  8. “Daddy likes to play catch with my pacifier.”
  9. “My bed just isn’t as comfortable as Mom or Dad’s chest.”
  10. “I’m not sure what that little thing down there is for, but I
    know I can squirt Dad in the face with it. Hey, look! I
    can make cool pictures on the wall, too!
  11. “I can’t wait until I can see far enough to watch T.V. This
    game called football that Daddy likes to watch sounds fascinating!”
  12. “HOOK ‘EM HORNS! Hey, Aggies and Sooners, I left some
    presents for you…they’re in the diaper can!”

Some day I’ll be the one holding a baby in the wee hours so my wife can sleep. Some day I’ll be the one attributing comic thoughts to an infant I helped conceive. Some day, I pray, I’ll have to rename this blog The Happy Husband and Father.

But not today.

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