Better Life

The Father I Still Hope to Be

The Father I Still Hope To Be Featured
My fatherhood ship hasn’t sailed yet…it’s just waiting for the winds to die down a bit.

In the last few years, when asked if I want children, my response has changed from a resounding “Yes” to a more realistic “I would like kids, but if I don’t have any, I think my life will still be very good.” I am proud of myself for being open to anything, yet I can’t help but feel like my kids are waiting in some sort of imaginary train station, watching the departures board intently as they try to make their way home. They’re bursting with potential, excited for me to be their father. They have my smile and I’ve even given them names. Then the board flashes “CANCELED.”

And, crazy as I am, I picture my would-be daughter turning to her younger brother: “He doesn’t want us anymore.” Neither of them understands what changed, or what they might have done wrong.

When I watch my sister wrangle her two daughters—aged 2 and 1—I get very overwhelmed imagining how this is her life all day, every day. They give her no rest, reminding me how “lucky” I am to have my selfish freedom and open door. Then, once the girls doze off—in that precious pocket of silence—I see what I’m missing, and fully understand the joys of parenthood. It’s a reflective moment, recalling the dynamic day as both girls laughed, squealed, cried, and destroyed the apartment twice over. They are the most perfect, beautiful babies, and my life suddenly feels void of something. How rewarding that my sister can give them the same gift she received from our parents.

You know those high school superlatives that we do at graduation? (“Most Likely to Succeed,” “Best Hair,” and so forth.) My class picked me as “Student Who Would Be the Best Father.” Oddly narrow, I know, but flattering nevertheless. I’ve always taken a shepherd’s approach to social situations, and get very excited about including strangers, connecting people, and paving the path for those who take it behind me.

Since I was little, having kids was one of a few things I knew I wanted—I would be married to a woman, buy a house, and have a multiple babies of my own before 30. My Midwestern view on the world has been appropriately challenged since then, and my goal these days is to just get to the next payday without over drafting—or at least to have lots of fun while over drafting. My current guiding principle: Earn your keep, then keep none of it; for all those years I spent to become this man, I’ll enjoy the payoff myself.

As a gay man who can barely afford his own New York City rent, I’m not sure how I’ll ever afford to have kids. I haven’t even found a long-term partner yet, but when I do, I know with certainty that he won’t be getting pregnant. Surrogates and adoptions are terribly expensive, and on top of that there are so many things I want to do before having kids that fly right out the window as soon as I start changing diapers and practicing the alphabet. All of my experience and wisdom would go to my children, but what about me? What about the decades I’ve still got left on this planet?

I feel a little lost right now, but I hope I haven’t lost the part of me who “Would Be the Best Father.” I’m still very realistic about the likelihood of having kids—maybe I’ll be the guy who’s 75 at his kid’s high school graduation! That seems about as likely as anything these days, especially since I’m so blissfully selfish. (For the record, “selfish” isn’t always a bad thing. It is used here as matter of fact.)

There are many nights where I lay in bed reflecting on my often-aimless, always-manic days, thinking, “It would be nice to give somebody else the chance to do this, so they can experience all the joys of a selfishness, too.”

But as I doze off—again finding myself in that precious pocket of silence—I see the train’s status update from “CANCELED” to “DELAYED.” There’s still hope, kids.