I’ve been a dad for about 5 days, which obviously makes me an authority to write articles on being a dad. I’m unsure about my authority on dad-hood (yet). But I’m also now unsure of my authority on nearly everything I knew about myself before the arrival of little Ruby Lee Holmes, too.
Ruby is now 5 days old, which is coincidentally the same amount of time I’ve now been a dad. And for all the things about myself I’m no longer sure of, here’s one thing I do know – I’m not the same man I was 5 days ago. Ruby has changed me. And I like the change.
Maybe it’s the way her fist holds my finger – barely big enough to make it all the way around. Maybe it’s seeing the way my wife brought her into the world – with unthinkable strength and bravery. Maybe it’s the purity, innocence and just plain goodness I see in her face.
Maybe more than anything, it’s the responsibility I feel for her. What was I doing before she arrived? As I held Ruby for the first time, all I could think was, “I’m going to take care of you. I’m going to protect you. I’m going to provide for you.” What was I responsible for before her? This kind of responsibility is a depth of meaning and purpose I’ve not felt before.
In a matter of days, I’ve become a Facebook, Instagram, Twitter baby picture posting machine – gushing about the duck face Ruby makes when she’s hungry. Things I didn’t know about myself.
A few days ago, a friend texted a screenshot of one of those shameless postings and said, “Remember when you were apprehensive about having a baby . . . we all believed this would happen.” Things other people know about me I didn’t know about myself.
I’m a dad now. Which means more than donning St. John’s Bay pleated khakis from the hospital. It means I need New Balances too . . .
Now that I’ve secured both, what it really means for me is that Ruby is mine. I’m responsible for her. I’ll take care of her and love her just for being. She doesn’t have to do anything. If I know anything about God, let it be the knowledge that He looks at us the same way.
I replied to my friend, “I was totally unprepared for how awesome she is.”
But I can’t blame myself for being that unprepared. What could have possibly prepared me for this? All the friends, coworkers and family on earth could never put into words the purity of the moment Ruby entered the world. The strength of her mother in labor. The innocence of Ruby asleep. The joy of holding her. The responsibility I choose to take for her. It’s too good for mere words.
Karl Rahner said, “Some things are understood not by grasping but by allowing oneself to be grasped.”
5 days ago, I could not have grasped the knowledge or feeling of fatherhood. I had to be grasped by the knowledge and feeling itself. Now I know, and feel, it all.
If anything in my life has grasped me, it’s the fist that can hardly make it around my finger. The duck face for something only her mother can give – I can’t. I am totally and completely grasped by a 7.5-pound human who doesn’t yet know who I am. But if I do things right, she’ll know me soon enough – as her provider, protector and dad.
5 days ago, I didn’t know I so desperately wanted to be known as such. But I have a feeling, in the coming years, Ruby will teach me many things I don’t yet know about myself. For example, I’ve already discovered I can go 5 days on sleep-hours I can count on one hand. That’s something I wish I didn’t know about myself.
As I think about the things I want to teach Ruby about herself, I also think of the things she will teach me. It’s only been 5 days and I feel my identity morphing into something new. Ruby’s a new person – I’m becoming a new person alongside her – a dad. It’s my favorite me so far.