Diary of a new dad: Growing under the shadows of passing planes

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Illustration by Dylan Goforth

One of my favorite things to do is sit in the rocker in my daughter’s room and hold her at night while she sleeps. The house we moved into this summer has big windows in her room, and if you look out of them at night you can catch a glimpse of passenger planes cruising slowly by on their way to the airport.

Sometimes when she’s sleeping, she’ll suddenly open her eyes and say something, then throw one hand in the air in protest before falling back asleep. She’s only just had her first birthday. What are dreams like before you have language?

My first year of dadhood has been a whirlwind, which is appropriate given the fact that I found out my wife was pregnant about an hour after my Tulsa World bosses found out I was quitting my job. Timing has never been a speciality of mine.

So Evie was born December 2015, and seven months later my wife and I bought our first house. Now my daughter is walking all over the place and talking nonstop, though it’s mainly gibberish and it’s mainly aimed at our two dogs.

When we told my mom we were having a baby, her husband took me aside and said that the first time you see your child, you feel a love unlike anything you’ve ever felt before. But when Evie was born I was too stunned to feel anything. I just looked at my wife and said “You did it.” It wasn’t until that first night in the hospital, when my daughter woke up with the hiccups and I rocked her back to sleep in front of a mirror, that I understood what he was talking about.

Sometimes I look at her and a strange feeling comes over me, like “how did I get here?” I can’t exactly explain it, but it almost feels at times like I’ve only suddenly woken up in this life I share with my wife and daughter.

Last year, I said that looking her ultrasound pictures made me realize how she was the culmination of every event in my life. Every life-altering moment led me to her. Now that she’s here, when I look at her I feel an overwhelming sense of responsibility.

I’ve always been a committed person — committed to work, to my friends, to my family. And as a parent I’ve struggled finding the right balance. How much do I owe my employer? How much do I owe my family?

How much do I owe myself?

I know the greatest responsibility I have is to my daughter. After all, my employer chose to hire me. My wife married me out of her own free will. No one consulted Evie before we brought her into this world.

Right now I’m writing this on my phone, and she’s sleeping on top of me, her little hands crossed in front of her and her head on my chest. Every moment comes with a sense of dread and excitement, because her life is full of infinite possibilities. What will she become? What role will I play in that? How do I open the world up to her when I often don’t know how to do that for myself?

It’s strange how quickly she changes. Time feels like it’s simultaneously moving too slow and moving too fast. One minute I’m lamenting that she won’t sleep through the night and the next minute I’m melancholy because she doesn’t want to sit on my lap, she wants to get up and run. Every day has at least one moment that drives you crazy and at least one moment you want to hold onto forever.

I’ve said before that I owe every good thing in my life to the chance encounter with my wife. I changed from a stagnant, confused 20-something into a hard-working, motivated adult out of a desire to be a good boyfriend/fiance/husband.

And yet being a dad is the greatest thing in my life by orders of magnitude. The journey itself hasn’t been unique; millions of parents every day witness the same milestones I’ve seen in my daughter over the last year. But my memories of her her first laugh, or her first steps, are mine alone, and I can relive them in my mind whenever I want.

I have no idea what the next year will bring. What are 2-year olds like? What can they do? I’m sure it will be fun and terrible and awful and wonderful.

But for now we’ll just sit here and watch the planes fly by.

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