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Home > Father Son Poem / Article >

Fatherhood

by Michael Childers
My first regret, or maybe, the first regret I remember

crying baby
baby photo © bodo011 - Fotolia.com All rights reserved.

I knew going into this "fatherhood" thing that it would be difficult and that I would make mistakes.  However, I never knew how right I could be.  I have so many mistakes and regrets that I cannot possibly enumerate them all here.  I don't think the server has enough space to hold that much text!  Still, here are some things I've done, things I should have done, or things that I wish I never had done in my 11-year tenure as a father.  Maybe you can relate to some of these and we can take solace in our mutual company of misery.  Or, better still, maybe you can read the bonehead mistakes I've made and convince yourself not to repeat my stupidity.  In this particular article, I'll only mention one.  But rest assured, there are many more to come.

As a father, my biggest responsibility is keeping my children out of harm's way.  And yet, I have been the direct cause of harm myself.  I remember the first time I actually brought physical pain to my child.  My son was just a baby, not even a year old.  I was holding him and reveling in the wonder and awe that one feels when holding one's own offspring.  He was (and still is) so cute, I just wanted to "eat him up."  Of course, that is a figure of speech.  No one ever really bites their child.  And yet, that's exactly what I did.  As I was holding him, my excitement grew and grew until it nearly reached a fever pitch.  I just couldn't contain my euphoria any longer.  So, with teeth bared, I bit his shirt.  As my teeth sank into his little outfit, I had the unusual feeling of softness between my incisors.  "Wow," I thought.  "This shirt must be padded or something."  Then it happened. 

 

My precious son let out a scream that could have broken a wine glass!  I immediately let go of my death grip, shocked out of my dreamy happiness.  His face was beet red and all scrunched up like raisin.  He was obviously in a great deal of pain.  Just as I began to inspect my son's body to uncover and eradicate the threat, his hand raised up to cover the exact spot where my teeth marks could still be seen on his shirt.  "Please, no.  Tell me I didn't bite my son!"  Alas, I had.  I lifted his shirt to see what amounted to a pinch mark with clear indentations in the unmistakable shape of my teeth.  "Good Lord.  I bit my son!"  

 

His skin remained puckered up as if still caught in the grip of my sharp enamel.  I instinctively started rubbing his wound hoping to wipe away the pain and soothe the nerve endings that must have been firing at full throttle.  My wife, disconcerted by the abrupt squeal from our first born baby, came dashing into the room where she found me on the verge of tears and our son in an all out panic. 

 

"What happened?!" she let out, wondering why she had trusted me to care for him to begin with. 

 

"I bit him!  I bit Cameron!" 

 

"What?!  Why did you bite him?  What were you thinking?!" 

 

God, or the universe, or Allah, or evolution, or whatever you believe constructed this crazy existence we call life gave mothers a fierce instinct to protect their young.  I wasn't completely aware of this, but looking back I realize that my own life was, at that moment, in grave danger of coming to an end. 

 

"I didn't mean to!  I just got excited because he's so cute!" 

 

My dear wife must have thought I had lost my marbles.  So, I was actually admitting that I had bitten her son?  And my excuse was, "I didn't mean to"?  What an idiot. 

 

The rest of the night I swung between two emotional extremes:  self-loathing for being a moron and rage towards myself for the same reason. 

 

Fortunately, Cameron recovered quickly and well.  Inexplicably he continued to let me hold him.  I guess he still hadn't discovered cause and effect at such an early age.  Had he associated that pain with me, the rightful owner of his misery, that may have been the last time for quite a while in which he allowed me to so much as touch him.

So, what do I take from this experience?

Don't bite your kids!  It hurts them.  Well, maybe there's a little more to it than just that.  From this moment, and reinforced time and time again, I have understood just how careful fathers must be with their children.  Even with the very best intentions, we can hurt our prodigy in ways that we just don't expect.  This moment is, of course, way too concrete.  The fact is, there exist many more subtle ways in which we can misguide and send mixed messages to our children.  How we fathers behave in both jubilation and flat out anger impacts their minds, hearts, and souls greatly.  Every moment is a teaching moment.  Every action, every word, every facial expression... all of it... is picked up on and imprinted on these marvelous humans just trying to figure out how to make it in this convoluted, messy world.  It's overwhelming, really.  I can't wrap my mind around it.  If I concentrate on the depth of it too much, I'm likely to have a panic attack!  So, like everyone else I suppose, I trod through the day living moment to moment... just trying to remember to walk in a simple manner.  Because those little footsteps I hear behind me will one day be leading another set of little footsteps.  That's a big responsibility... but that's what I've signed up for.

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