A Personal Essay
My quiet has changed as it now includes another person during that time. My mornings which I cherished for my alone time are now blessed with a soul entirely reliant on me. Before I looked forward to being the only body in the room, but now my son lies there, sleeping peacefully in his dock a tot (something I didn’t know existed before his birth), and I cannot help looking at him every minute to make sure he is still breathing. I am annoyed that I am acting as other parents do, but in other ways, it reminds me that I am on the right path. It’s okay to fret, to worry, to wonder if we are doing this right. There is so much we don’t know. There is a bit of admiration for Jaz and I for our willingness to learn and not just rely on others exclusively. Gratitude fills me as I look at my wife Jaz for giving me this short at fatherhood, even after knowing all my shortcomings.
My biggest regret and future concerns are that my lack of knowledge and interest in athletics which could create a distance between father and son. Also, my age. At 51, I am raising a three-month-old. What the hell was I thinking? Those are the worries that haunt me, but then the moments pass as I watch him lie there, taking up my world and heart. A fullness blooms inside me that I didn’t think possible. There is nothing I am not willing to do to ensure he has what he needs. Not just material things because that’s not what I remember about my own father. Knowing that you are loved can take you far in life.
Watching my son provides so much wonder, even moments of anxiety when he is quiet for longer than 15 minutes. He is a noisy sleeper, whipping his arms about as best as he can even though securely swaddled by Jaz. He sleeps like the little king he is. He yells out as if I am a referee and he’s telling me life is unfair that he is packed up like a burrito, but his eyes don’t open. I imagine him dreaming. What do newborns dream of? It seems like something because he is quiet for a bit but then he coos as if singing to someone. Everything about him fascinates and terrifies me. There is so much I must learn so he knows that I got this. There are times that panic overwhelms as I imagine all that I never bothered to get involved in or even tried.
From sports to making friends to learning the value of good decision making. I do know I was raised with a lot of love, and don’t really know of many instances where my parents were angry with me. But there are so many things I did not learn as a boy transitioning to a man, from sexual drive to shaving to boy related issues because I didn’t have the best relationship with my dad during junior high and high school. I want to be totally honest with my son about masturbation, about circumcision and about the questions he may be curious about. I hope I become a figure he comes to rather than fears.
I continue staring at him and resist the urge to soothe him as he tries to wriggle out of the tight cloth around him to help him sleep. I want to tell him that it keeps him safe even though it feels constricted, and maybe makes him wonder if he is trapped. A great metaphor for parenthood. I don’t want to be feel like the swaddle but I want to achieve the same goal of keeping him safe, secure and not feel out of control or not know how to control his actions. To know he can always be wrapped up in our arms and hearts. To feel the concern we have for him, and our willingness to do anything to take away his fame.
Ugh. My feelings and words feel cliché, and for a moment, regret comes to me that it took so long to get here. I’d assumed I would be a father by the time I hit my 30s. Life had other plans. It just seemed a foregone conclusion. Watching my nieces and nephews grow up and always liking being the favorite uncle, it just felt like the next stage in my journey. How’s that saying go? Want to make God laugh? Tell Him your plans. But when in this context, looking at my son, the time disappears, and so do all the reasons it took to get here. That’s because revisiting that time means reliving moments and people who are no longer in my life. It maddens me at the time lost, but it was also the time I needed to truly appreciate and live this moment.
These contradictory feelings emerge each morning as I take him in, and I just wish I was younger, more youthful, had more energy, was more knowledgeable, more whatever it takes to be the best father he has, because lord knows I didn’t have one. But Papa did make up for it, but still the scars remain which makes me wonder in what way will I let my boy down, make him less than a person, make him doubt himself due to my words and actions. It’s inevitable no matter how much I want to pretend that I will be a perfect father. Flashes of my interaction with Papa come up, but they are interspersed with how we ended up which I am thankful for. I don’t remember much of my childhood with him, but that’s likely to the stroke from 10 years ago which robbed me of some stuff, but there are others I do remember or was short term memory the real victim?
This is what troubles me as I try to picture my past. At first, a blank form and then things to come up, but they are repeats as if I am on memory playlist that only knows certain things and just plays them over and over. But after 50 years, there must be more than a few of these things. It matters now even more than ever because my son will want to know, and I will want to tell him. Or perhaps they don’t need to be about my early past, but how each time Papa got a chance, he’d lay a kiss on my cheek. He was not shy about showing me affection even while I got embarrassed. Or we acted as a team in the Ziba Music days. Both standing and attending to different types of clients. A sort of rhythm where we managed to play Indian classical music and the next Punjabi hip hop influenced remix albums. I believe they call them mashups now. (I don’t get it.) And I know the music my son will listen to will differ greatly from me. Even now I can hear the music, the mini arguments Papa I had on what to stock. I was so sure of myself, and even though he argued back, he always let me have my way. Not always the greatest idea, but then again, I managed to learn things he was unable to show or tell me. It took those failure to grow. He let me fail even as it cost him money. I will do the same, empty my bank accounts if need be so HE can learn, grow, and do better than I ever did.
I wonder if he will have my curiosity or my lack of interest in making big bucks. Whether he will inherit my need to know and learn new things and push my ways I never imagined in the later stages of life. Will he start off as certain I was on my life goal in High School, UCLA, Southwestern, Ziba Music and the Ziba Beauty? Proud on my path but laid with uncertainty and ignorance but somehow positive I would end up on my feet. Will he do that or learn that? Yes, the great nature versus nurture debate.
Thoughts and the past swirl around me as I stare at my future adult son. A continual dread permeates me. Will I let him down? Will I teach him all that he needs to know to navigate this world? Will my mistakes with him turn into traumas that cause him great pain? That part is the one that keeps me up. Tossing and turning, I don’t want him to have my trials, but his own. Which means I get to do better than what I was taught. At a minimum, pass on the intimacy, love, friendship and family that I have experienced. Which also means he faces some of the bad. I can’t shield him from it all, but maybe, just maybe, he learns the tools to battle those demons, to demolish them before they enter his heart like they did mine.
Ending up as another me is not an option. That’s not to say I have had a bad life, but knowing what I know now, so much wasted time and effort and grief in things that did not add any value. Not having a constant male figure until much later in life had consequences. I say this without blame at Papa. After all, his past was worse than mine, and he did better once he figured he wanted to be there. My own resistance made things harder. I don’t want to make that mistake with my son. He deserves better than that. He needs to know how I feel from day one and any chance I can get I want to be there. In person, in spirit or in thought.
Fatherhood means companionship to me. Also, teacher, mentor, family, partner, someone to come to for any questions. My wish is that he knows he is loved unconditionally and won’t be judged. I will disagree with this actions, and thoughts and feelings at times, but it won’t mean I will leave his side. Even as I put those words, I know that I will miss some aspects of his life. Being 51 ensures that while I fully enjoy and support him, there will be less time. I may miss his college graduation or marriage or perhaps my grandchildren. It makes a bit sad, but in the end the joy he brings to my quiet makes it all worthwhile. I keep watching him in the morning quiet.