“I chose anthropology, since it offered the greatest opportunity to write high-minded balderdash.”
How did we get here? It is a question that has been asked by humankind since our ancestors first crawled out of the primordial ooze. A perennial briar on our metaphysical garments. An inquiry that has both plagued and pleased thinkers for millenia, one that keeps a mind awake into the deep hours of the night. Perhaps we’ll never know. Perhaps this is our destiny, to search, gropingly through the dark, until we find it. Maybe find what we’re looking for. Maybe not. I, for one, am not holding my breath.
I am, however, on a search. A prowl through the humming jungles of our shared story; the tangled, knotted mat of vines, twisting through the generations, down the centuries, across our history. I’m on a search for meaning, for truth, for enlightenment. I am on a search, also, for the best diapers and the comfiest baby bjorn. It’s a matter of life and death; it’s a matter of the utmost triviality.
I always wanted children. My plan, even from the time I was very young, was to have a large family. Four kids. Eight. Twelve. Sky was the limit. That was before I read the literature, saw the stats rolled up in pie charts: Human overpopulation, degradation of the natural environment, corporate privatization of the globe, climate change, species extinction. Suddenly, reproduction was a curse word.
Despite this, my wife and I just had our first child. A boy. We named him Abraham. Not after the biblical patriarch. After a vision in a dream. Mystical stuff, I know. I have been able to repress the pie charts, the doomed numbers and predictions. A child is a blessing. One, however, might be enough of a blessing. I no longer think I need a dozen.
It wasn’t until I met my niece, a sprite now of 20 months, that I fell in love. Children to me had been nuisances at best before she appeared. She floated into my life one April day. I melted. I have never been the same. I needed to have one of my own, desperately, with a furor that couldn’t be quelled. Luckily, I was already married, and to a woman who was equally interested in child-rearing.
But even before my magical niece came along, there was a veranda. A concrete rectangle, westward facing, faded with use. A veranda perched in Uganda’s northern region, bathed in harsh sun and swathed in dust for nine months of the year. On a certain afternoon, a date which now escapes me entirely, my wife announced that we were getting “the hell out of here” and returning to the States. (We were volunteering with a development agency at the time.) She would be pursuing her dream of a medical degree, after years of soul-searching and sweating through African rainy seasons. Acquiescing, I made a vow: to support her in any and every aspect as she picked her way among the cairns of a nursing degree. My objective was simple – to play a supporting role, and to allow her to steal the show. Follow her dream with her, aiding and abetting her along the way.
That’s how we ended up in Atlanta, my wife a graduate nursing student at Emory University, and me, well, holding down the fort. And what a fort it is to hold down. We’ve recently added a third militiaman, our firstborn Abraham James.
And so, I find myself a stay-at-home-dad. (Henceforth, SAHD, for ease.) When my wife resumes classes in January 2015, I will be the sole proprietor of our little man’s existence. If this terrifies you, then you have no idea how much it terrifies me. But then again, you have no idea how much it excites me. (Callow as I am.)
When I look at my son, I see not only myself reflected, but my wife, and her family, my parents and their families, and so on backward upon the wobbling spindle of time. I hope I can do right by him. I hope I can do right by what my parents taught me of parenting. I hope to god I can remember to feed him when he’s hungry and not get carried away watching TED talks.
If I have one goal in mind as I pen this blog, it is this: to challenge other young men to make the leap into full-time fatherhood, and to curate resources from around the globe, rigorously sourced founts of cultural knowledge – the stuff embedded in the Bedouin, amassed by the Aka. Men don’t need to defend their decision to stay close to home and raise their own children; a bit of well-placed ammunition in our belts can’t hurt though. And so, I submit to you this blog: come along with me on a journey into the heart of fatherhood. Or, at least stand along the trail and laugh: either way, I’ll have company.