On your birth day, my whole world changed. There were still bills to pay, lawns to mow, and errands to run. But at first sight of you, your father’s old eyes filled with tears, and his hands trembled.
You were fresh from the other side — wailing and shivering in the new air. The nurses worked over you with feverish determination, polishing you like a teapot, poking, prodding — making sure you had all your parts. Of course, you were perfect.
Leaning over you like a streetlight, I gently say, “Hello there. I’m your dad.”
You quieted some. I slowly extended my finger. To my delight, your little digits wrapped around mine and squeezed. In that instant, I became your captive — a knight at your round table — willing to do anything to keep you safe from harm.You were a tiny thing — 3 pounds, 12 ounces. I’ve caught fish bigger than that. You were so small, in fact, that the doctor wouldn’t allow us to take you home. As they wheeled you away, I was numb. “Please take care of her,” I croaked.
The nurse smiled and squeezed my arm as if to say, “Don’t you worry, Dad.” But I worried anyway.
For ten long days, they fed you and tended to you as you lay within your womb of Lucite, wires and tubes sprouting from every limb.
At 5 a.m., I rushed back to the hospital and eagerly waited for you to stir. My eyes were locked on your every move as your tiny chest rose and fell. And then, ever so slowly, your little hands began to search, feeling blindly, finding your nose, eyes, ears. At last, you found your mark: You gobbled up your fingers like they were breakfast.
I spoke to you in a soft, deep voice. “Good morning. I’m so happy to see you.”
You started to cry, as if to say, “Who are you? And why aren’t you feeding me?”
The nurse opened your warm cocoon and wrapped you like you were a sausage. Then, she turned to me and smiled.
“Really? Are you sure?” my wide eyes asked.
Finally, I was getting to hold you. I was shaking when she put you in my arms.
Everyone says that children will change you. “Your life will never be the same,” they boast. I used to nod my head whenever I heard this. I foolishly thought I understood. But I didn’t. I had no idea.The first time I held you, I was made new. Now my life had purpose. All the years leading up to that moment seemed wasted somehow. I made silent promises to myself, impossible promises, to be the perfect dad. I meant well.
And now you are a girl — no, a young woman — nearly 13 years old. You make me so proud. Each day, you leave the house in search of a new world. Your own world.
There’s so much more that I want to teach you — about boys and navigating the stormy waters of relationships — oh, and how to drive a stick shift. Did I mention, boys? And, as I did on the day you were born, I tremble at the thought of you one day leaving us. Not because I’m afraid. Well . . . maybe a little.
We’re celebrating Father’s Day by celebrating leaning into fatherhood and by recognizing the extraordinary men that are our own fathers. We hope that it will inspire you to thank your own dad or the dad who most inspires you. Find more letters and stories about leaning into parenthood here. And, of course, find your own Lean In inspiration at LeanIn.org.
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