Before I was even pregnant, the mountain man warned me not to get my hopes up. He told me not to have high expectations of him as a father, or to impose my ideas of fatherhood on him. I have a dad who loves babies. We worked a lot so he wasn’t around much during the week, but it was all family time all weekend. My dad loved kids. If there’s a baby within a 10-mile radius, he will find it, toss it in the air, make funny faces and noises and then give it a “milk shake” and probably get puked on.
My dad helped us with homework, cooked us breakfast, raced home from work to come (in uniform) to our band concerts. He bought us books and memberships, took us on vacations, sent us on study-abroad programs, hugged us, took care of us.
This was my idea of what a father is.
The Mountain Man said he didn’t think he would hold the baby. He once said that babies are accessories for women, and that men just don’t hold babies. They just don’t.
Then, for about two years, every time I saw a man holding a baby I would point it out.
There was a lot of exasperated eye-rolling.
When we got pregnant, he seemed to think that the baby was going to come out 6 years old, walking, talking, building stuff, climbing trees, riding a bike and going on hikes. I told him that the baby would be small, helpless, and need him for all of her needs. He said he would wait until she could walk before he’d play with her.
He asked how old she would be before she could play catch or go on the motorcycle with him.
I reminded him that this was his baby, too, and that he had to hold her sometimes, he had to hug her and kiss her and love her. He had to be a daddy and play baby games with her.
He said babies didn’t seem all that interesting.
I was a little worried that he would actually be the kind of father that he imagined himself as. Distant, uninvolved.
I knew he wouldn’t be that way, but sometimes, in my moments of worry and fear, I wasn’t sure if he would be the kind of parent that I wanted my partner to be.
I decided to just let it happen. To let parenting happen to him – and I was pretty sure that he would be what I knew he could be: a loving, involved, snuggly daddy.
I had very specific ideas about the kind of father I wanted my Mountain Man to be. He wasn’t sure that he would be the kind of father I expected him to be, and he was worried that he couldn’t live up to my expectations.
I had to work really hard to just let him find his own parenting groove. He had to figure out how to be a daddy on his own, and he and the Pie had to figure each other out. I could be a tour guide, but they had to make it work.
And they did.
Although I felt like I always knew he would be an amazing daddy, I was sometimes uncertain. I felt like I needed to convince him of the benefits of being involved. I felt like I might need to teach him how to parent. I thought I might end up begging him to hold and kiss his baby. I never thought these things until he told me not to have high expectations. And because I had high expectations, I then feared the worst.
Although my nature is to direct, orchestrate, instruct, I resisted. I handed our baby over for daddy and baby to become a duo. I gave some pointers, occasional bits of unsolicited advice, and a few warnings.
They’ve had some bumps and bruises along the way. It’s a steep learning curve for someone who’s never been around babies. But I went against my controlling nature and allowed them to forge their own relationship. I gave the Mountain Man the space to be an authentic parent, his own version of daddy.
They did some things I wouldn’t have done (see “dangerous baby activities”) they definitely cleared their own trail. But if I had been instructing, directing, interfering, an authentic relationship wouldn’t come nearly as easily, if at all.
The Mountain Man still turns to me when she’s fussy. He thinks I have some sort of baby magic. But he makes her smile and laugh more than I can. He will teach her things that I can’t, support her in ways that I may not be able to, and love her in their own special way.
They have built (and continue to build) this relationship, because I stood back and let him be his own parent.