Let me first state that the first order of good fatherhood, and the only one on which I can claim expertise, is finding and keeping the best woman possible. In my experience this is best achieved through dumb luck, hard work and a belief in miracles. You see, fatherhood is a series of miracles.
The first miracle of fatherhood happened in my life when my wife agreed to marry me. There is no real explanation for how or why this happened, but I can testify that it did.
I realized the second miracle approximately three months after the birth of my first child. It was late one evening, I was holding this small person in my arms, looking into her deep brown eyes and I realized that this child was in fact alive. It was true. I watched as she breathed in, then out, then in again. She spit up on my shirt. She was definitely still alive; a miracle.
This was not the miracle I expected.
The child was very expected. Say what you will, it is very hard for the birth of a child to sneak up on anyone. We had two years of time to become a good team, then nine months of incubation, all followed by a very dramatic episode that resulted in a very small, very alive, little girl. Thousands of years and billions of births came before us, so none of these things were unexpected. These were very natural, very intentional, very, yes, expected. They were also very external.
The miracle I did not expect was so unexpected, and here is the strange part, that it never actually happened. That is right. The unexpected miracle was realized when the miracle I did expect didn’t happen.
Sitting there, looking at this beautiful little life, I realized I was still just me. I wasn’t different. Inside, I still felt like I did three months, nine months or two years ago. I did not feel more loving, think I was any smarter. There was no cosmic shift. I was still me. Just me.
And after three months, she was still alive.
That was nine years and another kid ago. The miracles keep coming.
Watching kid No. 1 at the bar in ballet class, I see an unmistakable, undeniable grace. Her mother, despite being the best woman I should have never caught, does not have that grace, and I am still just me. Watching kid No. 2 sit on the naughty step after throwing a shoe, I see a sort of bravery, the sort that looks a person 10 times her size directly, unflinchingly, in the eye. She does not cringe, she does not shrink; she is absolutely not me. But I am still me.
That is the unexpected miracle.
After all these years I still feel like me, and my children are not just OK, they are great.
Now sure, I have changed. I have grown, but nothing miraculous. It has all been very labored, very progressive. A natural growth that comes from repetitive actions and acclimatization.
That is the miracle of fatherhood.
We are not granted magical powers. We do not rise in esteem through our skill or our innate qualities. We are not transformed from without, nor do we experience this huge flash from within. Most of the time I experience a sort of nothing. A sameness. Normality.
But if I try, if I show up and then show up again, I get to see miracles.
Dalyn Montgomery has a masters in higher education from the University of Pennsylvania and works in college admissions. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org