Regardless of how much I love Penelope I struggle to give her my full attention. It takes a conscious effort to pull away from the computer, the iPhone, a magazine, and most difficult of all, my thoughts. There are times when Penelope has my complete attention. Too often I am telling myself “pay attention, this is important!”. Fatherhood has changed me but it didn’t eliminate my tendency to be easily distracted.
I never gave much thought to what it means to be a father, outside of the base understanding most of us have about parenthood. “I will now be responsible for another person until they are grown”. My imagination went dry because I was terrible at assuming what our child’s personality would be like.
In 2006 Jenn and I discovered we were not eligible to adopt until 2011. My thoughts about parenthood went into hibernation. There were moments when I wondered if we were ever going to experience the joy of parenthood. Then one day Jenn and I started talking about adoption again. We agreed on a day we would submit our application. All the while a voice in the back of my mind (and I suspect Jenn’s also) said “It’s never gonna happen.”
On April 1st, 2011 we handed in our paperwork. From that moment I focused on the legal process of becoming a father through adoption. Even when we received our approval from our adoption agency, I worried about the outcome. “It could still fall through. Relations between the Chinese and U.S. could break down and all foreign adoptions canceled or on hold.” Through each step, each piece of paperwork, and each certification on each piece of paperwork, my mind focused on “next steps”.
And then another project came to the forefront; our hall bathroom. I was already in the process of renovating it, having ripped it down to the studs. Renovating that room was a blessing because I had no time to think about anything but the adoption process and reconstructing our bathroom. It was a curse because I had no time to think about anything else, like being a father. I should point out I am not a handyman. During the renovation I learned how to run cable, sweat copper, and install a bathtub. The shower curtain was hung and the blinds installed ten days before we left for China.
Before I knew it Penelope was running up to me, holding her hands up in what is now a familiar pose. I was still clueless about what it meant to be a father.
This is not a declaration.
It is not a cry for help.
It’s a marker. A post for me to look back on in a year, two years, or five. A personal challenge to weigh the meaning and magnitude of fatherhood.
With less than a year of parenting under my belt, what does fatherhood mean to me? It means love and compassion. It means I am always thinking of what is best for my daughter.