She’s officially seven months. Sunday was Father’s Day. It was my first Father’s Day as a father.
Today I saw her sit up on her own for the first time. She sat right up. She didn’t say anything. She didn’t celebrate. She didn’t look at me for approval. She didn’t cheer with glee. She simply just sat right up. Then she grabbed a purple block from a collection of blocks and stared at it.
She is marvelous. She doesn’t know it, of course. She doesn’t know that when she sits up my heart completely stops, shatters into a million pieces, comes back together again and fills up to the brim with joy. She doesn’t know that the first time she tightened her core and raised herself up on all fours, my inner dad soul already had the poster board with her name in big block letters, already yelling cheers for her into a megaphone.
“GO, BABY GIRL, GO!”
She doesn’t know all that. She just sits up, looks around, picks up a block.
For Father’s Day, my husband had arranged for us to take our girl to her first swim lesson. Smart man. The two of us were giddy about it as soon as we woke up. It was like a mini-Christmas.
Her very first time in the water, she was in my arms. She was the only baby in the class that didn’t cry once during the lesson. She bobbed while I held her, kicking her little legs under the water, sticking out her tongue when water splashed onto her face.
She is brave. The teacher led us in safety diving for babies, had me sit my baby girl on the the side of the pool. Holding her in my arms, I guided her in a dash under the water. She came up, her big baby blue eyes wide, water trickling down her face. She looked around. She looked at me. She stuck out her tongue.
She has always been observant, watchful, interested in everything. Those things I noticed about her soon after she was born. But I am seeing now how quickly she learns, how motivated she is by her own sense of wonder. She is becoming herself. She is marvelous.
And then there’s him. My husband makes her giggle so easily. He lifts her with a “Wheeeeee!” above his head and smiles up to her. He rocks her at night so much longer than he has to, rubbing her hair, whispering, “I love you,” swaying back and forth in the rocking chair.
He made all of our Father’s Day plans. The swimming lesson. The fancy brunch downtown where she fell asleep during the third course. The barbecue with friends at night.
I loved him before we got married. When we got married, I felt like love had soaked me through the bone, settling into the marrow. But, oh, my husband as a father! Parenting together, these days with her… it’s a feeling like the first night of a long, long vacation. I feel like I arrived in paradise, and barely dropped off my bags before I got whisked away to a shady chair on a beach with a fancy coconut drink in my hands and dolphins playing in waves that make their way up to tickle my feet.
And me, I thought during this Father’s Day – I am becoming myself.
I love me as a dad. I didn’t realize I would. I love the instincts I feel now that she’s here, the clarity of emotion I have for my baby girl. I feel my chest fill up with love and hope and wonder every time she’s pressed against it. I marvel at her resilience, dipped through the water for the first time in swim class, head up, eyes wide, learning. I miss her when she’s at day care or when she’s out with her Daddy and I’m working at home.
I love the Me that cradles her while we read a book. I love the Me that sings “Rainbow Connection” as she drifts to sleep. I love the Me that sits on the floor next to her in the morning with my coffee watching her explore the room. I love the Me that made her laugh, dancing like a muppet, while she waited in the carseat to leave the house. I love the Me that tells her the names of things. “This is a book. This is a block painted dandelion yellow. This is a photo of your great granddad. He was a Postman”
At last night’s barbecue my friend asked me, “What’s the biggest surprise about parenting?”
I didn’t have a good answer last night.
I have one today:
I knew I would love my baby girl, and I knew that love would fill me up. I knew I would love Charlie, seeing him as a dad. I didn’t know that, after all these years living as me, that I could feel so proud of who I am. I didn’t know I could look in the mirror and be so happy to see me staring back.
These past seven months, on top of all the wonders of seeing my girl grow and my husband be a father… I have become so happy to just be me, to become the best self I’ve been so far and to love every moment of becoming it.