As I have written, I can’t quite put my finger on the day when I first trod the Road to Fatherhood. I knew that I was unquestionably on it on the day that I caught myself… looking at reviews for minivans (the horror!). I hasten to add that it’s not unusual for a man of my age to look at cars with a younger woman in mind, but the cars are usually rather sportier and the woman are generally a good bit older!
Minivans are only one of many things that I have found myself thinking about for the first time in my life. My wife and I did quite a lot of research, for example, on the public schools in our area; naturally, we wanted to be in the best district possible. The fact that our daughter is Chinese added another wrinkle to this: we were told that it would be highly desirable for her to be in a school with the greatest possible ethnic diversity – ideally the highest fraction of Asian students – that we could find. To the extent that I’d ever thought about the public school system at all, it was to grumble that I had to pay taxes to support it and REALLY grumble that it doesn’t seem to perform very well. Indeed, my reflexive dissatisfaction with the public schools was so profound that we looked into the various private schools in the area. I had no conception of how expensive they could be: one can send a child to a good – even top-ranked – college for the cost of tuition in some of our area’s private grammar and high schools. We also toyed with the idea of home schooling, and indeed we will likely do what some of what our friends call “Mommy-Daddy School”, which is basically supplemental classes after school to ensure that our daughter learns all the things that we think she ought to know. We can’t afford to home school as both of us need to work. I might add that there have also been a few highly unjust suggestions that I might be a bit too hard on my daughter as a teacher, though I think it’s perfectly reasonable to (for example) expect a seven year-old to be able to do basic calculus and discuss the causes of the First World War.
Race, ethnicity, and culture have also occupied my thoughts a great deal. I have always taken Theodore Roosevelt’s position that there is no room in our country for “hyphenated Americans”. However, I recall a Chinese-American friend of mine in grad school telling me that this is easy for white people to say, and further reading and research indicates that she had an excellent point. Imagine being a seven year-old Chinese girl… and the only dolls available in the toy store have blonde hair and blue eyes. Imagine being a twelve year-old Chinese girl… and people ask you to speak Chinese though you’ve grown up speaking nothing but English. Imagine being a fifteen year-old Chinese girl… and people asking, “No, where are you FROM?” as if it’s impossible for a Chinese girl to be from North Carolina*. Imagine being a college-aged Chinese girl… with little or nothing in common with the other students who are either from China or are of Chinese descent. We know that some children have problems with these things. There’s even a cute little term for it: “twinkie” or “banana”, which is to say yellow on the outside, white on the inside. How shall I help my daughter if she has those problems? (I have it on good authority that beating the hell out of people who bother her is much frowned-upon by the police)
Naturally, I don’t ONLY think about potential problems. I enjoy spending time thinking about things we might do together. My wife and I like to travel, so I have pleasant expectations of taking our daughter snorkeling in the Caribbean, or hiking in the mountains of North Carolina, or to see a show on Broadway, or taking a walking tour of Italy or Spain or Romania. Then there are soccer games or tumbling or school plays or cheerleading or softball or just watching movies with her. The Road to Fatherhood promises to have its potholes, but I’m very hopeful that it will be a great trip.
(*) Obviously, we wonder how we will answer this question. Our daughter is FROM Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. At least, that’s where she was found and where we will adopt her from, but she will grow up as a North Carolina girl. Somewhat tricky question…