Submitted by Jon Thorne (The New Papa)
While I was in the expecting stages of becoming The New Papa, a wise father told me that a man could never truly know fear until he has a child. Now, this father was similar to me in that his son was born to him in his mid-40s. What was different was that his son had severe health problems, needing surgery and intensive medical care. At that time, I simply played off the idea that this father had had a rare experience and his ideas of fear came from a unique place. His experience was his own and mine would be totally different. I wouldn't fear anything. Of course, I was totally wrong.
I was very fortunate that my beautiful baby boy was born very healthy. Yet, that idea of truly knowing fear came at me fast and furious, even before my boy was born. During my wife's labor, as she lay on the delivery table waiting for her water to break, a sudden alarm came blasting through our phones. This was followed by a 6.6 magnitude earthquake. Now, I'm from California and am quite experienced with earthquakes. I can usually brush them off pretty instantly. Not this time. My heart sank. I froze in terror. I was waiting for everything to come crashing down, being on the fifth floor of the hospital. All my golden dreams of the picture perfect family turned into a bloody mess of carnage underneath the rubble and dust of a flattened building. Obviously that did not happen. The doctors came in and were quite reassuring, but I still asked if I could have my own epidural. My legs shook the rest of the day, even after the delivery was over and I was at home finally trying to get some sleep. It kept running through my head: such a fragile creature I just created. How the hell could the human race have survived this long?!? It was the first of many sleepless nights.
Even now, after my seasoned fatherhood of 11 months, that fear remains. I'm still waiting for it all to come crashing down. New fears now dominate my thoughts: is he eating enough, did I proof the house enough, is my wife too stressed, am I holding him too much or not enough, what's that new rash on his leg, shouldn't he be walking by now, is he crying all day when I'm at work, what if I lose my job, is my health strong enough to do this, what if I die? The weight of it all is immense. I haven't yet learned how to shake it completely off, but I do have some ideas on how to manage it all.
I feel that in order to manage fear, you have to be able to understand where the fear comes from. For me it's pretty simple, I'm a control freak. I've said it before, I've always had a basic lack of trust in people. This has led me to avoid accepting help from others, the prideful vanity of doing everything on my own and my own way. I've noticed the fearful thoughts are the loudest as I'm on my way to work, from the moment I step out of the house. It's at that point I give up all control and the symphony of worry begins. It generally lasts all day until I return home and pick up my son. It's a horrible way to spend the day. It causes me to make many decisions based on the fear. I can't go out for a coffee after work, I need to get home immediately. I can't buy that new bag for work, all my money needs to be saved for emergencies. I can't complain to my wife about anything because she's already stressed and tired. It's not healthy, and not what my son or wife needs.
Thus, another lesson for The New Papa to learn: you can't control everything all the time. I have to believe in my wife, that she has the power to be an amazing and caring mother. I have to believe in my son, that he has the power within him to grow strong and independent. I have to believe in myself, that I have the power to truly put my thoughts and focus on the areas that I can and should control. I cannot make another decision rooted in fear. Only sorrow and misery will sprout. I want my family to be surrounded by trees of hope!
Another wise friend (really lucky to have so many wise people in my life) once wrote that the lack of peace in most people's lives comes from living in fear of a future that may never even happen. It's time to start living in the joy of a future that will eventually come true!