A Weekly Column
A FATHER’S LOVE
Kevin had never really given fatherhood much thought.
He wasn’t opposed to it, nor was he greatly in favor of it. He was just sort of . . . I don’t know . . . ambivalent on the subject – until Mandy told him he was going to be one.
His first words on the subject: “This is a joke, right?”
When Mandy finally convinced him that she wasn’t kidding . . . well, he will be the first one to tell you he did not react well.
“I was scared, resentful and a little angry,” he told me. “I always thought our life would just be us – Mandy and me. Our life was good. We were happy. We were good together. I didn’t want anything to mess that up.”
For her part, Mandy hadn’t really planned on parenthood either – at least, not yet. But she immediately warmed to the idea. No, that isn’t quite right. She was thrilled at the prospect of becoming a mother – which concerned Kevin all the more.
“I just knew our life – the life I loved, the life I was comfortable with – was over,” he said. “So I did the only thing I could think of to do: I ran.”
That’s right – he took off. Bolted. Packed up his bags and moved out – for two days.
“I knew he’d come back,” she says now, teasingly. “I OWNED him!”
More than that, however, Mandy understood Kevin. She knew he was a good and decent and honorable man, and wasn’t one to run from his responsibilities. But she also knew that Kevin had absolutely no concept of fatherhood. His own father deserted his family when Kevin was about 2 years old – he had no memory of his father ever being part of his life in any way. There were no big brothers or uncles or grandfathers who played a role in raising him, and only a couple of teachers and Scout leaders to serve as positive male role models along the way.
“I totally understood why he was a little freaked about the idea of being a dad,” Mandy said. “I had a great relationship with my Mom growing up, and I always wanted to be a Mom just like her. Kevin had never had any ‘dads’ in his life, so he never really thought about being one until I was pregnant.”
Once he made the psychological adjustment to impending fatherhood, Kevin embraced it with all his heart and soul. He and Mandy spent hours together, searching online for every bit of information they could find about good parenting. They took a couple of parenting classes at their community college, and they read several books on the subject. Kevin noticed that he even began watching TV shows and movies with an eye toward learning something about fatherhood. And he didn’t like what he was seeing.
“Fathers are usually dorks and losers on TV,” he said. “They are either angry and abusive, or they are distant and detached if they are part of the family at all. They are obsessed with their work, or they are completely inept emotionally. Outside of “Cosby Show” reruns, I couldn’t find many good examples of fatherhood on TV.”
So it was with considerable fear and uneasiness that Kevin held out his arms to accept his newborn son, Tyler, when the delivery room nurse brought the baby to him. From the moment he felt the oh-so-light weight of his child in his arms, a feeling swept over him – from his head to his toes – unlike anything he had ever experienced before.
“I can’t really describe the
feeling,” he says now, softly. “I had
experienced love before, but never anything like this. It isn’t that I loved
And somehow in that moment, Kevin discovered what it means to be a father. It isn’t that he suddenly, magically knew everything he needed to know about fatherhood. He’ll spend the rest of his life figuring that out, because it will change with every child, and with every season of their respective lives. But for the first time in his life he felt a father’s love.
And when you finally do stop and think about it, loving is what fatherhood is all about.
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