Being a dad rocks.
Granted, early on there were sleepless nights and even a few a-little-too-real nightmares where I'd thought I'd rolled over and squashed my daughter only to find out that I was sleeping on my couch and she was in her mother's arms safe and sound.
Sleep deprivation is real.
Oh, and any man with a newborn will tell you that you'd like to do unwieldy things to the sleeping beauty lying next to you as you feed an infant at 2 a.m., while trying to get by on Golden Girls re-runs and infomercials. Infomercials do work by, the way. Word to my Slap Chop!
But aside from the early struggles, being a dad rocks. It's almost like children are hard-wired to know that you go to mom for the emotional support and you go to dad for the mayhem and amusement. This isn't to suggest that I let my daughter run amuck, but I've taken to speaking to my daughter in a pseudo-Patois accent because it cracks her up. And she loves roughhousing -- all within reason, of course.
I'm also hell-bent on making my child pop-culture relevant. I've taught her how to dap me up like Will and Jazz did on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (which is a fan favorite at daycare). I've taught her how to say "you go girl" at appropriate times and I'm working on teaching her how to do the Kid-N-Play. It's like I've got a built-in best friend that gets an absolute kick out of learning everything. And I love teaching.
And don't EVEN get me started on the music. See, part of being pop-culture relevant means that I need my child to have an appreciation for music, black music in particular, like I do. That means that the sounds of Motown stay on Pandora in my house. I tried to teach her how to do one of those Temptation slide moves that they were famous for but that resulted in me sitting on the couch and my 2-year-old daughter rubbing my forehead saying, "It's okay, Daddy." Scary, because I'm not even old. Why am I getting sports injuries dancing to the Temptations?!
It's because Panama loves the kids.
I've also taught her that Hall & Oates is great cleaning music. She tries to sing along but she never quite gets enough "no's" in after singing "I can't go for that." She seems to think that it's only two. But dude, my kid knows Hall & Oates! Real talk, I feel like I've already won the battle. What battle, you ask? Not sure, but somewhere in battle for your child's well-being is the "quality music" victory. And I'm batting 1.000.
On a more emotional level though, there's just something about hugging your kid that makes the world a better place. I'm convinced of this. Interestingly enough, I'm not the only person who's aware of this. I can't tell you how many times I'm out with my daughter and I give her a hug and a kiss on the cheek or we're playing some little inside game we created and some woman, usually an older black woman, will approach me and tell me, "Good job, make sure you maintain that relationship with your daughter. It's more priceless than you think."
I often wonder if this happens to white fathers. Not to go all 1964 or anything, but I know we have major issues with absentee fatherism in the black community (and largely the American community but it seems like the black story gets major press) which perhaps creates a certain sensitivity to that interaction amongst women. And maybe that's why I get approached; these women are happy to see a black man out with his child (especially their daughters) that looks like there's nowhere else he'd rather be. It could be that it's meant to just be a reminder, in case I'm one of those who might forget. At least I can't say nobody ever told me.
I've always placed a premium on being a father. I even always wanted a little girl, though when I found out my then-girlfriend was pregnant I got cold feet and hoped for a boy because I realized how difficult it will be to parenting a daughter by the time she's 12 or 13. Hell, I'm scared about it now. But I've always known that being a father to a little girl is the most important job I'll ever have because how I do has ever lasting effects. If I screw over my daughter, it's quite possible that she won't have a healthy relationship with men and that could lead to all kinds of future disasters. Or maybe she doesn't have a healthy sense of self because she has to question why her father didn't seem to love her like mommy does. How could I live with myself knowing that I have the potential to create that type of problem for somebody who carries my DNA and actually loves me?
Ultimately that is why being a dad rocks more than anything else; I get to have fun with a sponge that gives me all of the incentive I need to grow up and realize what it truly means to be responsible. Seriously, try having to be responsible for helping turn a little girl into a happy, optimistic woman. As sexist as that statement sounds, I don't know that it's not really my job description. And above all else, I love it because I have one cool kid. A cool kid, mind you, who told me that I "looked cool" on the way to church because she liked my tie. Remember, she's two. I didn't think I'd be taking fashion tips from my daughter until she was like 13.
Follow Panama Jackson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/panamajackson