Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Fatherhood, Love and Duty

I love being a father. I dislike being a father. Being a father is the most rewarding, uplifting, euphoric experience of my life. Being a father is the most miserable, frustrating, depressing experience of my life. My daughters are 5 and 10. Sometimes I want to tell them that they have ruined my life. Sometimes I want to hug them and tell them that they are my life. Oddly, when I'm around them, I seldom feel neutral and content in my skin. My emotional life is one of extremes. I go from dizzying heights of profound love one minute, to claustrophobic depths of disappointment the next. For this dad, there is seldom a middle ground.

Mostly, though, I wonder how the hell I got myself into this. No one told me this procreation thing would take such a toll on my life.

A few Tuesday's ago was the first day of school. My eldest had spent the previous week staying with her aunt and uncle, about an hour away. She left her favorite running shoes there and didn't realize it until she was dressing for school on Tuesday morning. Of course, these were the shoes she wanted to wear. They matched her outfit, don't you know. And thus ensued the drama. She cried. She moaned. She ran down the hall wailing. She blamed everyone but herself. Her life was destroyed, she exclaimed. Finally I had had enough and bundled her off to Sudan where I sold her into white slavery to Osama Bin Laden's second cousin twice removed.

OK, maybe not. But imagining it did make me smile. And after the smile, of course, I felt terribly guilty.

And then there's my little red headed five-year old. The next time she listens to me will the first time. You've never encountered obstinacy if you haven't met my daughter. She knows she's not supposed to walk across the street without looking both ways. She does it anyway - on purpose - just to show me that she can. Nothing dissuades her - not discussions, not lectures, not spankings. At the beach, she paddles her float-ring into deep water while looking straight at me and grinning, despite my repeated warnings to come back. If she lives to see adulthood, it will not be my doing, it will be God's.

And despite the parental trials and tribulations, I know that mine are really no greater than those of any other father. So why do they seem to bug me more?

Is it just me? Am I nuts or something? I see all these people out there with their kids looking so happy, so in the moment. Why don't I feel like that? Having children is the most natural thing anyone can do. In fact the only reason virtually any couple doesn't have children is because they use unnatural methods to prevent life from occurring or surgical methods to snuff out life that has begun to develop. And most people seem to take to parenthood rather well. At least they don't seem to be wracked with self-doubt like me. What is wrong with these people? Clearly they are all nuts and I'm normal. Or maybe, they are all just faking it. After all, to look at me, no one would know that my children are a weight that sometimes almost crushes me to death. I hide it well. And maybe there are many others hiding it as well. Certainly there must be. I can't be the only one.

Sometimes I wonder if there aren't more men out there like me, deeply in love with their children but doubtful as to whether their lives would be better had they never had kids in the first place.

Don't get me wrong. I would step in front of a bullet for my kids in a heartbeat. If I could have one wish it would be that they would live long, happy, healthy, contented lives. All I have I would give to them (and am giving them). When the media reports that a child has been abducted I lay in bed, in the moments before sleep, shuddering at the thought. I literally physically shake and shudder. Sometimes my wife wakes up and asks "what’s wrong honey?" Sometimes, I tell her. She hugs me close and we go to sleep like that. Surely, I love my kids as much as any man.

I guess it all comes down to duty. I believe that what I feel for my children transcends love. I have a sense of duty to protect them, nurture them, do right by them and be there for them every day.

And thank god for that sense of duty. It's there even when the frustration, claustrophobia and selfishness momentarily eclipse the love. And sometimes it's all that stops me from going to the store for milk and ending up living in Fort McMurray under an assumed name.


Blogger Candace said...

Oh, very well said. This morning I was ranting like a shrew while doing the "10-second tidy" required because artistic child, while cutting pictures for a collage, didn't see the need to (a) pick up the scraps (b) bottle the glue (c) wipe up the glue spills (d) tell me that her friend's dad was picking her up in 15 minutes for the B'day party that I hadn't yet found a gift bag for and (e) I hadn't yet finished my first cup of coffee, let alone my shower.

Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em.

11:16 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home