My wife and I are expecting our first baby. I’m beyond thrilled. Like most first-time parents, we are trying to do everything “by the book”. We’ve prepared the nursery, read parenting books, and have listened to hours of advice on the best parenting techniques. I don’t know if anyone ever feels prepared for having a baby. What I do know is that I feel ill-equipped for such a huge responsibility—but I can’t wait!
It’s a fantastic thing waiting for your baby to develop and get ready to enter the world fully. As the father, I’ve felt very helpless. Like I’m a spectator to this amazing miracle between God, my wife, and the little human being stitched together in her uterus. I’ve done my husbandly duties: rubbed her back at night, held her hand while she got her blood drawn, googled mucus plugs, ultrasounds, appeased her plantain and guacamole cravings, watched hours of YouTube videos of home births and excused the excessive release of gas in our bed. All of this, like most parents know, will be worthwhile when I’m holding my little one in my arms; eyes locked, connection made.
The very first time I heard our baby’s heartbeat was at six weeks. My wife and I were nervous because we didn’t know what to expect. We had confirmation that she was pregnant, but other than her feeling nauseous, we didn’t know exactly what was happening to her body. We prayed before walking into the ultrasound tech’s office, hoping that our little one was thriving. Then it happened. That muffled thump of life echoed in the room. It cut me deep– the heartbeat. There was life growing inside my beautiful wife. How could I already love this little glob of a being? Instantly this need to protect what was growing inside of her consumed me.
About ten weeks later, I found out we were having a boy. A BOY! I know it sounds cliché for a man to want a son, but for me, it was bigger than that. See, I lost my father at the age of 19, and for the last 11 years, I’ve missed the connection that I had with him. I was the kid that dared to think that no one compared to my father’s strength. I wanted to be like my dad so badly, and he wanted me to be like him too. I carry his name, Bernard Eugene Dafney II. I grew up and became acutely aware of my father’s fallibility and realized that I was wired very differently than him. In lieu of this, my father and I had a great relationship. He was my biggest supporter. Though he was a professional athlete, guys’ guy. He allowed me to explore every inch of being an artist. He was proud of me for being me.
MY FATHER WAS PROUD OF ME.
My father’s pride fueled so many achievements in my life. I long to give that fuel to my son, and it starts with the name—Bernard Eugene Dafney III.
There are so many things that I want to give my son:
Love, the fear of the LORD, strength, culture, humor, and all the best parts of me.
I thought that this sentiment would be that of my friends and acquaintances, but their concern was more surface.
I remember the first time someone said it, “You don’t want your son to have fro hair like yours, do you?”
I was caught off guard. I didn’t know how to respond, so I just chuckled.
“I wonder what color he’s going to be,” they say.
“Ooooh, he’ll look so cute with light skin and loose ringlet curls.”
“Do you think he’s going to look black?”
“Mixed babies are the cutest; you’re so lucky”.
I’m sure these comments meant to be compliments, but it began to unravel some of my hopes for my son.
My hopes of looking at him and seeing the best parts of me, of us, sharing the same barber, of people saying “you’re your daddy’s son’, were suddenly being diluted to a standard of attractiveness that was the antithesis of me.
I began to question if what I intended for my son, was the best for him. I wouldn’t dare want mediocrity for him, but would my features render him so?
I was amazed by people’s fascination with how my son will look and their hopes and dreams for his skin color, hair texture, nose shape, and ethnic identity.
I began to think that maybe it’s best he didn’t look like me. That perhaps if he had golden skin, soft curly locks, a subtle nose, and a small frame that people would deem him attractive.
Then I realized that none of that matters because when I look at my son,
I WILL BE PROUD.
Like Father, Like Son.