First-time father, full-time duck
Until two weeks ago, Fathers Day was something that happened to other people.
Oh, Catherine sometimes got me a present in June and said it was from our dog, Huckleberry. But that doesn’t quite compare to the real thing.
For the first time ever, I’m someone’s Dad.
On May 31, we brought John Michael Thomas Platt into our home. Not even a month old, he’s already been on quite an odyssey.
He was born in an Asheville hospital to parents who are fans of Doctor Who and Star Trek and who don’t really appreciate using the state constitution to institutionalize prejudice against anyone.
The adoption agency placed him in respite care for the next seven days, which took him east and south to Fuquay-Varina.
When we went to sign the papers and transition him into our custody, we were in an office on the 17th floor of the BB&T building in downtown Raleigh.
Now he’s with us in Watts-Hillandale.
We didn’t even have time to panic.
From the moment we got the call at Walt Disney World to his arrival in our lives, our time was consumed by picking up a stroller, crib and child seats for the cars and stocking up on diapers and formula. We had to finalize our medical records, complete an updated home study and send in our fingerprints for federal criminal background checks.
We even had to drive to Asheville for a day trip to meet with the birth parents, just to make sure they truly approved of us to take the child into our care. We got along famously.
So now, suddenly, we have a son.
I am amazed. Thrilled. Terrified.
That first day, I sympathized so much with Wile E. Coyote, speeding off the cliff and hanging in thin air. But the coyote never fell until he looked down, so I’m doing all I can to look anywhere but down.
My own Dad probably best described how it really feels: I’m a duck. Calm on the surface, but paddling like hell underwater.
I want to be a great father to our child. I know I’ll make mistakes. Much of this experience will be trial and error. I just want to minimize the damage caused by all the errors.
What kind of father will I be?
I don’t want to be a Darth Vader. You know, the father who barely knows his kids are there and spends all his time abroad until he’s ready to deal with them on HIS terms, and when he finally does show up, he hurts more than he helps.
I worry I might be an H.I. McDonough – the incompetent rube in “Raising Arizona” who stumbles into fatherhood when he’s barely more than a child in his own mind, letting foolish instincts drive him along until someone notes “Son, you’ve got a panty on your head.”
I’d be okay as a Gil Buckman: a hard-working father and dedicated husband in “Parenthood,” sometimes driven a little too much by wanting to avoid mistakes of the past.
But, in the end, I know I’ll have to settle for just being me, for good or ill. I won’t have a Hollywood script or neat film editing to polish my performance.
I just hope the kid enjoys the show.