When I reminisce on my introduction to fatherhood, it’s all about the waterworks, the tears I shed. Nothing prepares you properly for fatherhood. It’s an overwhelming and altogether unexpected experience no matter how much research you may do beforehand.
I cried with nervous apprehension when my wife was taken to an operating theatre for an emergency caesarean section, after she had bravely battled in labour for more than half a day. My tears were transformed into rivers of joy when I saw my son for the first time. On reflection, it was surprising that I didn’t shed tears of horror at the sight of that cone-headed alien recently rescued from my wife’s womb.
Tears of frustration flowed when he cried and I possessed neither the equipment nor the skills to pacify him. More tears followed, this time of exasperation when we brought him home and I thought I knew what I was doing, but nothing I did would quiet my son’s anguished wails. I have never felt so helpless. When one so truly and totally dependent on me as my little boy cried, I was defeated. I had nothing in my armoury save tears of failure.
Even though I didn’t know why he was crying and he most certainly was not even aware of my distress, those tears were also shared: two males of the human species bonding through weeping.
Other tears flowed. The ones of disgust when my little man filled not only his nappy but also the rocker with putrid dark brown semi-solid waste. My wife and I were eventually able to laugh about that. I reckon I laughed so hard I cried.
There were more tears of laughter when I found him asleep in a corner, sitting bolt upright with his head back, mouth open and hand still gripping a cracker.
And in the fullness of time, I returned to the tears of joy I had shed when he arrived into my world, as I waved him off on his first day at a new world called school. Those tears were a strange cocktail of pride and anxiety. It was the beginning of letting go and I considered that worth a good sob as well.
I’m learning fatherhood as I go. That little screaming creature is now as tall as I am and much better looking than he was then. More challenges await and no doubt more tears, of every variety, will also come. I’m not ready but I’ll be okay as long as I don’t drown in all my tears.
D. A. Cairns is married with two children and lives on the south coast of New South Wales in Australia where he works as an English language teacher and writes stories in his very limited spare time. He has had seven short stories published. Devolution is the name of his recently released first novel.