Men talk about the magic children bring to their lives..
Yesterday, my son William received a birthday present in the mail. The present was a collection of multi-purpose blocks. They have pictures, numbers and variously shaped holes with matching "pegs". We were going through the pictures (of animals) and he was naming them. He said "Lion" and "Giraffe" and "Doggie" and so on. He was getting every one. I was a bit surprised because we had been to the zoo just a few days before and he didn't do quite as well. Anyway, when we got to the crab, he said more clearly than any word I have heard him utter (he just turned two), the word "MAGGOT." I nearly died laughing. William thought it was great fun too. I don't know where he learned that word, and I certainly don't know why he thinks that crabs are maggots. I had him repeat his performance for his mom when she got home from work. She wasn't quite as amused as I was, and I am not sure if she will ever believe that I didn't teach him to say that. Never-the-less, I had a great time. I love being a dad.
I married my wife between 1st and 2nd years of college. Children weren't my priority, getting an education for both of us and getting settled into a career was. Then it was fine to have kids - having met my requirements for providing!
My son was born (I was helper at birth) and it was more wonderful than I had ever imagined. A few days later I was rocking him to sleep in the dark in his room and I was totally overcome with emotions - waves of sobbing, fear, wonderment, grief - I felt vulnerable for the first time in my life. I had never feared death much before that moment. Now all the grief over not being accepted and loved by my father came up and with it the hope of letting my son know how much he meant to me; at the same time that I finally realised that I could die at any instant - and not be able to pass on to him all those things I had learned about life, so painfully!
I sat there in the dark crying, holding him gently, and praying with every fibre of my body that God would let me live till he was at least 10 so that he would know who I was before I died.
(My prayer was answered. He was 10 when his mother divorced me and he was removed from my life.)
My daughter number two turns 16 today. After giving her a hug and kiss at 7 am this morning I observed that the gentle, affectionate little girl of my youth had become a gentle, affectionate person. I began to recall the various "magical" events in her childhood which now seem so dim and far. Well, by the time I arrived at work at the university I was brooding over the passing of time and was more than ready for a good sob. Fortunately my graduate students stayed away from my office long enough for me to regain my composure.
Today I had one of those particularly wonderful fatherhood experiences. I went to pick up my 5 year old from Preschool at 3pm as usual, and when I arrived she was not with the other kids. She was sitting at a table engrossed in a book. The directress said she had started reading this book at 1 o'clock and had been at it ever since. Sure enough, Katie had just realised, all of a sudden, that if she applied the knowledge of the sounds of letters that she has been learning the past year, she could read! She was bursting with pride, and so was I of course. Most of the rest of the day was spent with her on my lap, her brow creased with concentration, as she read and read. When Amanda got home from work the performance was repeated for her. But I really felt privileged at being the one who was on the spot for this little landmark event in her development and our relationship.
My nearly 7 year old daughter rang me this morning -- her second front tooth has just come through. This is a big event for her, as she has had it missing since an accident when she was 18 months old. It was hugely gratifying that she rang me straight away to tell me.
I am a member of a voluntary organisation that provides emotional support to people with AIDS. So it was that my wife Rosemary and my son David entered Tony's solitary, isolated life. David, a charming three year old was like a fresh breeze. The child's vibrant joy of life would instantaneously sweep away Tony's depression and gloom. Over the next 14 months Tony and David developed a genuinely loving relationship. Then Tony's health deteriorated markedly. Instead of visiting his house, David and I saw Tony at the hospital. It was over these last three months that David, then four, watched his friend slowly change from a warm, personable, familiar, friend to a comatose, skeletal, shadow. Our whole family visited Tony three days before he died, and the family was there at his funeral.
It was perhaps a month after saying goodbye to the box that Tony was in that David brought up the subject of mortality. His first questions were about Tony, his sickness, his death and where he is now. Weeks later he asked whether Rosemary and I were going to die as well. Then awhile later he asked me whether he, himself, would ever die. Dealing honestly yet reassuringly with his questions and the fear that lies behind them seemed absolutely crucial. I feel these conversations are the essence of my time on earth with David. I believe that how I react to questions about the core of our existence are among the most important actions of my life. Moreover, they are for me a test of my own true feelings. At these times I become quietly exhilarated, palpably feeling God's presence. On that sunny day in the leafy backyard of our home, as I looked into David's beautiful face, his eyes beginning to swim with tears, I knew that moments like those are what parenting is all about.
I spent my early childhood testing whether GOD existed by praying for things and seeing what happened. Unfortunately nothing happened so I put GOD in the does not exist basket and pursued a scientific model of philosophy. After I separated 6 years ago I was an emotional wreck and one day I experienced what psychologists call a "Peak Experience". All my senses were heightened, colours were luminous, sounds were brilliant, and I sensed a connectedness with all things and a feeling that everything had a purpose. Since that day I have questioned my own scientific belief system and looked at organised religion and experimented with meditation. My conclusions are that God is a process not a deity. God is the laws and fabric on the universe itself. God is the force that seems to be driving the universe to organise itself into conscious awareness. God does not work in the manner that was taught to me in Scripture classes. It is hard for me to describe my understanding of God because it is more than rational thought and more than feelings, it is beyond a conscious awareness. But every day now I look around at the world and wonder at its complexity. That the feeling of love that humans experience could come out of stardust and some simple laws of the universe astounds and amazes me. That my daughter was created from me is just mind blowing.
My daughter's birth was my most magic moment. Holding and soothing her mother for ten hours in delivery knowing that I would never marry her. Knowing that this was her plan to force me to marry. Knowing that I did not really love her, that she had serious emotional problems. Fearful of the untold difficulties I knew were coming, wondering if I could endure.
Finally, puussshhhh - the top of a head. Without warning, pu-bloop, caught like a low pass at the end of the bed by a stranger. A wrinkly, bloody, silvery vernix-covered noisy little thing that needed me and I needed too. And then I held her. Checked the fingers, the toes of my little girl - all there. She clasped my finger so tightly as I tenderly held it to her cheek and lips rocking her to sleep. I think I cried more than she did.
She's 9 now, we live alone. I just checked her in the other room. She's fallen asleep reading Thumbelina clutching her little Christmas reindeer like I clutched her then.
How to Subscribe to Certified Male
Go to table of contents
© Copyright 1995.