I’ve always been the kind of person who rolls his eyes at all the crap people spew about the “magic” of infants. I think it’s silly that people’s interest in human beings is directly proportional to their cuteness. I think a twelve-year-old is as wonderful as a two-month-old who is as wonderful as a fifty-seven-year-old or a thirty-year-old.
(Seven-year-olds? Well, screw them! But seriously…)
My dad always scandalized people by mentioning that he’s not particularly fond of babies. He’s always told me that he came to love each of his kids more and more as he got to know us better — as we developed personalities. Cuteness only got us so far. I’m sure that he oohed and awed plenty at my tiny mouth yawning and when I went through that whole everything-I-pick-up-can-be-used-as-a-sword-or-a-gun-or-a-sword/gun phase that most boys seem to go through. But I actually quite like the idea that my dad loves me more now than he did when I was a toddler. And I hope that he loves me more still as I age.
I think that’s the kind of relationship I hope to have with my kids. I want my love of them to grow and deepen as they grow and deepen as human beings.
But still, babies are darn cute and I can see that my wife wants one. She wants one bad.
I’m much more interested in the idea of having children than babies. Babies are temporary. Children are forever. And I’m not in to the idea of fatherhood so that I can gawk at something. I’m in this for the long-haul. I want to be a dad for the rest of my life and I want the rest of my life to start right now.
I do not say all of this in some kind of sad attempt to claim the moral high ground over my baby-hungry wife. Quite the contrary. In fact, I’m confident that she’s even more committed to this for the long-haul than I am. She’s probably so excited about babies because her desire to be a mother exists on such a visceral level that she’s constantly imagining every stage of that potential-child’s life with anticipation. It’s no wonder she gets so excited about the first stage of motherhood through which she will hopefully pass some day.
Sure I think babies are cute. When I see a newborn infant, I’m more likely to be reminded of our struggles with fertility than I am by seeing a seventy-two-year-old even though that senior citizen was born every bit as much as that baby.
But babies don’t conjure up images of the aspects of fatherhood that I look forward to the very most. Perhaps I would feel different if I had breastfeeding to look forward to or the act of giving birth to anticipate with mixed wonderment and terror. For me, it’s images of poopy diapers, sleepless nights, and inexplicable and insatiable crying. I do look forward to those. I also look forward to letting the baby suck on my finger when I can’t find a binky, rocking the baby to sleep, kissing the baby on the forehead when we put him or her down to sleep, and wrapping those tiny fingers around my pinky.
I’m excited to see what kind of a person this child turns in to. I’m excited by the idea of spending most of the rest of my life thinking about my kid(s) instead of myself. I want to be there for every stage. I’m maybe a little bit less excited about the I-hate-my-dad phase (which I only hope won’t last the entirety of his or her life), but frankly even that sounds incredible. I look forward to the excitement and anticipation of the first day of school and the dread and terror of the first major injury. It’s all a part of the package called life that I want my child(ren) to have.
And to me, that’s what fatherhood is about. It’s a changed state, not an event. It’s about watching and helping your child as he or she learns and grows in the world for the duration of your life. I can hardly wait to blog about that instead of this.