Last week, you told me butterflies are scary.
You didn’t say it in fear. You weren’t crying. And you didn’t run into the shelter of my arms, not that I would have minded. No, you shared your observation rather matter-of-factly, the vroom and zoom of your big yellow dump truck on the back deck unbroken by your admission.
I admit I didn’t know what to say. As you motored away, oblivious to my silence, I recalculated my evolving mathematical equation of parenthood, deciding that it was now twenty-five percent distraction, thirty percent exhaustion, forty percent the range of bodily functions, and a solid five percent of not knowing what to do or to say. I’m sure the math will change over time.
The beauty of my equation is that it is 100% correct. That’s because the dirty little secret of parenthood is that no one knows what the hell they are doing. Write any formula for being a dad, and, congratulations, you’re right! That said, three years in, I’ve got some tips and tricks. I know a few of your weaknesses. I understand that a Goldfish snack is a wonderful peace offering, and I learned that you can’t take too much time ensuring a diaper is secure. I discovered that suspenders are a hassle, hats can be an iffy proposition, and washable sneakers are almost a miracle.
Still, those small victories, those insights helped little as you circled around me, honking and beeping for your dump truck, mumbling about scary butterflies. I guess I didn’t know what to say because I didn’t want to know what to say. You see, to me, it takes a spotless soul to fear the fragile beauty of a butterfly. Curved, colorful wings slowly waving on the branch — if that is what scares you, then, my son, you are of an innocence beyond my reach.
The truth is that, three years in, you’ve made me a babbling brook of cliches. I still get a lightning charge of electricity up my spine when I get to talk about you. I am certain my colleagues are tired of hearing about the “best thing to ever happen to me,” and I’m fairly sure I’ve told you how much I love you often enough to wrest all meaning from the words. And, yet, it never feels enough. The unalloyed joy casts a shadow of doubt, a feeling that it isn’t possible to do enough for this little boy that rules your heart.
I hope, one day, you have a little boy or a little girl of your own. Only then will you grasp how much your daddies love you. And, just maybe, you will hear that your child is scared of butterflies. And you’ll understand.