'Help me not to mess her up too bad' (to be a dad, ch. 1)

Truth is, yeah, I am feeling pretty clueless about being a dad. Whatever fatherhood is, it assumes the office-holder has something to give. Whether total or partial, personal or practical, it supposes itself to be a kind of answer to the question that we are.

But, honestly, I'm much more question than answer at this point. Even trying to write about fatherhood feels embarrassing and futile. What the hell do I know about fatherhood? I don’t have any pretenses. I don’t know what I’m doing. I have no slick prognostications about fatherhood. I don’t have a step-by-step technique to slide into.

I could wax about daddy issues, but I won’t, mostly because I don’t think even having the best dad can shield you from that towering scaredshitlessness that befalls the dad-to-be as he peers at the rest of his life and all the ways he has doomed himself to failure, failure to love, to pay honest attention, to delight, to be patient, to inform her both of her limitlessness and her limitations, and of all things to teach her to live like the beloved that she is.

I haven’t even held this human yet, this good-news girl whose eyes will ask us questions to which our life is still attempting an honest answer. But I already am wide-awake to all the ways that I will fail her, because I’m wide-awake to the ways my dad failed me, and he too is awake to all the ways his dad failed him.

So I am praying a deceptively bold prayer.

Help me not to mess her up too bad.

It sounds dreadful.

But I promise it’s actually daring.

I promise I am not consigning myself to failure. I am putting love on the line. * Here’s the deal, friend: loving you is a bottom-3 skill for me, sandwiched between diagnosing car problems and not being a sore loser. I am much better at making myself look good, manipulating the world for my benefit, customizing life for comfort and convenience.

And yet I’m hooked on this crooked conviction that it’s a glorious thing to fail at love, to mark upon my gravestone

‘Here lies a man who humiliated himself every day trying to do the one thing alien to him’

because to fail in the attempt to love this good-news girl of mine is far more beautiful than to preserve the fantasy of being a wildly successful guru-dad.

Help me not to mess her up too bad.

My anthem, my earthy hope. My breath prayer, my thousand-times-a-day sigh, my concession that I’m learning on the job how to find both her and I beloved.


p/c: raygen brown