Fatherhood Hits Me Upside the Head
Six days ago, my wife quite valiantly delivered our baby girl into the world. I was there cheering her on, like I knew what I was doing. But in reality, I felt like a helpless spectator on the edge of my seat, watching every cliff-hanger of every good TV show ever, times one thousand.
I sat there on my metal stool, with my hands outstretched, ready to catch our baby, wide-eyed and trying to hold myself together.
My spouse, with mind-blowing silence, gritted her teeth and dug in a little deeper (again). Finally, after twenty-three hours of contractions, my daughter eased into my hands with breathtaking speed, screaming at the top of her lungs and looking surprisingly similar to the nice, only somewhat bloody babies in the movies. At this point, I lost it and cried until my eyes started burning, only stopping to stutter out her name through sobs.
And here I sit, about a week later, looking at my daughter asleep, trying to figure out what it all means. One of the thoughts that continues to come to my mind is, I’m a daddy?
I mean, I’ve assigned a great deal of significance (and blame, at times) to my father. Now, I’m that guy? The guy who will be the first one to tell her how beautiful she is? The guy out in the audience at her first grade play to whom she’ll be looking for approval? That’s heavy.
But this birth isn’t just about her and me, as my friend Shon accidentally reminded me the other night.
I was talking to Shon about the events surrounding my daughter’s birth, and I said, “You know, I’ve never had someone so dependent upon me. I mean, she really needs me, and I have such unconditional grace for her. I think that’s because I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m clueless, so I need her to love me in spite of my cluelessness. Maybe everyone feels that way about their babies.”
Shon said, “Oh wait – I thought you were talking about your wife, and I was thinking that was some pretty profound commentary about marriage.”
And then it hit me, if my daughter is going to learn how to be loved, the best example she’s going to get is from a dad who – above all else – loves his wife well.
So I’m almost a week into fatherhood and I’m wondering how I can make adjustments to be that healthier husband who will, in turn, be a healthier father. I’ve thought about how I respond when my daughter flips out because I’m getting her diaper all wrong. I fumble around for wet wipes, apologize multiple times, and tell myself I’ll do better next time.
But when my wife gets frustrated when I get it wrong, it’s a different story. I defend myself, because I’m too proud to admit I oftentimes don’t know what the heck I’m doing as a husband.
So admitting I don’t know what I’m doing sometimes would be a start.
The biblical standard for how I’m to love my wife is to do so to the same degree that Christ loved the Church. I’m not there yet. But the sooner I do get there, the better for my wife and the better for my daughter.
The night my daughter was born, I stood over her crib and said, “I’m going to make you two promises, and you can always hold me to them. First, I’m going to show up. I’ll be at home, present in your life. I’ll be at your recitals and games. I won’t check out on you. And second, I promise to stay with your mother.”
These are just my baselines, and if I’m going to build on them at all, it’s going to require a new approach to my marriage that’s going to look a lot like how Jesus loves us.