When I became a father, a few male friends asked me a question. A question, if I had to confess, I just hadn’t thought about. It might also be worth pointing out that these friends were largely unmarried twenty-something men who were in semi-serious relationships. Anyway, the million dollar question was: “How does IT feel?”.
The first time I was asked this seemingly good natured query, I was rather perplexed. For I didn't quite know what he was referring to. My idle mind honestly thought that either he was referring to the timely procreative act that had successfully borne fruit (kids - if you're reading, you're too young for that now!) or about having survived the nearly out-of-body experience of actually helping a doctor and a set of maternity nurses hand-deliver my little one.
Yes, I'm very aware that my 'experience' isn't even a drop in the ocean to what my wife could have possibly endured, but more on that in another post. Anyway, since I was usually in no mood to discuss either of those two points, in the interest of giving myself an exit window from the clutches of the above-mentioned question, I would usually just smile and shrug my shoulders, as if 'IT' felt like the most natural thing in the world.
Eventually, after a lot of contemplation (read as: man-ing up and asking my wife), I figured out that what they were actually referring to was in fact, 'How does it feel to be a father?' And truth be told, I did not know. For I'd never really given it any thought. I mean, how does one define these things? These feelings to be precise. It's not as if you've just been given a bar of chocolate and had to decide whether you want to eat it slowly or devour the whole thing at once. It is a wee bit more complicated than that.
How does one describe the feeling of realisation that you have just been elevated from the role of a normal, happy-go-lucky chap to someone who is now responsible (at least partly) for this new life form that you now hold in your arms? And that the little person you're looking at, with those tiny little fingers, toes, snouty nose and crinkled up forehead, is perhaps going to decide your schedules and social calendar for the foreseeable future. Also that while there may be times when their smile could make you feel like you're on the proverbial cloud nine, there may also be times when their shrill cries could keep you up all night wondering how you ended up in such a pickle in the first place.
No. I did not know how to describe that feeling. And I still don't, even after 33 months of wholesome and hands-on parenting. But here's the thing. To me, fatherhood has been a discovery of sorts.It's a journey of constant learning, adapting and yes, sometimes just thriving.
There are times when you can be both amazed by and angry at the same little person. At the same time, that too. Other times, you discover that you have this storehouse of patience that is the only thing stopping you from wanting to bang your head against the wall. There are also moments of self-discovery when you surprise yourself with how good you are at telling stories, sometimes even making them up as you go along. And then of those pangs of jealousy that you feel when you kid temporarily chooses someone else to bother.
And that there will be times when you just want to go to the supermarket under the pretext of doing some shopping, just to get some 'you-time'. Or how your inherent radar just goes off when you spot other parents with kids in the same age group. Of course, there are also moments of joy, when you discover that your ability to make the weirdest noises is a source of entertainment for the little one. Or the strange looks that people give you when you are busy having strange and intimate conversations with inanimate objects. Sometimes, the discovery is something more simpler. Like replacing your otherwise overpriced cup of latte from Starbucks to plain, strong coffee in a mug that says 'Daddy, you're the best!'.
And sometimes it is the fact that you can actually hear your own voice, after they sleep. Or how you're constantly trying to evolve from being the guy hanging out with your best mates to the guy that your kid wants to hang out with. Or that even the simple act of getting out of the house with a child requires more planning that your annual vacation. Often, it could be a more serious realisation. Like how this little thing called 'money' is suddenly a criteria for everything. Or how sleep, something that you managed without for days at a stretch, is now a luxury that you'd gladly give an arm or a leg for. Or how your relationship with your better-half changes. When sweet nothings become all the more important and every chance that you get for the simplest conversations are more precious that all the talk you've ever done before.
I could go on and on, but I won't. The thing is - 'Everything in parenthood is a discovery'. For no parenting book or journal can truly explain what you're getting yourself into. Only that you'll always come out stronger.
And as for this said 'feeling'. that takes on new dimensions ever so often. Sometimes every day. And at times every other hour. I suppose, it is pretty accurate to say that depending on the time of the day, you may receive a different answer for that question. Right now for example, as I sit nursing my wounded pinky toe, that 'feeling' is :
I can't wait for him to grow out of the 'I shall leave my Lego blocks lying around so Dad can step on them' phase. Trust me, they hurt!