There are a million ways to write about this, and I spent a week staring at a blank page, not being able to come up with even one. Then I realized why.
I was looking to the world for answers, instead of looking within.
I was always that guy who thought making someone laugh was more important than making someone lunch. I was the class clown, the troublemaker, the school truant, the pot smoker, the perpetually unemployed, and, of course, the serial dater.
A notch on the bedpost was as important as the A on the exam. Who am I kidding? It was infinitely more important. At the time I was convinced it was because of how much I loved girls. I thought it was a testament to worshiping the opposite sex. As I grew older I realized it was more about me than any of them. In fact, it was all about me, so much so that I never gave many of them a passing thought once their notch was carved deep into my depravity.
I'm 39 years old. I'm not all that proud of my behaviour as a teenager and young adult. It's been years since the last time I viewed a woman as a sexual conquest, but the impending arrival of a daughter has me swimming back into my past, and I feel the riptide of guilt pulling me under.
So, back to the present. We have a son who will turn 2 years old at about the same time my partner is due to give birth. When he was born I had to change. I like to think I changed while my partner was pregnant, but if changing is a cellar door, it was simply ajar when Michelle was pregnant. When Caspar was born he kicked that door right off its hinges. Call it his very first step.
I really don't want to come off like a guy praising himself for his growth or anything. Redemption seekers spill too much ink these days, writing essays to signal their evolved virtues to audiences who are probably fatigued by these desperate indulgences. I think what I'm really doing is finding a way to visualize a discussion with myself.
I wonder how many of us have secrets we would never tell our children, and if it is possible to use those secrets to become better parents. Like the conman who becomes an FBI agent, maybe I can use my ingrained flaws and experiences as a method to shape my daughter into a young woman who could see a guy like me coming a mile away.
I've even silently wished my daughter be born a lesbian, convincing myself that in these modern times being gay is probably easier than dealing with men who collect notches. It's silly, I know. Hell, it might even be offensive to some people, but it isn't easy for a recovering idiot who is trying to weigh his daughter's well being against the realities of the western world.
She, like the kids from the last 15 years or so, will be growing up with 24/7 access to pornography, new designer drugs, new technologies meant to connect people but that end up fragmenting us even further, and a father trying desperately to absorb all of these realities on his daughter's behalf, just to help him understand her better.
It's all so exhausting, and she's not even here yet.
I'm told by friends with children that it doesn't have to be this way, and if I'm not careful I could end up creating the exact kind of problems I'm trying desperately to avoid. They say that being present is more important than being on guard. I haven't yet bought into that advice, but I'm beginning to understand why it makes sense.
When our daughter gets here she will have a mom, a dad, and a big brother. Her mother is a naturally positive force, a salt of the earth individual who leads by example. Her big brother is a little boy who will show her the ropes and protect her. Her father is a better man thanks to those two people, and he will try his best to destroy the idiot inside him, or at least put him in the shadows long enough for her to become the light of his life. It's the least he can do.
Christ, now I sound like a guy looking for redemption. I'm not, I swear. Redemption is too easy.
I'm looking for my daughter. I just realized that after all those experiences with all those women, I never once saw somebody's daughter. Now when I look at women, that's all I can see.
Hell, maybe redemption just found me instead.