I planned to explain my leave of absence from The Root before it happened. Then, during my wife’s routine doctor’s visit on the last Friday of August, everything went to shit.
We thought we had a week and a half before she would give birth but she was on the phone telling me that the doctor wanted us in the hospital Monday morning. I don’t even know what was said, I just remember feeling dizzy.
We hadn’t even packed a hospital bag.
The baby is here. She is fine. She was born on Sept. 2. She wakes up happy. She cries like her lungs are on fire. I am now a father of a two-year-old boy whose favorite activity is breaking things and a three-month-old girl that somehow runs the house from her crib.
I am a father of two. I feel like I should know everything. I don’t know anything.
I know one day at open gym, where we take our son on Saturdays, I wanted to beat the life out of a white dad who was allowing his son (who was probably five but looked 17) to run amok. I watched his son push over a kid’s block castle. I watched his son grab a hula hoop from a little girl and toss it. My son was laying down on the mats. His son walked over and stepped on my son’s stomach. I wanted to rage against these white thugs who attack innocent blacks.
I’m way too vulnerable.
I’m way too in my head.
I hate the news.
The news is my job.
I read stories for a living. I read one about a teen son whose father abandoned him for having gay porn on his phone. I’ve read another about a daughter who was abducted and her body was found later.
I’ve lived my life minimizing the number of people I care about. It’s a crutch and a shield.
I don’t know how I’ve made it this far. At times I feel like I’m weighed down while trying to swim in the deep end. Other days I feel like I’m floating on top of the water.
I always hated people who said shit like, “My kids are my life.” I get them now. They are my tribe.
My son is super smart. Way smarter than me. But the world isn’t kind to black boys. The world hates smart black boys.
This is why the visual of a white boy stepping on my son set me ablaze.
I didn’t fight his father.
I wanted to.
I’m growing up.
Once, my father had to be escorted out of my elementary school because a male teacher pinched my sister’s cheek so hard it turned red. I didn’t get what the big deal was. My dad wanted the man dead. I get it now.
I see my wife through my daughter’s eyes. I see my wife as a mother. She’s pretty brilliant. Both of them.
Here’s what I’ve learned:
- I’m not ready to die. I used to be OK with death. Now I’m running from it.
- Getting smacked in the face is an acceptable way for my son to wake me up.
- French fries are not only a decent snack, but they can substitute for dinner.
- My daughter looks for my face and when she sees it she smiles.
- My face must always be there.
- She must see me.
- All TV isn’t bad. My son has learned that Humpty Dumpty’s poor choices led to his demise and also that Johny is a god damned liar.
- Both are essential life lessons.
- Sometimes getting a shower may be the last thing on the list and that’s OK.
- Moms totally check out other mom’s mom-shit. It’s kind of their thing.
- Never pick your baby up when you’re angry, they can feel that shit.
- It’s OK to run for no reason.
- It’s really OK to dance for no reason.
- It’s really, really, OK to talk to yourself even if other people can hear you.
- They probably won’t remember half of this shit so it’s OK to be kind to yourself.
- They’re totally going to remember all of this shit and use it against you when they are teens, but you can still be kind to yourself.
I am a too-vulnerable, overthinking, doting father of two who believes in kindness; loves his family more than he ever thought possible; trusts the nutritional value of french fries and may or may not have showered this morning.
That is fine.
And so am I.