First hopes for fatherhood

May 25, 2011

life / parenting

I became a father the other day. It’s all quite surreal, still, so I’m really not sure what to think about it in any immediate sense. But in trying to contemplate what has actually happened in my life, I started to think about what my actual hopes are. This is a big deal for me, really, as I’ve spent years in deep fear of fatherhood, and it has been very hard for me to think beyond those fears, still harder to move beyond them.

I don’t put these hopes out lightly, but I feel like they need to be introduced into my life, and then of course lived. I’m very ignorant of what the actual effects of fatherhood on my life will be (beyond the obvious lack of sleep, time, spontaneity, and other things that generally increase my sense of fear), and I do fear that my hopes will come to nothing. But if I don’t remember the hopes, I feel like I’m more likely to be paralyzed by the fears.

Leila is a Hebrew name that means “night,” and Eleora means “God is my light.” I feel like this is a powerful thing. I don’t hope that our daughter will live in fear of the world, but rather in the wise love that is shown to us by those who have struggled against darkness, their own and that of the world in its many sufferings and places of pain and brokenness.

Her name speaks to me of those things.

As she is a daughter, many other things speak to me. My mind has been filled for years with an outside view of the things women face in the world, and the beautiful things available to them. Few things say this better to me than the manifesto from the wonderful folks at SheLoves Magazine (I was thinking it could be good for both of us if, even now, I begin to read it to her).

They are beautiful words that speak to loving God and loving others. They refuse to allow us, as parents, or Leila, as our daughter, to think the world is about her. And this is one of my biggest fears. It’s so easy for parents to feel like the world is all about their children, and children naturally accept this if it is available to them.

But no. Let her be a woman who Loves. A woman who carries others. A sanctuary where God may dwell. One who rises to the questions of her time. One who listens for those who have been silenced… and all the other beautiful words there.

I hope we will live into those things. There are places I want the love of God and the love of others to take us, and they are not compatible with an inwardly-focused life that is all about her. But I’m allowing myself to hope that it doesn’t have to be that way.

I’m allowing myself to hope that Leila’s place in our family will even allow us to live more fully into living out our thoughts and dreams for life. For following our passions for creating beautiful and meaningful things, as that develops for each of us. For living and practicing faith in real, broken and honest community, knowing and living among people on the fringes, and seeking justice in our own lives and in the midst of systemic injustice. And also for knowing and living in the presence, grace, love, and upside-down kingdom of God as we follow Jesus together.

These are my initial hopes. I know they’ll be refined, but I want to look back at them as a starting point, rather than a point from which I did nothing but regress.