When I became a father, a few male friends asked me a question. A question, I must confess, I just hadn't thought about. It might also be worth pointing out that these friends were largely unmarried twenty-something men who were in semi-serious relationships. That question was: "How does it feel?"
The first time I was asked this question, I was rather perplexed. Was my friend referring to the timely procreative act that had successfully borne fruit? Or the nearly out-of-body experience of helping hand-deliver my little one? Since I was usually in no mood to discuss either of those two events, I would usually just smile and shrug my shoulders, as if "it" felt like the most natural thing in the world.
Eventually, after a lot of contemplation (read as: manning up and asking my wife), I figured out that what they were actually referring to was in fact: How does it feel to be a father.
And truth be told, I did not know. For I'd never really given it any thought. I mean, how does one define these things? These feelings, to be precise. It's not as if you've just been given a bar of chocolate and had to decide whether you'd eat it slowly or all at once. It is a wee bit more complicated than that.
"How does one describe the realisation that you have just been elevated from the role of a normal, happy-go-lucky chap to someone who is now responsible (at least partly) for this new life that you hold in your arms?"
How does one describe the realisation that you have just been elevated from the role of a normal, happy-go-lucky chap to someone who is now responsible (at least partly) for this new life that you hold in your arms? And that the little person you're looking at, with those tiny little fingers, toes, snouty nose and crinkled up forehead, is perhaps going to decide your schedules and social calendar for the indefinite future. Also, that while there may be times when the baby's smile could make you feel on top of the world, there are also times when their shrill cries could keep you up all night wondering how you ended up in such a pickle.
No. I did not know how to describe that feeling. And I still don't, even after 36 months of wholesome and hands-on parenting. But here's the thing. To me, fatherhood has been a discovery of sorts. It's a journey of constant learning, adapting and, yes, thriving.
There are times when you can be both amazed by and angry at the same little person. Other times, you discover that you have this storehouse of patience, which is the only thing stopping you from banging your head against the wall. There are also moments of self-discovery when you surprise yourself with how good you are at telling stories, sometimes even making them up as you go along. And then of those pangs of jealousy that you feel when your kid temporarily chooses someone else to bother.
"No parenting book or journal can truly explain what you're getting yourself into. Only one thing is for sure: you'll always come out stronger."
And that there will be times when you just want to go to the supermarket under the pretext of doing some shopping, just to get some alone time. Or how your inherent radar just goes off when you spot other parents with kids in the same age group. Of course, there are also moments of joy, when you discover that your ability to make the weirdest noises is a source of boundless entertainment. Or the strange looks that people give you when you are busy having strange and intimate conversations with inanimate objects. Sometimes, the discovery is something simpler. Like replacing your overpriced cup of latte from Starbucks to plain, strong coffee in a mug that says "Daddy, you're the best!".
And sometimes it is the fact that you can actually hear your own voice, after they sleep. Or how you're constantly trying to evolve from being the guy hanging out with your best mates to the guy that your kid wants to hang out with. Or that even the simple act of getting out of the house with a child requires more planning than your annual vacation.
Often, it could be a more serious realisation. Like how this little thing called money is suddenly a criterion for everything. Or how sleep, something that you managed without for days at a stretch, is now a luxury that you'd gladly give an arm or a leg for. Or how your relationship with your better-half changes. When sweet nothings become all the more important and every chance that you get for the simplest conversations are more precious that all the talk you've ever done before.
I could go on and on, but I won't. The thing is, everything in parenthood is a discovery. No parenting book or journal can truly explain what you're getting yourself into. Only one thing is for sure: you'll always come out stronger.
And as for this said "feeling"? It takes on new dimensions almost every day, sometimes every other hour. Right now for, example, as I sit nursing my wounded pinky toe, that "feeling" is: I can't wait for him to grow out of the "I shall leave my Lego blocks lying around so Dad can step on them" phase. Trust me, they hurt!