Sunday, June 17, 2007

Why I want to be a father

It's Fathers' Day today, and I should be, at this early hour, thinking of what I'm going to say when I call my father and thank him for all he's done for me, but this is 2007, and in 2002 he was taken from us by lymphoma, which I understand is a cancer of the blood. He did not tell me about his condition, although he had known for over ten years. He told his second wife, who in turn told her mother, who in turn told her grand-daughter because she had recently lost a friend to cancer. This girl told me in 2000, maybe 2001. I don't know if I asked my father about it afterwards, or if he came right out and told my brother and I. So it was rather sudden when I got the call that he wouldn't make it through the night. It seemed unreal to me, and I was somehow able to sleep. I found out he had in fact made it through the night, but not to noon, so I do hold on to that.

Back then I was a loser, at least in the romantic sense. I'd never even kissed a girl and thought I would die a virgin. Now, five years later, I am married and we are trying for a baby. Because I knew long before that I would one day be a father myself. It's been sort of my core meaning of life for almost 13 years now, almost half my life. When I was a kid, I couldn't fathom and never considered the possibility of having kids of my own. When I was 12 or 13, I was in a bad situation where I basically lost all respect (as if, you know, at that age, I had any to start with) for girls and women, because of one of each who had done me wrong (which is itself a story for another time... wait, no it's not, besides the people involved, I've only told my wife). I had taken to calling women "bitches" and "hoes" and kids, well, I pretty much ignored them and still didn't think of having any of my own.

Then I met a cousin, who was 3 at the time. At first I wanted nothing to do with her, but she wanted to play and wouldn't give up. So I chased her around some, and by the end of the day she was my favorite cousin (and still is... well, tied with her sister) and I had told my mother that I had wanted one - a kid, I mean, of my own, when I was old enough. And then my life sort of changed. Something changed to where kids were somehow drawn to me. I mean extraordinarily. A kid that isn't shy will want to meet everyone who comes to their place, or talk to most people... but for example, a couple years later, I would go over to my best friend's house, and his mom babysits, and one day there's a girl around 6 who just all of a sudden wants me to pick her up. Once I do, she doesn't want to be put down and doesn't want me to go when I have to go. And every time I go over there and she's there, she loses all interest in what's on the TV or what other kids are doing, basically everything but me. One night my buddy and I were up late playing Dungeons & Dragons (yay! geek cred) and his mother leads her in, says she can't sleep, and asks if she can hang out with us. We say sure, and she ends up going to sleep on the couch beside me. Later it came to her being sort of my "secretary" - she'd roll dice for me and make appropriate changes on my character sheet. Over the years, it's been much of the same. Kids who come over with people coming to see us end up following me around. And even after moving out here, even after getting married, it still happens. I can make unruly kids behave and I can make babies stop crying. For some reason the influence is stronger with girls, so I've taken that as a hint, that that's what I'm supposed to have. I mean, I have intermediate sporatic experience with raising girls from age 2 to about 12, and I want to put it to use.

I also want to have one that doesn't have to go home at the end of the night. One that I can watch playing in the bathtub, one I can read a story to and tuck in, one I can make breakfast to, walk down to the bus stop, or go driving with. Anybody can make a baby, it seems (everybody but us...) but we want to make a person, a good person. Someone who can think for herself and know the right choice to make, and make it at least most of the time. And of course have some of our (Jen and I) common interests. I'm hoping at least one will be a Trekkie, and at least one will watch wrestling with me. We know a guy who watches with his daughter, and he teaches her moves. I always wanted to put a kid through Karate, but the dojos around here are run by the Church, so that's now out. We're not going to brainwash our kids with a religion, but rather when they start asking about a higher power, we'll let them explore those aspects of society on their own. We won't discourage them, but they'll know our beliefs. (Which means they'll know Jen grew up Catholic and I grew up skeptical of anything I couldn't verify was real.) Ideally we'll have a smart, pretty girl and a tomboy for girls (A Sansa and an Arya, for A Song of Ice and Fire fans) and for a boy, a smart geeky one like me. Jen's the one who really wants a boy - the ones she grew up with and the ones her sister have aren't enough - and I have no idea what ideas she has. All she'll say (pretty much) is that she wants to let our kids be who they will be. That's all well and good, and I agree, but I have ideas, and naturally they're going to be exposed to the things we like. My mother played a lot of classic rock when I was a kid, so while I think I prefer country now, classic rock will always be my first love. And yes, our kids will know classic rock. They'll know Jimi, Zeppelin, CCR, the Eagles, and many others. As well as our current favorites.

So why, in short, do I want a kid? Well, they're fun - that's easy - but there's a certain appeal to the challenge of raising a good kid, a good person. And I partially believe what my family's been telling me, that I have my father's genius intelligence - but the problem is, I lack the motivation, the ambition to go out and get an education and get a really good paying job. But that's fine, I make decent money doing what I'm doing, and I find the simplicity fulfilling. I don't want to change the world, I just want to be myself. So I'm hoping we have at least one super-smart girl who stays in school and makes the family proud time and time again, because that was expected of me, but I never wanted to be more than a good husband, and a good father. If our kids are slackers, too, so be it, but we'll give them everything we can and hope for the best.

PS: I even suggested adoption to Jen. My father suggested it to my mother, and I think he was a little more passionate about it. But he had a good point. That there are a lot of unwanted kids in this world who really need a good home. I can't argue with that. But Jen, like my mother 30 years ago, wants to carry it for nine months, give birth naturally, and have the kid be of our own blood. Someone once told me that the reason so many people wait for adoption is that they want white babies, that most of the babies and kids up for adoption are from minority races. So the question becomes, would we adopt a black or Hispanic or Asian child? I'd like to say that we would - we're both pretty unprejudiced - but some areas around here aren't friendly to mixed families. So that would become a challenge, mostly for the kid who doesn't understand. That's one good reason I have for wanting to have a child naturally - that way it's not an issue.

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