Being a father is a many-faceted, complex thing, and yet it’s so simple.
Before the birth of our baby, my wife and I were travelers, workers, and I expected that we would find our way into parenting much like we had accomplished most everything we did: we worked hard, took risks and approached each opportunity together as an adventure sparked by curiosity.
Fatherhood, whatever that meant, was a role I had willingly signed up for. I knew I was up for the part, but continued to have difficulty identifying with the script. I was developing a vague sense that becoming a father was happening to me. I was a passive participant having yet to figure out how I could become a genuine and active partner, to be a father. Then the baby was born, it all became real. In the early fathering moments, life unfolded with an intensity that had the power to usurp all other considerations.
The world as I know it has changed. A tiny being has become the center of my life in a natural and healthy way – as I become a significant part of his world, holding him in the center of all that is. His needs eclipse my needs in so many ways. I had no idea what it really meant to function with so little sleep! Life without sleep, real sleep, seems unbearable. Yet six weeks later, here I am, still unable to imagine going on. My boy sleeps for exactly forty-two minutes if and when he takes his nap. I have forty-two minutes to nap myself, make a few phone calls, or continue with my research. It is precious time, and it is never enough. – My Fathering Journal (January, 1991)
When we secure the position as father, we do not receive an operations manual. So how do we proceed? Simply put, a father can father if he is willing to show up, pay attention, and not harm himself or his child. We must do the best we can in every moment to keep our child at the center of our thinking, listening deeply to his or her voice and trusting the basic principles of relational interdependence. As we seek to make sense of the many nuances of fatherhood, fatherhood, and its many responsibilities, actively seeks us.