Joy, fear, pride, panic, love, relief and a range of other nouns could have explained my emotions when I heard the news from Dr. K. To be honest, my dominant reaction was ‘eh, ok’. After all, it’s not a new release of an iPad or some other cool gadget on which you start getting excited nine months in advance, right? We were merely dealing with an organism that was then just a set of twenty or so cells, dividing itself like bacteria and fighting its way to a temporary shelter. Not something to be excited about so much in advance.
As far as I was concerned, you did things and babies popped out, and in between there were some visits to the doctor – the rest, if any, were boring details. My wife who is a medical doctor believed that there was more to it, and she went about with great zeal to educate me of the process with videos, newsletters, ultrasound pictures and other educational materials. With these, we traced the development of that undistinguished organism as it rapidly developed a shape, and before I realized, that little kidney bean had a throbbing heart.
It was merely a few weeks ago that my little swimmer met her little egg to become a microscopic cell…and it now had a heart. It was kind of wonderful. I am told that the little bean with a heart will grow rapidly and before I know, it will have a personality. The thought of that scares me. A wrinkly little human being will pop out in a few months and I am inevitably going to influence its personality for at least a dozen years. The thought of it is overwhelming, and the irony is that as a young teacher my frustrations so far have been about my inability to influence the young ones!
Since the closest model of fatherhood I know is of my own father, I tried recalling how he went about this business. I was scared before and the recall freaked me out. Perhaps, because my ideas of parenthood were deeply influenced by him, I think that he played a rather perfect role himself, and I don’t like the idea of starting such a challenging journey with such benchmarks. (BTW, I know what you are thinking, and let me put some of your thoughts to rest). In saying that my father set rather high standards, I am not trying to give myself a character certificate. I think of parenting as a process that influences but does not determine the outcomes – and that is a part of what makes it so scary. The process can be driven by very different principles, values and understandings – and my ideas about it come directly from my father, and naturally, I have high regards for his approach. The problem with his approach is that it was based on a lot of trust on me and on the society at large. Unlike a lot of children around me, I was given a lot of freedom to try things and to take risks, and I owe much of my happiness to it. It is very ideal and very scary.