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The Homefront: Glimpses of fatherhood from a son who’s now a father

By D. Louise Brown - | Jun 11, 2024

D. Louise Brown

The child who grows up in the care of a good father is a fortunate child. Three uncommon fathers have blessed my life: my own father, my husband — the father of our four children — and finally my son, the father of two of my grandchildren.

As Father’s Day approaches, I asked this son about being a father, beginning with what went through his mind when he first learned a child was on her way.

A long pause, then, “Apprehension.” He added, “Suddenly, instead of it being a faraway ethereal thing, it was happening. I felt the charge, the burden, the obligation — and the excitement; it wasn’t all negative. But there was a thin layer of panic over everything.”

He recalled when parenthood became real. “It’s weird because two of you go to the hospital and three of you come home. I felt there should have been something more required of me, like I should have certified for this. You have to go through more paperwork when you adopt a dog. But in this case it was, ‘Here’s your kid. Good luck.’

The reality hit when they got home. “I’m thinking, I have to take care of my wife so she can take care of the baby. By the way, the mortgage is due, and a pile of other responsibilities are suddenly mine. By law, I’m responsible for this kid for the next 18 years. But my title of ‘Dad’ said this is for life.”

His oldest of two is now 10. He’s earned “Dad wisdom.” And insight. And fulfillment. He shared, “Kids are an investment of time, energy, emotion, well-being, sleep, resources — they’re the most expensive thing you’ll ever acquire. If you try to logically justify it, to work out the math, it’s not going to add up. Good luck with that balance sheet. But if that’s why you’re doing it, you’re in it for the wrong reasons.”

He opened my eyes to what the world looks like to young dads these days. “There’s no starry-eyed young man aspiring to be a father. Little girls grow up with dolls. Boys grow up with toy soldiers and guns. TV sitcoms cast the dad as the bumbling idiot. Society doesn’t teach boys and men how to be a father.” He added, “Luckily, I learned from my father.”

So he takes his oldest backpack camping, taught her some of his favorite sports of fencing and rifle shooting, enjoys their long walks and chats, helps her “build” things, encourages her tagging along and reads to her — like the “Harry Potter” series beginning when she was 4 years old. Those of us who wondered about that were quieted when she read it back to him at age 9.

His is a common-sense approach. “The only way to figure out how to be a dad is to do it, mess up a few times and do better. It’s field work, for sure,” he commented. Looking ahead, his biggest dread is her inevitable leaving. “The idea of giving her a hug and saying, ‘Bye, come see us on Sundays’ — dread is a good word. But the alternative is she lives with us forever and that’s not a good thing either,” he said, verbalizing what seasoned parents already know.

He embraces fatherhood with wise enthusiasm. And a good sense of reality about its joys — and trials. He recalled how just last week he and his wife stripped down their 1-year-old to her diaper so she could feed herself a plate of sticky beans. She laughed her way through the delight of her gooey meal, then her mom and dad began the process of cleaning her up. She rewarded their efforts by loudly filling her diaper “with one of the top 10 worst diaper loads ever,” he reported. Dry heaving between giggles, they got her into the tub, hosed down the high chair and finally got her into her pjs. All cleaned up, cuddly and content, “She fell asleep in my arms,” he mused.

He paused. “I held her for two hours.”

That is fatherhood.

D. Louise Brown lives in Layton. She writes a biweekly column for the Standard-Examiner.


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