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Fatherhood at the One-Year Mark

I forget what life was like pre-Liliana, even though I had 35 years of it 

 

      I took my daughter strawberry picking. This season the strawberries were as luscious as they were plump. Their tart sweetness is not to be underrated; they are that good. Boy, did Liliana agree.

     She took well to the juicy pulp. No sooner than I would drop the fruit onto the cardboard picking tray than she would grab one and take a bite with her two and a quarter teeth. Her cute, sunshine-yellow shorts that my wife had picked out for her had become imbued with vibrant red stains. The skin surrounding her face, with red liquid dripping from her chin, looked more suited to the macabre Halloween costume of the killer rabbit in Monty Python and the Holy Grail than a little girl picking fruit at the farm.

     “Liliana!” I exclaimed, “Look what you did to your shorts.” I could not hold my laughter. She looked at me and giggled. 

     Reaching out with her prized half-bitten, juice-gushing strawberry in hand, she extended it upward as if she wanted to feed me. The gesture, sweeter than the strawberry, I gladly accepted, opening my mouth for the tasty gift.

     Then at the precise nanosecond as my mouth was about to close, she very quickly, and very meticulously, pulled the strawberry back and shoved it in her own mouth. She could not contain her giggles. I laughed. She laughed. My wife laughed. A makeshift game of peek-a-boo ensued. Strawberry stains abound. Life is wonderful.

    I have now been a father for 14 months. Last year in Bay Weekly, I wrote of her exciting, stressful entrance into this world. However it was in that moment that my life began anew. Pardon the hyperbolic prose, but I forget what the majority of life was like pre-14 months ago, even though I had 35 years of it. 

     Looking back I cannot quantify how many times I was told, prophetically, that becoming a parent “will change you.” I lost track after number 347. Yet all these oracles were correct; I am a changed man. I can change a baby’s clothes. I can even change diapers.

     She has changed me, all for the better. I have more purpose and direction in my life since becoming a father. The time spent with my family is precious because to be a great father I also have to be a great husband. I look at my career as a conservation journalist differently because I want all the amazing flora and fauna I’ve covered to be there for my daughter.    

     There are quiet changes, too. I try to take my time with her, slow down and enjoy the present moment, read her those extra stories because she sure is growing fast. I can relate to my own parents more, as having a child is quite the commonality.

     Also, those little things that used to bother me? They just don’t anymore. This is all due to my daughter’s influence.

     She’s also proving to be quite the photographer’s assistant. A few weeks ago we took Liliana on her first camping trip off the Appalachian Trail in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park, one of my favorite locations on this big blue marble. My favorite tree — not species, but specimen — lives there, and Liliana was able to touch it. Less than 10 minutes into our first hike, we came across a black bear sow and two cubs. The bears were eating grasses, and Liliana giggled at them. They lifted their heads to see the laughing cherubic figure, allowing her father ample time to photograph them. (Safety note: Always keep a safe distance and carry bear spray.) 

     My wife and I hold sharing nature with Liliana as very important. From bird song (which she adores) to her first snow, these experiences have strengthened my relationship with the natural world. I also like sharing a good campfire meal with her. 

     Now about that strawberry …