Indeed, there's some question why I should write anything in a blog at all. Part of it, I suppose, is the enjoyment I get from seeing my words online. I've had a couple of decent debates and "met" some good folks (which gets offset by some of the not-so-delightful experiences.) But I suppose the biggest thing is that I can have a sort of online diary that tells me what I was like at a certain point in my life. That's part of what motivated this little piece I posted to that private message board almost two years ago awaiting the birth of my son.
Soon and Very Soon
Well, we're getting very close now. The due date is Friday [2003--this is an old piece], and my wife has told me she's feeling different now. We're on the threshold, and I expect my next general e-mail will be a birth announcement. So I'll flesh out those last anticipatory things that have been on my mind.
Why am I writing this? Why have I put together these little essays and shared them with you guys? Well, part of the reason is that I like to; I like to communicate and express myself to other people who are important to me. It also helps me to clarify certain moods and feelings I have; I both generate new ideas and drill down on existing ones when I write. I also enjoy the feedback I get from people who have been very generous in their statements and replies. These are all some of the reasons why I began these little pieces, but none of these is the main one.
The main reason is that I'm never going to be here again, and I want to know who I was. I've always been aware when I'm about to pass a milestone in my life that will change me so that I can never truly go back, and I have long sought to preserve certain mindsets and worldviews that correspond with those times. For example, I distinctly remember being twelve years old and being taken to a Halloween party by my aunt; I told her I was kind of sad about my impending teenage years because I wouldn't enjoy things like Halloween parties and baseball cards pretty soon, and I just wasn't attracted to the kinds of things that teenagers spent their attention on. Now, I have since learned what joys that can come with each stage of growth and independence, and I also know that the fun of Halloween parties hasn't been denied to me after all--but it's different now. I know it is, and I've always been very careful not to dilute that twelve-year-old's experience or to interpret it solely through the lens of older selves.
It's difficult to express, but one way to put it is that when I read some of the stuff I wrote at a particular time in my life, it's like having a conversation with a younger me. It's usually a very fruitful experience. It's often embarrassing--could I ever have thought THAT? It's often humbling; sometimes my younger self has clearer vision and stronger convictions than the me of today does. That's always helpful because it keeps me from assuming I'm always improving; put another way, it prevents anachronistic snobbery of myself and by extension other people.
So, given that part of my audience is myself in a few years, what are my last thoughts about impending parenthood? Part of it is the awareness of my increased vulnerability. This little guy who's waiting to be born will have the power to break my heart. It's quite possible he'll do things just because I don't approve; he might even say he hates me. And I will learn to take it without throwing anything back because that's what I've got to do. It will take a crash course in giving unconditional love (in which I am unpracticed; all of my loves have conditions of one kind or another. I'm working on it.) That, of course, opens me up to extraordinary pain and weakness, but I'm still going to do it, probably badly for a while but hopefully better at some point in my life. (However does God do it for our sad human race?)
So I know that this child can hurt me, and that's okay. I also know that this world I've learned to live in can also hurt him, directly and indirectly; I've mentioned that before. I also know that we can do a good job and give him a chance to become a good man who could be taken from us just like that. I want him to grow up with a strong love of his country; what if he becomes a soldier and is put in harm's way? Do my views on patriotism and sacrifice change because it will be MY son? If so, what does that say about those values in the first place--that they are wonderful unless the cost becomes too personal?
I've contemplated these and a dozen other what-ifs to prepare myself. It's my way of dealing with things, I suppose. My wife and I discussed it the other day, and it may come from my training in computer programming; one tries to look as far down the road as possible and set up as many defenses and triggers from the start to handle problems. So I've got at least some defenses started in my makeup so that when challenges come, I hopefully won't be bowled over too badly. I can't be, you know; I'm the daddy, and daddy knows how to make things right. That's the job.
I'll close these little pieces, though, with the delightful side of the above. The person I am now just doesn't know what it is to BE a daddy; all I have is hearsay and testimony and example. I'm preparing the best I can to handle the rough stuff, but I am deliberately lowering my defenses against delight. I am ready to be surprised by joy in so many instances and ways. Let me handle the bad but be carried away by the good. Soon, and very soon, we shall see.