It begins in the dawn’s early light with a coo, or a thump, or “Ho jeez,” or “A-duk-a-duk-a-duk-a-duk,” or “Da da dee da dee da dah” coming out of the baby monitor that stands at attention on my dresser. You could run a freight train past my pillow, yank-start a chainsaw next to my head, or fire a 21-cannon salute through my bedroom wall at that hour, and odds are I’ll sleep through it…but just one “Coo” out of that baby monitor, and I’m up like a thousand ants just crawled up my nose to do their own Budweiser commercial.
Scuttle-scuttle-scuttle out of the bedroom, open and close the door like a ninja, scuttle-scuttle-scuttle down the hall to the kitchen, upon which a banana is chosen. This is a solemn process, akin to Indiana Jones picking the proper cup at the end of “The Last Crusade.” No bruises, not too big, not too small…and there it is, peeled, sliced and quartered into finger food, placed on a plate, with some finely-sliced peaches and pears riding shotgun. The peaches and pears are there mostly for color – they end up on the floor half the time – but the banana is the show. If there is no banana, there is no peace.
At this point, after all the necessary arrangements are laid, stealth is abandoned. Thump-thump-thump down the hallway to the nursery, heavy footfalls deliberately deployed to announce my onrushing presence, turn the corner, open the door…and there she is, standing at the rail of her crib, wide awake and smiling fit to split, bouncing on her mattress, “Ho jeez a-duk-a-duk-a-dahdee!” spilling from her face as I scoop her up for the first Epic Thermonuclear Totally Encompassing Hug of the day. I lay her down for our daily wrestling match regarding her diaper and outfit – I always win, but it’s close and getting closer every time, and sometimes there is misdirected poo – before delivering her to breakfast, which she obliterates like a small, pink, giggling swarm of locusts.
These are my mornings. My mornings are tremendous.
She was born on April Fools’ Day, making me the greatest April Fool of all time. She was also born on Opening Day for the Red Sox, and because my mind tends to work strangely, I remember that she came out of my wife and into this world just as David Ortiz stroked a liner to right field that gave the Sox an 8-4 lead, because the game was on a television bolted into the corner of the ceiling above the delivery bed. She was born, and the crowd went wild: that was quite literally the timing. Beat that with a stick.
A thousand years ago, before I met my wife and she had our daughter, I organized my life and priorities and ambitions around one simple intention: to raise my child, if I ever had one, by my own hand. So many families are fragmented nowadays – between work and daycare and everything else that comes into play when trying to be a parent in a deranged economy – so it took the better part of ten years to lay down the brick and mortar required to secure that intention. I got it done; I write for a living, and work from home, and my salary carries the freight, and so I am here every single day for my daughter, just exactly and precisely as I wanted to be when I made that decision a thousand years ago.
My wife has a job that takes her out of the house every day, so according to 1950’s morality, I’m the housewife: caring for the baby, doing the laundry, keeping house. Hell, I even make dinner every night (…pssst…because I want to…), and the only full-blown 1950’s MAN! moment I enjoy is when my wife does the dishes, because the cook doesn’t clean. That, I’m pretty sure, is in the Constitution somewhere.
…and for you dudes out there clinging to some antiquated notions of proper fatherhood, who might disdain me as a pansy or a doormat, let me say this: I love it. I absolutely revel in it. Laundry-diapers-dinner-crying-cleaning-nurturing, bring it on. If I were a dog, I’d roll in it ecstatically and come up stinking of it with my tongue lolling out of my mouth. I am exactly, precisely what I set out to be when I decided, a thousand years ago, what kind of man I wanted to become.
Mine is but one story in a galaxy of stories about fatherhood. Some have had it easier, some harder, and some hardest. I enjoy the privilege of presence, but there are piles of fathers out there who leave at dawn to return in the dark with raw hands and sore backs, who summon their children to them for a hug and a talk and a meal and a hand with homework, because that’s the deal. Fatherhood is fatherhood. It’s entirely binary: you either do it, or you don’t.
I’m doing it to the very extremity of my ability. I hope you are, too, if you enjoy the astonishing privilege of fatherhood. That is all we can do.
Happy Father’s Day, brothers. Enjoy it. We’re back to work tomorrow.
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