Have you ever noticed that when you say or type a word too often, it suddenly becomes foreign? Like the word itself makes no sense and you’re not sure how it ever did in the first place? I’ve typed “father” a lot lately, and the only time it looked more bizarre than it does now was when I saw it on my son’s birth certificate.
There was that line: “father’s name:” I knew the rules, biologically, and I accepted that I was responsible, but actually being a father? Anyone could technically sign in this space and the county would have all it needed, but for me it was more like signing a job description, embracing my duty.
To put some perspective on the fear I was feeling at this point, I had just gotten my first real job after 3 years at a sandwich shop, had just graduated college, and, at a previous point, had given a puppy back to a friend after 2 hours because the enormity of taking care of it terrified me. In my mind, I was not in a good place to take care of a kid, so when I went to sign that line (“father’s name”), the pen felt a lot heavier than any pen ever had before. Should I sign it? Can I sign it? As a fatherless father, was this ok?
I don’t know who my dad is, not just in the existential sense, or in the “he died fighting overseas before I was born” sense, but in the “I honestly do not know who my biological father is” sense.
My mom was married to a guy when I was younger, but that didn’t work out, and he wasn’t really the patron type, so it was my grandparents, my mom, and me. Don’t get me wrong; my grandfather was one of the greatest goddamned people I’ve ever met, but it’s still different from a dad.
I have all of these expectations of talks I should have had with a dad that never transpired; what if, when I’m supposed to have those talks with my son, I just blank? What if that data was never acquired, and all this time I’ve been doing something critical in my life just completely incorrectly? Am I shaking hands wrong? Would I have been more confident in dating had I a father to talk to about women? How would my life have differed if I grew up with an actual father, even a bad one?
I feared signing that paper because of all the things I don’t know that fathers typically teach their sons. I don’t know much about cars. I abhor most team sports. I’m not particularly handy. My grandfather taught me billiards, taught me how to swim, and instilled me with a love of gardening, and for that I’m thankful, but I feel like I missed out on key “dad” information. How do I know what to pass on to my kids? Is there a GED for dads?
As I put the pen to the paper, one last hesitation existed in the form of fear of the past. My stepdad was a violent drunk, and a physical person to begin with. I was humiliated and beat in front of my friends, given absurd chores to do at a very young age and met with threats of violence if I had trouble with them, and I was privy to torrents of withering verbal abuse from him towards my mother. In times of extreme stress or anger, I could feel his hatred and words pop into my brain and I didn’t want to project that at my wife or kids, knowing that having a baby would be the most stressful, anxiety-inducing thing I’d ever experienced. In my heart of hearts, I didn’t want to be the kind of dad that stuck around but was a horrible influence on his children.
With all of this apprehension in the back of my mind, permeating my soul with regrets and fear, I was, even after meeting my amazing little son, still terrified of signing that paper; of signing up to be someone’s father when I was so woefully undereducated on the position.
So now here is this blog, one I named Fit2Father, despite STILL being unsure (even over three years later). Obviously I signed the paper, and did so again when my daughter was born. If it had been called “Fit2Abandon”, “AmIFit2Father”, or “GotAllThisExtraChildSupportMoneylol”, we might have a twist here but thankfully I think I’m alright at the most basic aspects of parenting. I keep them fed, I read to them, I play dinosaurs and babies, and most importantly, I have fun doing those things.
I love my children more than anything in existence, but the nagging self-doubt always rears its head.
How embarrassed will I be that I can’t fix the car if it breaks? What will I do if my son loves football? I really don’t know thing one about football. What if my daughter also loves football? Are there girls football teams or will we need to make one? Why is it called football and not “hand-egg”? So many questions…
Truth is, I know if those things come up, I will handle them, because there’s one thing I know that a father does, and that’s support their kids. So if my son or daughter loves sports, I’ll learn sports and throw balls (spastically, I’m sure). I’d do the same thing if they wanted to dance, hunt, or deep-sea fish as well.
Being a fatherless father, I’ve come to realize that my kids will learn about things from me, and even though I didn’t have a template to work off, I will need to teach them regardless.
Besides, a lot of the coolest stuff in the world was done without templates.