Monday, January 24, 2011

On Fatherhood

The message in my inbox, sent from, said, "A Gift from Daddy." I was skeptical. It isn't like my dad to buy me presents online, and it's even less like him to send me something directly to my inbox. It's just a little too...2011 for his tastes. But there it was. I clicked on the email.

When I opened it up, I saw that he had purchased the mp3 of "Free to Be, You and Me," the record I listened to over and over and over again as a kid, wearing it out and necessitating a new copy. I can still sing most of the words from memory, and they still remind me of hours spent on the brown couch, belting out the hippie tunes along with Marlo Thomas (and Friends). I was touched. My Dad bought the bean a song! So I forwarded the email to Matt and told him that we should download it when we got home from work.

Two minutes later, my cell phone rang. It was Matt.

"Hi Sweets," he said. "I'm calling with some news that I hope won't burst your bubble."
"The song wasn't from your Dad. It was from me. To the bean."
"Sweets? Are you okay?"
"Yes! I'm more than okay, I'm, I'm just, I...YOU'RE the 'Daddy!' You're going to be a Daddy!"

I was crying and laughing at the same time, sitting at my desk with my head in my hands, marveling at a fact that had somehow escaped me despite its obviousness. But it was in that instant, in that one perfect, bright moment, that I realized, from the bottom of my toes to the top of my head, that Matt is going to be a father. And not just anyone's father, he is going to be this little bean's father. This very little bean that has been growing and changing inside of me for 33 weeks, this little bean whose heartbeat we first saw together as a tiny little pulsating lima, who he reads stories about his favorite superheroes to at night, who he wakes up every morning to cuddle, who he kisses goodnight and says, "be good to mama." He is going to be this little bean's father. He, this man I married, this man that I love more than anyone in the world, is going to be the father of this baby, this little creature that on some level, some strange maternal level, I know that I already know.

Here is what I want to tell them, these two great loves of mine: you two are perfect for each other. My sweet boy and my precious bean. You two are going to be so great together, and I already know just how lucky you are to have each other.


All of the women in my family have always called their dad, "Daddy." My mother told me this when I was a little girl, and it stuck with me, part history, part admonition. I was pretty young when she told me, and I remember thinking that I couldn't imagine my grandmother calling her father "Daddy." But that's because it was hard to imagine my grandmother even being young enough to have a Daddy, especially when the only image I had of her father was a picture she kept on her bureau of a serious-looking and handsome young Russian man in a uniform. But it was also because in my mind, my own father was what it meant to be a Daddy, the man who made me oatmeal in the morning, took me "flying" in his Z-car, and would occasionally wake me up early on a school day in the winter to tell me that we were skipping school and going skiing instead.

Either way, the rule was written: fathers are Daddies. To this day I still call my dad, "Daddy" when I'm talking to him, typing that word into my gmail contacts when I want to send him an email, scrolling through my phone to find his number listed under that word. He has also abided by the rule, always signing his cards and emails appropriately.

I remember the day when I was too old to hold his hand when we crossed the street. I don't remember which one of us was more sad about it. I remember the day that he taught me to skip. Wildly, recklessly, in front of strangers. People might have laughed at us, but I don't remember them. I only remember feeling like I was flying. I remember learning that my dad could roller-skate backwards, a fact I learned at my 8th birthday party when he took my hand during the "couples skate" and twirled me around the bright yellow rink while all of my friends looked on, their faces showing the same surprise that I felt.

That's what Daddy means to me. There are other lessons associated with my father, times when I slammed the door and called him Dad, times when we were disappointed in each other and couldn't manage to communicate. But when I think of "Daddy," I think about oatmeal and a fast car, falling asleep on the way home from the Poconos. I see the disco ball from the roller rink throwing tiny little lights around the smooth oval while I'm holding tightly to his hand because he's a much stronger skater than I am.

"A Gift from Daddy," said the email. There it is, in my inbox. A gift from my husband, from my husband to his child. Somehow that's amazing and strange, and as life-changing as many of the other moments of these 33 weeks.

Even at 24, I had the good sense to realize that you shouldn't marry a man who you couldn't see as the father of your children. Over here at the wise old age of 32, I am realizing that I will soon come to know a side of him that I have never met. But more importantly, our child will know a side of him that I will never know, and will have a relationship with him that I will never have.

Good memories and bad, the things I think about when I think about my dad are mine and mine alone. And someday, this little person will have a similar story to tell. Some of the things I can imagine, because I know Matt. But others, the ones that are truly theirs and theirs alone, will be for them to capture and hold on to, for them to remember and to pass on.


It's a few days early for a birthday post, but it seems like the time to say it: on the eve of your 33rd birthday,my love, I can say without a doubt that you are going to have one hell of a year.

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