Sunday, June 30, 2013

i'm responsible for this . . . thoughts on fatherhood before #2 arrives

photo: me

I am treated to a joyful sound on a regular basis in my home.

Though much of our time is spent together in our 900 square foot apartment, occasionally a change of outfit or cal from mother nature will momentarily split me off from our small brood.  Often, in those brief moments, I will hear giggles, chuckles, and/or chortles erupt from one of the adjacent rooms.

This doesn't happen every time. Most often, Charlotte - my 17-month-old, will pursue me whenever I depart the room to intently study the proper application of deodorant, push-up form, or tooth-brushing technique.  She then mimics these behaviors back to me later to remind me that she will have proclivities toward both my best and worst habits.  Judging from her speaking patterns, apparently I growl a lot.

But when Charlotte doesn't chase me, she stays with Lindsey, my wonderful wife of five years, in another room of the apartment.  This is when they crack each other up.

I don't know what causes it most of the time, though I have my suspicions.  Charlotte likes to try on Lindsey's eyeglasses.  Lindsey makes funny faces that greatly amuse our daughter.  Any one of Charlotte's daily escapades would make a hilarious youtube series.

Whatever the cause of the laughter, it always swells a great joy in me to hear it.

Over the last week or so, each time I have heard Lindsey and Charlotte incite each other to guffaw, I have thought to myself, "I am responsible for this."

Then the phrase rings in my head slowly like a schoolteacher's voice breaking through a child's daydream.

"I am responsible for this."

This isn't a statement of theological arrogance, supposing I somehow made this by will or spoken word, so please don't misinterpret me.

It is also only barely related to the obvious interpretation of the phrase.  I do consider my place in putting food on their table and a roof over their head, but only to the degree that I briefly and gratefully recognize that we are blessed with these things.

Rather, these moments have created an acute awareness that these unpremeditated bursts of joy in my day are the direct result of timid e-mails sent to a sweet young woman in California nearly six years ago.  They stem from a whirlwind courtship with said young woman, through most of which I grinned like a child receiving a free extra scoop of ice cream on a hot summer day.  They are the fruit of a nervous question in an empty Starbucks and a vow made in a church with yellow walls and blue pews.

These moments wash over the struggles for personal significance that keep my eyes open for a moment longer when my head hits the pillow at night.  I don't yet know what my tombstone will read, but I do know that I made each of those laughs possible.

Fatherhood, real fatherhood anyway, isn't just a donation of DNA.  Fatherhood is the faithful and loving cultivation of an environment in which love, peace, joy, and laughter grow abundantly, even in your momentary absence.  It takes careful pruning, discipline, vigilance, and hard work, but the harvest is bountiful and ever rewarding.

Sometimes I am torn between these moments and my duty to report to the office in the morning, but I am reminded by them that things are good and will be that way when I return home.  We are blessed far beyond what we deserve.

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