Sometimes in life, we need to soul search. We take trips to faraway places, go off to school, sign up for gym memberships, and attend self-help seminars attempting to discover the answer to what defines us as people. I have, in the past, initiated my own searches for that existential clarity about myself. I have spent time and money, at times exhaustively, to find out what it is that I should be defined by.
Almost 10 years ago, at 5:30 in the afternoon on July 19th, 2002, I became a father and my soul searching (and gym membership) ended. In an instant, my self-definition, whatever it might have been, had been rewritten. No longer would my meaning and place in this world begin with ‘I’.
Being a father, by definition, means I am the ‘man who exercises paternal care over other persons’, but with all due respect to Mr. Webster’s denotation, being a father goes way beyond that.
Being a father means I’m the one who goes in to dark rooms first, hunts monsters in bedroom closets, and is an architect of blanket forts in the living room. I accept bribery as an acceptable form of parenting, especially in restaurants. I am there for protection during a nighttime thunderstorm and to kiss away the pain of a boo-boo. I am the keeper of many a ‘Pinky Swear’. I’m not above making pancakes for dinner, being a coach for sports I know less about than theoretical quantum physics, and feeling the thrill of occasionally being a ‘bad cop’. I can make it all better, arbitrate arguments over toys, I’m a short order cook, and a field surgeon for ripped stuffed animals. I know what it’s like to be the ‘World’s Greatest’, learned (very early on) how to say ‘no’, recognize peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as the go to lunch, and repetition is key. Repetition is key. Repetition is key.
I can sit for hours on end in awe watching the two most important people in my life. I learned the best cure for a bad day is a hug when I walk in the door. I found out what it meant to truly love two people and in turn, be loved.
What defined me wasn’t found with a passport, 4 years of college, a job, or an expired gym membership. When I thought I needed to discover who I was and why I was on this planet, I found out I didn’t need to search at all. The answer was right in front of me, staring me in the face. Actually, it was staring me in the face at 6am on my day off asking me to make it breakfast.
I realized it’s my job to be whatever it is my kids need me to be so long as I don’t ever stop being Daddy. Its who I am. Its how I am defined.