April 23, 2014

A young father's manifesto

Daughter, darling, your mother and I commit, I always make every effort to:
- Put your needs above ours
- Respect your nature like a pristine landscape
- Equip you with the tools necessary for life: self-confidence, self-control, perseverance, fluid thinking, humor, joy, empathy, introspection, resilience
- Teach you to trust, to be independent but also to be reliant, love and be loved
- To give you knowledge and teach you how to teach yourself
- Listen to you and be attentive to you
- Encourage you in everything that you will endeavor, and in the paths you will choose, even we will not understand them,
- Respect your choices even if they will be about turning your back on us
- Love you with all our heart and all our soul
- To protect you and to teach you how to defend yourself
- Satisfy your needs without utilizing you to satisfy ours

The Messenger

It is hard for me to find words these days.

My wife and I have been blessed with a beautiful, delicate, adorable baby girl who, from the moment she joined us on January 26, 2014, irremediably changed our lives.

The significance of the fact that we are now a family and that we have given birth to a new human being, is hard to grasp and feel at the right level.

At the lowest level, of course, the daily care of the baby and the constraints on our schedule and movements do not let us forget, even for a minute, that we have to fulfill the role of parents. And we take very seriously the responsibility of providing our baby with the best care, as much attention and gentleness as needed, and all the stimulating activities that will help her develop.

When I try to describe our behavior, I want to say that we feel responsible for a precious soul. But the questions I ask myself are: "How did we get this sense of responsibility? Is it out of instinct? Out of innate love? And how do we come to see the baby as a soul?"

First of all where does the sense of responsibility come from? When we care for the baby, we are saying how we know that this baby has no other caretakers than us and how we believe that she deserves a bright future that only good, loving, care can provide - or at least that the lack thereof seriously jeopardizes. Therefore the sense of responsibility comes first from our sense of empathy: if we do not take care of her, this baby will suffer - now, for starters, but also later.

Grasping the baby's future as a soul and as someone who will grow to have a special bond to us is not easy - to me at least. The baby is indeed a precious soul in the making, and one who will be the closest soul to ours - at least for a while before adult madness may damage the bond. But hen the baby is in its first weeks, it seems a purely instinctive being - and one that compares poorly at that to other animals. It is satisfied when it has been fed, shows some variations in behavior that we may attribute to "character" but no real signs of the "soul" that is in the making. Progress in the first weeks is measured in the improvement of the instincts and the progressive birth of a capacity to observe - without reaction at first - which we are quick to interpret as "curiosity". Still, the virtual absence of reaction from the baby at that stage means that all our efforts seem vain - which strikes us in the most frustrating way when she cries of course.

I have heard several people saying that they simply hate the first few months of the life of the baby until the baby started communicating, or that they connected with their baby only after some three or six months. It is rare to hear such blunt statements but I respect those who speak of this frankly. I had and never heard of that and would never have believed I could ever feel like that until I became a father. Now, as I just wrote, I admit how difficult it is to connect to the "soul" within the baby until she starts reacting and communicating.

Prior to that, it is our intellect that teaches us that the baby is going to become a person, our child. It is probably during that stage that our social environment can be of great help to create the bond: resemblance and other family traits are brought up in conversations; parental behavior is praised and encouraged; the baby's facial expressions and behavior are interpreted ostensibly in terms of character, reactions and emotions.

Yesterday, I was blessed by the feeling that the day had come that my baby's conscience had emerged - I saw a smile in reaction to my face and babbling and I was moved to tears.

After writing all that, no need for many words to introduce the blessing of Joseph's sons by his father, Jacob, as it appears in The Book of Genesis illustrated by Robert Crumb:


The Messenger who has rescued me from all evil, may he bless little Tali. Amen.