It was the night after she was born. Her mother was finally getting a few hours of sleep after an exhausting labor and here I was in a room full of silence holding my little girl. She was wrapped tight in her blanket like a giant burrito. My hand slowly rubbed her back as she slept; her tiny head leaned against my chest and I watched her back rise and fall in steady rhythm. It was then that it really hit me – I was holding a living, breathing human being that I helped create! I am positive that my wife had come to this realization the day before, as you could truly see the bonding that took place between them while she breastfed. I have often been accused of thinking too much, and I am sure that if one could have read my thoughts at that very moment they would use it as an example of how. My mind filled with thoughts of the future that I would have with this little one. I imagined what it would be like to see her crawl, to see her walk, to hear her speak – and I realized how important her parent’s role would be in her life. I was scared and excited all at once, hoping that I could be the father that she deserved. I had no doubts about her mother, for she had taken to motherhood without skipping a beat. Make no mistake; Leslie was going to be a great mom.
No matter how I tried to psyche myself out, in the end it didn’t work. Because right here, right now, I held my little girl in my arms and everything seemed right with the world. No matter what the future held for her, for that moment I felt I could keep her from all harm. On this night, I could keep her from all of the supposed “problems” that we think are so important. At that moment, I realized that I was a daddy after all – and it was the greatest feeling I have ever had.
I often think back to that night with my little girl. I am glad I was there for so many of the things I had anticipated when she was a newborn. I was there when she rolled over for the first time. I was there when she first started crawling. I was there when she took her first steps. I was there when she spoke her first word. Some people may take these things for granted, but when you are actually there and experience these things first hand – it is a memory to be cherished forever.
In her first few months of life, Julia had a fondness for her daddy’s chest. In fact, for a time, daddy’s chest was a cure all for my little girl – a cure for hiccups, a shoulder to cry or to calm down on – even her substitute bed at times. Now I know that being a daddy is more than holding your child, but it is these times, when I hear her breathe and I can feel her heartbeat, that it brings fatherhood back into perspective.
As Julia has grown older (she’s only 20 months old!), those little moments have dwindled considerably but still make me feel special nonetheless. Very rarely will she fall asleep on me, preferring the comfort of her mommy over daddy’s unpadded chest. Still, I get the opportunity on occasion to hold her whenever mommy has other things that she wants to get done. The moment may be short-lived, as she wakes to find that mommy has no hair and wears glasses, but for that moment – I will always go back to when she was a newborn and how I felt.
I know in time I will be dealing with her first day of school, her first ride on a bicycle without training wheels, her first loose tooth, puberty (although I think I may let mommy handle that one), dating (not if I can help it), driving, college and even marriage. These things are but a few milestones in every individual person’s life, but achieving these milestones with your child as a parent are just as important. I hope that she will always realize that for every challenge she may face, her mommy and daddy will always be there.
Ultimately, when my little girl is dancing with me at her wedding, I hope she puts her head to my chest one more time. Another milestone in her life and another marker in mine in that she may be older and married – but I will always be her daddy.