The recent birth of my son brought terrifying new anxieties, along with the joys. But life as a new dad has proved that as my boy grows and changes, so will my fears – and that’s a good thing.
I wasn’t prepared for the fear that came along with becoming a new father. Not fear, fears. There are a lot of them, and they all end with question marks.
Will I be a good father? Will I be able to provide for my family? Will I ever hurt him? When I return home from work, will he remember me? Will he like his mother more than me?
Will I love him?
Before we go further, I should mention this wasn’t the piece I was supposed to write. Originally it was going to be a light read.
I would have begun by saying “some guys shouldn’t be fathers,” and then would have proved my point by recalling in vivid detail that time last year, when I managed to get lost in a hallway.
After that, I would have introduced my family. I would have gushed about how perfect and adorable my three-month-old son Riley is, and how his natural blonde Mohawk makes him the most popular person wherever he goes.
His mother, I would have continued, is everything I am not. She’s naturally maternal where I’m clumsy, gentle where I’m awkward, strong where I’m indecisive.
Then would have come the obligatory “becoming a
father has made me a better person, and it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me” paragraph, after which I’d have called it a wrap.
In short, this column was supposed to read like every other column ever written about becoming a new dad. But then my son got sick, and I couldn’t write that column.
One day he started throwing up. And he didn’t stop. In less than a week he lost two pounds, leaving him barely above his birth weight. Despite his doctor’s sincere reassurances that my son would be fine, I was scared.
And then I wasn’t. I stopped worrying about his weight loss and just enjoyed his absolute adorableness. Until I began to worry what effects weight loss might have down the road.
And that’s when I realized the veiled importance of fear.
Fear helps us protect our children, but it also helps us measure how much we’ve developed as parents. Check that. Not fear itself, but the evolution of our fear.
When Riley was a few days old, I was afraid to hold him, afraid to drop him. Now I happily bounce him in my arms. But I worry about the day he’s going to be too heavy to lift.
When he was a newborn, I was afraid to feed him. Now I’m afraid to let anybody else feed him.
And my biggest fear of all: what if I didn’t love him? I did from the moment he was born. Now I worry if he’ll love me.
My fears as a parent have grown as I’ve grown, as my son has grown.
That’s what fear does. It reminds us that, as parents, we’re never really on stable ground. It doesn’t go away, it just evolves and when it does, when you’ve moved on to a new fear, you’ve matured as a parent.
Chris Hunt is an Ottawa writer. His column appears regularly in Ottawa Parenting Times Magazine.