Friday, September 20, 2013

A few thoughts on fatherhood

I have been a father for a few months.

I'm not a Dad yet. That name must be given freely by each child. Father is just a title.

So far, I'm only certain about a few things. Besides the Father / Dad difference I understand parenting is a constant battle with attachment and ego. Every day, every feeding, every diaper change, every burping is a chance to be satisfied, gratified, fooled, frustrated and taught. Mostly, I get taught a lot about my expectations.

Trying to understand the behaviour of newborns can be frustrating. I know the basic routine, but circumstances change each time. Trying to match my learning curve to theirs is challenging for my older and less nimble brain. It's like learning how to juggle three tennis balls in the morning, and then trying to juggle four soccer balls one-handed at noon and five wiffle balls during a wind storm at three.  Being a father slaps my ego around. I drop a lot of metaphorical balls.

If you pull back the camera on my life I have a routine--help feed, burp, change, play with and parent to sleep. (Seriously! Newborns need to be parented to sleep). But, if you focus on the constantly shifting and adjusting patterns it is continually suppressed chaos. It isn't a metaphor for life.  Newborn twins are all of life's drama and beauty, frustration and joy, ecstacy and heartbreak wrapped up in a couple of dozen pound squirming sacks of fleshy cuteness.

As a first time father I get a lot of similar questions. They reduce to: "How am I doing", "How do I like being a parent", and some variation on, "How are you sleeping". To answer: The best I can. Usually it's good, sometimes it's great and occassionally I want to drop them off at an orphanage and go back to watching late night tv in my underwear and endlessly surfing the net without purpose. And, you know the answer to the sleep thing.

The question about sleep is annoying and endearing. It's both an easy narrative that requires no real thought or meaningful interaction. It is also code for 'welcome to the club'. It's a short form to say, "you are not alone". And that's a big deal. As with most of life's small interactions it is about context and perception. Do I let myself be annoyed at the mindless comment, or am I thankful for the acknowledgement that others understand the sleep deprivation, frustration and anger that can come from caring. As we grow older, life is more and more about our choices to perceive.

This is not the same for my twins.

They live in the moment. They don't decide if I meant to do something, or if I am being passive aggressive or cranky. They don't forgive me for feeding them late because I didn't hear them crying. They don't care if I have to pee, when they are wet and dirty. Everything happens now. Everything is one hundred percent real. They don't project themselves into the future, or bring their feelings from the past. It makes them so entirely different from us adults. They are pure experience, without the baggage of past trauma, or the weight of social expectations.

They will learn those expectations soon enough. They will start to remember events and project themselves into an imaginary future. They will complicate their world to match mine. But for now, I do my best to make each experience positive and loving. Because that is all they have to hold. And that is everything they are to me.

They are my perfect experiences on the journey from Father to Dad.

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