Ten years ago my life changed dramatically.
I became a father. I had always thought of myself as just a boy, not as someone’s father! A 2695 gram (5.9 pound) baby girl captivated me, gazing knowingly into my eyes as I held her after an epic delivery in which her heart nearly stopped and her Mum was left utterly exhausted.
There is a violent intensity in the arrival of a baby, Ann Voskamp expresses it well (and better coming from a woman than a man:
“Birthing babies are like earthquake fault lines ripping up the very earth under your house….babies tear the hard crust of existence open, allowing you to peer down into the secrets of being, of what it means to be human.” Night Watches
I had been impatient to finally see her face-to-face and it seems she also was eager to get to know us; a quiet, alert little person intently soaking in every detail of our faces for over an hour after she was born.
I don’t actually remember driving back home, though I did write:
As I left the hospital I wanted to shout, run, jump, dance — in actual fact I just walked to the car and drove home feeling utterly stunned by what I’d just seen and experienced. It is the most miraculous thing I’ve ever witnessed.
I do recall getting home and playing Carl Orff’s ’O Fortuna’ loudly while watching the sun rise over the city. I felt exhilarated, stunned, shocked, overjoyed and fearful all together. Nobody had told me about this bit — the sense of awe and dread at now being a father and responsible of a fragile little life. So little that when her head was cradled in my hands her tiny feet tickled the inside of my elbows.
One of my big fears was simply that my daughter may not like me. Perhaps that seems silly, but some fathers are feared by their children rather than being liked by them. I did not, and do not, want to be such a father. Then there were fears over job security, stretching my pay to cover all the bills, the world in fear of terrorists, and a whole lot of pressure and expectations from our own parents.
Other fears were of being too rough with such a tiny little person, or letting her get too cold or too hot. But soon nappy changing, bathing, dressing and feeding a baby became normal. It is normal — this is how life is, not having children is a rather unusual situation for the bulk of humanity. Yet in our society there is a massive disconnect between generations, leaving a parenting vacuum in this nation.
This first decade of her life has had some tough times. I had good intentions of maintaining balance between work and family and faith. At times I became quite unbalanced in these. There were external pressures upon us, looking back I’m not sure that I’d be up to the challenge anymore but we somehow got through. Every child has difficult phases, but God certainly blessed us with our first in her placid temperament and gentle nature. We needed that grace!
By the time she was two years old my wee girl had a propensity for dressing herself in the oddest array of brightly coloured clothes she could find so I started to call her ‘Ragamuffin’ and the nickname kind of stuck. My Ragamuffin has had plenty of tough times herself; changing day care more often than we would have liked, dry skin and ezcema from birth, experiencing the dark side of human nature from kids at school, bullying, eczema of Job-like severity (Job 2:8) and a restricted diet.
Through all this she has remained happy, loving, friendly and a great violinist!
The next decade will have different challenges, and I think the song below sums up well how I feel as a Dad: