Friday, February 21, 2014

The Road to Fatherhood (pt 4)

Preparation.  Training.  Process.  Documentation.  Procedures.  These are watchwords in my profession, and it’s therefore natural that they might intrude into my private life, e.g. the daily list of chores I keep – and usually ignore – on my desk at home.  I haven’t quite reached the point of trying to write a manual for raising our daughter, though the thought DID cross my mind.  I have written a brief Emergency Procedure which is not much more than a list of emergency contacts (EMS, fire, police, pediatrician, Urgent Care) along with directions to the various medical facilities near our house.  Now to remember to post it in the house somewhere…

One thing that I have heavily documented is a set of journals that I have been keeping since early in this process.  They are less a record of things that have happened than a very long letter to my daughter, though I do take note of key events in the adoption process and often paste in copies of important documents.  In general, however, I discuss (in a manner she will undoubtedly find tedious and pompous) things that I think she ought to know and understand.  These include my views such things as on religion, morality, polite behavior, books, education, housekeeping, dating (oh, that’s QUITE a long entry!), leadership, democracy, racism, etc., etc.  One of my favorite entries is on How to Lie.  Now, this was written less with an eye towards being a primer (I am given to understand that children know how to lie almost like they know how to breath; it is the parents’ responsibility to teach them NOT to do it) and more towards understanding how other people do it and how one can catch them at it.  In this, I am following in noble footsteps: in the QC racket, there is a small but well-known book written along these lines called How to Lie with Statistics* that is intended to teach the reader how to spot attempts to deceive with numbers.

I have surprised myself at how much I have kept up this work; presently, I’ve got a few hundred pages covered with my crabbed, illegible scribble.  Why don’t I type it?  It struck me early on that writing – using pen and ink** – was somehow more intimate than typing.  Indeed, I recall writing in one entry that the books are, in a real sense, a prolonged love letter to her.  I realize that love letters are generally not pedantic, but I hope that she will get the idea that I have taken these pains because… well… I love her.

And this brings me to the last note about my Road to Fatherhood.  It strikes me that a father has got two primary responsibilities, two tasks to accomplish to make him a “good” father.  The first is to, as well as he is able, love his child and demonstrate that love on a constant basis: kisses and nuzzles, statements of affection, giving comfort when it’s needed, and generally Being There for such things as school plays, dance recitals, games, etc.  The other is to help the child grow into a well-balanced, self-sufficient, successful adult who can navigate through life and, if not always make the right decisions, then at least handle the effects of the wrong ones without falling to pieces.***  I hope that I can teach her these things.  I hope that I can teach her to find happiness.  Her road will run along with mine – hopefully for many years – but eventually it will be entirely her own.  My task is to help her find it and know how to deal with the potholes she’ll encounter.  My hope is that she will look back on our trip together with fondness and maybe even a little joy, and that she will know that, even when *I* was the pothole, I loved her very, very much.


(*) Darrell Huff and Irving Geis (illustrator). How to Lie with Statistics.  New York: Norton, 1954.

(**)  Literally.  I write with an antique dip pen and black ink.  I find that Speedball Super Black Waterproof India Ink is very good, though Higgins Black Magic is not bad.


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too…

Rudyard Kipling (1895)

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