I haven’t always known with my heart that I wanted to be a father. That came later in life, probably in my mid-thirties, so recently. By contrast I’ve always known in my mind that I wanted to be a father someday. I don’t think this is an uncommon disconnect for a man to go through as he progresses from early adulthood into his thirties and so I don’t feel particularly special to be saying this. Frankly there were just too many other things going on for me to devote many emotional resources on the idea of fatherhood in general and my being a father in particular: auditions, travel overseas, solidifying my own relationships, and so on.
As my relationships with Jennifer and with my family have matured and as I have matured, this disconnect has gradually disappeared. I now find myself where I am today, fully committed to fatherhood in heart, mind and soul. Why the change? Sure, maturity has a lot to do with it, but I also think that as I have pondered this idea of fatherhood throughout my life I’ve become more comfortable with the idea that, as much as fatherhood is a concrete idea, it is composed of a healthy mix of both rock solid certainty and mind-numbing uncertainty.
I used to be intimidated into a whimpering mess whenever I thought about all the uncertainties of becoming a father. How would I be as a role model? Would my kids like me? Would I love my children? How would I enforce discipline? Would I be angry and abusive or cheerful, optimistic and nurturing? It’s so easy to work yourself up into a frenzy when reducing complicated subjects into black/white dualities, and I had a REALLY TOUGH TIME with all these questions as a result. I guess I always felt like I couldn’t be a good father until I was able to at least partially answer these questions in my mind. Silly, right?
In the intervening years however, I’ve watched some of my closest friends become parents (really good parents too), and it’s been amazingly inspirational. I’ve watched them negotiate the tricky waters of parenthood firsthand. Though they all seem more tired than I remember them ever being, they seem happy, fulfilled. Because I know them, I know that they themselves probably didn’t have all the answers to their questions on parenthood, that they are most likely answering those questions daily, probably changing their answers all the time, with each passing moment.
I’m still at times very afraid of what it will be like to be a father, especially a father to adopted children. Added to the strain of being a parent in general is the additional strain of handling the special needs of older adopted children. Friends, family and acquaintances never tire of reminding both Jennifer and I what a massive undertaking this will be, and it will be, no question.
Still, I am less intimidated by the “what-ifs”, less scared that I still can’t answer those questions. It’s almost as if I finally understand in my soul that, when you are swimming in a sea of uncertainty, you stand a much better chance of getting to shore if you hold on to your certainties like a life-preserver. A father is not intrinsically a hero and so I don’t have to be. I can strive to be a leader and protector, loving and nurturing. The rest is all up to God; the rest I can resolve through faith.
I am certain that Jennifer and I together can do it. I am certain that I will love our children. I am also certain that our friends and family will help us as they’ve proven to us time and time again. Most importantly, I’m certain that just as He is a good and righteous Father to me, God will show me the way to being a good and righteous father.
In a sense I guess I always knew that intellectually, but now I better understand it emotionally and spiritually.
To quote one of my favorite poets, “And that has made all the difference.”