My daughter and first child was born in January this year. Now it has reached 19 June, Father’s Day, which is as good a time for reflection on the experience of fatherhood in this rollercoaster we call life. In a few months, a new person has entered my life and is now a permanent fixture. Unlike the others whom I call friends, family, co-workers and acquaintances, this one is not an autonomous individual capable of their own critical thinking and laden with their own responsibilities. This one is needy, entirely dependent on others, and quite eager in making those needs known to all and sundry.
Life is a series of life-changing events. Thinking of it logically, parenthood is simply an extension the milestones that one is expected to collect as the years go by, like merit badges for boyscouts. High school, college, first job, marriage and the like. This is the way I tend to see it at times, but I admit this approach can seem quite detached and lacking in introspection. Being a father is not an event to be cataloged but to be immersed in fully.
Admittedly, the early stage of infancy is a wholly different experience for both father and mother. From the father’s perspective, the child at this stage is mainly a reactionary being, whose physical demands outweigh any other minor emotional or other considerations. Tending to his or her needs of being fed or cleaned become the order of the day, with the expectation of later fun when he or she gain the ability to walk and talk. For the mother, the irreplaceable bond can be almost instantaneous, and the mother rarely tires or grows bored of observing every slight new curl in the skin of the child or change in mannerisms. This is not to say that fathers are naturally incurious towards their child’s development, it is just that the preservation mode takes precedence until such a time when patterns are set and interaction is easier.
The sad reality of the working life is that much of the early part of your child’s life will be spent while you are grinding away at office. Depending on your financial situation, this can extend to both mother and father. That makes the few remaining waking hours spent together as family all the more critical. It is this gold dust period that becomes the fruit for lasting memories. Making the effort to dedicate this time for familial recreation and bonding is something that may not come naturally to all fathers, but should be done regardless. And the benefits are obvious. No amount of work stress can diminish the satisfaction of lifting your infant child to the sky and seeing her chortle.
Despite being a few months, being a father has not quite sunk in yet. I am not sure if it ever will ‘sink in’. It is meant to be an evolving process. Once you get too acquainted with one side of being a father, your child will throw you a new curve ball for being so complacent.