Almost seven years ago I became a father. I still remember the swelling mix of feelings – love, pride, exhaustion and fear amongst others.
I remember, vaguely, getting the car to pick up my daughter and my wife.
My daughter. I was a father. Oh, boy.
The hospital stay was nice. Cozy. It was like Diet Parenting. People brought you food (free if you were a breastfeeding mom – which I may, or may not have, pretended to be over the phone when I ordered meals). Nurses would take the kid so you could nap (we never let her leave). Your child was LoJacked so people couldn’t steal her without shutting down the whole hospital. One might say the hospital was even cushy. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. And that was OK.
Back to the car. I remember driving up to the front door of the hospital and seeing my wife in a wheelchair (which she protested, but was given no other choice) and my daughter sleeping contently in her pumpkin seat. I remember putting the seat in the base, my wife gingerly climbing into the car, and we drove off.
I remember wishing the nurses would come with us. I remember seeing the hospital fill the rear view mirror as fear filled my entire being. I remember driving and wanting to speed home, but driving in such a cautious matter to protect my new precious cargo. I remember wondering why they let us go.
At that moment, I felt like an actor playing dad. I felt like Sam from the show Quantum Leap who would bop around fixing parts of history. At the end of each show, they would tease what person he would be next and, without fail, after he saw his own image he would utter the words “Oh, boy.” The difference? I wasn’t bopping around history and I had no Al or Ziggy to guide me. I felt alone. I felt like there was a lot that I didn’t know.
It’s 2,466 days later and I still don’t feel like I know it all. And I know I never will. I guess that is the blessing, and the curse, of parenting — you don’t know what is in store. Minute by minute, day by day, things are always changing. And I know now, that’s OK.
What I have learned is that you just embrace what you know and respect the unknown. Seven years ago, I wasn’t quite sure exactly what being a father meant. I had an idea, but no clear definition. Now, I realize that fatherhood is something fluid. It is influenced by your circumstance, your environment, your personality. Most importantly, and I’m sure this is true for mothers too, it is defined by you. It’s not a one-size-fits-all expectation.
I guess it is less of a Quantum Leap into fatherhood and more of just being yourself. But still no Al or Ziggy?
Editor’s Note: A version of this Quantum Leap article first appeared on Balcony Dads.