Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Starting to Feel Like a Dad


I remember the first time I felt like I was married. It wasn't at the alter or the reception or even the honey moon. It was a month after we said our vows when I introduced myself and Andrea to some guy I didn't know at a party. "Hi, I'm Chris. And this is MY WIFE, Andrea." It was the closest thing I've had to an out of body experience, like some one was using my voice. The words had never fit before, but for some strange reason that night, they did.

Fatherhood has been much the same. I teared up the first time Scarlett's voice graced this world and I wept as soon as we stepped through the front door with our child in arm. But, in spite of the overwhelming emotion, I didn't feel like a father. I felt more like a 6 year old wearing his dad's trousers. It's only been the past few months that this whole father thing has really sunken in.

The big milestones have been weird and oddly self absorbed. Like the first night I spent away from home when she was 3 months old. I missed her so much I could hardly sleep. Or the first time I was alone with Scarlett over night this summer when Andy went to Pittsburgh. If I didn't feed her, change her, rock her, make her laugh, no one would. And most recently, when we went on a camping trip this past weekend and I feared for her safety for the first time.

Some good friends of ours from the ole supper club (Tom, Katie and Scarlett's little friend Edith) invited us to camp at a place just north of Idyllwild called Boulder Basin. We knew it'd be cold, but didn't realize just how cold. The overnight temperature was below freezing and we were at 7,300 feet. Needless to say, the air was thin and noses were red. That night I could hardly sleep. Yeah, I was freezing. But, the whole night I was terrified that Scarlett was too cold or couldn't breath or for some unspeakable reason, wouldn't make it through the night. It was the first time I was incapacitated by the thought of my daughter's potential harm. So, I tossed and turned and freaked out in the freezing cold the way only a father would.

It's strange how life pushes you through on to new stages long before you're dressed for the part. There's no exam to pass before you become a voting citizen, no course to become a faithful husband, and no handbook to memorize to become the endearing father; you just become. That's how I feel: I'm becoming. It's been a long, slow process, but I think I'm becoming a father, and I love it.

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