Vijay Mann reflects on the birth of his first child, marveling at the impact his young son has already had on how he views the world around him
My son was born last August. I’m a believer in the notion that everything happens for a reason at that time. I believe that this new being came here to challenge me, change me, and make me see the world and myself in new ways.
When he was born, I felt incredibly powerful and yet unimaginably vulnerable at the same time. It’s one thing to have the ability to create life, but it’s an entirely different thing to nurture and protect it. It’s like pulling your heart out of your body and letting it walk into the world. A beautiful yet ugly world.
A plethora of feelings rushed through me as I held him for the first time. The first one I remember was nervousness; he was so new and fragile and I didn’t want to hurt him in any way as I held him.
Then came elation. He was healthy, my wife was fine, and I was now a dad. Some time later, I was struck by a feeling of fright. I realized that this wasn’t about me anymore and that I was now responsible for another human being. I felt an incredible weight on my shoulders at that time, realizing that I was now responsible for the life, health, development, and happiness of another. I was now responsible for molding a good person, who is to be an asset to his family, community, and society in general.
How was I going to mold this person when I have so many faults of my own?
I had had these thoughts during the pregnancy, but now it was staring me in the face. Crying. I recall feeling shame as well. Shameful for believing that some of my freedom for being yanked from me and in turn, I was being handed responsibility.
How could I think that when I was gifted this child? Moreover, how could I think that knowing this was a decision I was a part of?
These brief yet disturbing thoughts quickly faded. I felt assured that everything would work out, as it always does.
I now carry with me a sense of appreciation. I appreciate the opportunity I have to raise a child, an opportunity many wish they had, but aren’t as fortunate. I also feel appreciation in that I have the chance to teach my son from my mistakes in hopes that he makes better decisions in his life. I think of him as my do-over. He’ll be a new and improved me. A better me than maybe I’ll ever be, or I hope to be.
In that respect, he’s already changing me. I feel a greater sense of calm now; a calm I don’t recall feeling before. This doesn’t mean that I’ll be walking around with an aura of serenity. There are a number of things that still trigger me. And there are new things to deal with. Among them are diaper-changes. As much as I love my child, I still have that “Oh shit” moment when I have to change him. Pun intended.
And there will be greater frustrations and challenges along the way, which will test my new found calmness. This is just the beginning. Life is now a road from Pampers to a university campus, and beyond. RESPs, birthdays, school, friends, heartbreaks and happiness, and everything in between await us.
What he will feel, I will feel as well. There will be the things I can’t foresee as well—things he’ll have to go through on his own. I’ve come to realize that I can do the best that I can as a parent and some things will be out of my control.
The central focus of my life is my child now. Every significant and perhaps not so significant thing I do now will have some effect on him. How I think, act, and speak will be of some consequence to my child. What I believe and value will be the beliefs and values my child will be raised upon.
I can’t help but to think about the film The Place Beyond the Pines. Decisions that parents make create the legacies they leave behind for their children. Fatherhood has become my most significant branching point and this one is indeed a branch; an addition to the family tree.
My life is forever altered through parenthood. It’s an experience that is making me a better person. I felt new life being breathed into me at that moment he was born. I experienced a kind of love that I never felt before; one not built on reciprocity, but one more selfless.
I once read that your children are something you love more than your own life and something you die for without a second thought. I can say that I understand this now. I have many hopes for him. My ultimate hope is that he becomes a person who lives with dignity for himself and compassion for others. This is now my duty.
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