April 6, 2007
I look down at my daughter and search for signs of what will be.
now to Julia the whole world is contained in a feeding
or in trying to digest food or conciliate sleep. She is only 23 days
old. People say Julia already resembles
she has my mouth, etc, but she just looks like a baby to me. Her
traits and demeanor
seem like those of any other baby, as far as I can see: eat, sleep,
cry - repeat over and over again. But surely some marks of her character
and future life are within her
if she is fussy or tranquil. She likes to feed at my wife's breast
and sleep, and beyond that I lack evidence. Only time will reveal more
about Julia and her story.
But I am intensely curious as to the deeper nature of my daughter.
What will she be like? Before Maria and I know it our parenting roles
will be less
about attending to hunger cries, changing soiled diapers, and feeding
and a half
hours. We will
begin to talk with, and then to teach, our daughter about our family
and the larger world. Julia will turn two, then five, and then seven
years of age. Will Julia be contumacious? Docile? Rebellious?
Obedient? Nervous and conscientious, like her mother? Or
laid back, like
her father? Will
sports (as I wish)? Or will she be quiet and into music (as my wife
wishes)? I am most curious, to put it mildly. I sit impatiently with
the unalterable fact that I need wait for time to unveil its tale.
I worry about how much Julia will have inherited from her parents
- the sins of the past handed down to the next generation. I look at
and myself, and I think I can see what Julia will be as she grows
up. I worry about Julia becoming overly-sensitive and too afraid of
making mistakes - the kind of child that parents don't have the heart
to punish because she is already so hard on herself. She would come
too close to resembling her parents, and I would not wish that on Julia.
Julia has half my genes, half from her mother; but Julia will
also make choices and comes of age as her own person, separate
her parents. One part of her DNA is the combination of the genes combined
from mother and father, but these genes result in a unique combination
which has never before been seen
earth and is dissimilar to mother or father. In the end, she will be
her own person.
How much of our adult character's is merely the result of our parent's
influences and genetic inheritance? How much of our mature makeup
is our choice as free individuals? How much
are we the products of our upbringing, family, and culture? How much
can we choose to be our own unique selves? Unanswerable questions perhaps.
Never for one moment do I lose sight of the fact that Julia will be
her own person and that I will need to give space and respect to her
own wishes, that she might find her own way in life. I think a great
abuse by many parents is to overwhelm their children with their own
egos and to foist their unfulfilled life dreams onto their progeny. Recently
I read with horror as one father claimed, "When
I was holding her in the delivery room, she was so beautiful. It was
to her was, 'Nooooo, sweetheart, no boy is ever gonna take you away
from Daddy.'" We are given children so that one day we can
release them! I take my newborn daughter home from the hospital
in the hopes of one day giving her away
altar. I hope to give her and her groom my full blessing.
As a father it is not about "me" but about "her." If
a person doesn't feel this way, why did they became a parent?
But where is the
one's daughter with too much support and control, and stranding
her in the shoals of a dangerous world with insufficient guidance
and supervision. I have personally seen a number of
young women out in the world without a firm father figure somewhere
and they are badly at risk for victimization. Even if he is a thousand
miles away at the time, a young woman is given confidence, protection,
and ballast by a loving father's providence. She is safer. She carries
his blessing and the knowledge that he is looking out for her, that
his daughter deserves the best and is of value. I suspect other men
sense that confidence in his daughter, and victimizers choose someone
else to victimize. It is almost as if a rapist can sense there is
a father somewhere who is going to come gut him with a long knife,
should he assault his precious daughter.
But a relationship evolves over time, and trust and understanding
accrete in good times and dissipate in bad times. I will hope that
Julia always feels free to come tell me anything from her life, that
absolutely forbidden and that a million
over I would prefer to be upset and to know than to remain ignorant
and have her be at risk. I see Julia spending her
childhood years bicycling around her suburban California neighborhood
for hour after hour. Soccer games, piano lessons -- a Christmas ballet
performance of "The Nutcracker." Innumerable trips
to the book store.
Her first day of school and her first computer. Daddy reading stories
to his daughter before she goes to sleep. Special evenings out for
daddy and daughter only. Daddy teaches daughter how to ride a bicycle.
This I hope for Julia as a little girl.
And as opposed to my wife, I am actually looking forward to Julia
entering adolescence. I have years and years of experience with adolescents
and know well that strange and complex brew which is the teenaged girl.
Peer pressure, academic stress, and romantic confusion.
Trying on a new personality every other month. Searching and confusion
is when a daughter needs her daddy more than ever, in my experience.
I will be there. The daddy who taught his daughter how to ride a bike
will teach her how to drive a car.
But who knows? What do I really know? I could hardly be a more rookie
father at this time!
But I do know this: I am pretty much done with reading books on how
to become a parent. Here and there I will sample any author that has
something of value to say, but my wife and I need to raise
our daughter in the solid milieu which
is our life together and shared value system. As a
father -- perhaps even more so as a father -- I need to be honest to
myself. I need to find my own way and obey my own instincts. I need
to be honest to a very few core values and principles, and let everything
else fall as it might. I will need to make haste slowly. I will have
to hold Julia tight but give her her own space. (How will I know
what is the right balance?)
Maybe Julia will grow up smoothly and peacefully as a product of
the structure and values of her family and parents. Maybe she
will grow up rebelling against her family and parents, trying to find
her own way. Maybe we will live together without much conflict or strife.
Maybe there will be yelling and discord. Maybe it will be a bit of
The dialectic makes me anxious. I would much prefer
peace and harmony. I cannot hear myself think when people shout.
But I suspect when it comes to family, I might have a whole lot less
control than I think. Or will I have much more?