Of course, I want all the usual stuff.
I want a clingy Koala bear-like tiny girl who sticks to me for dear life and shyly buries her face in my neck when aunts and uncles coax her into talking with them. A little bundle of curiosity and wonderment that I have to constantly pry from my knees with brimming joy when someone asks me where the little one is. Or should I be looking under the bed, following the trail of toys and half opened books and biscuit crumbs? As I kneel and peer under the bed to see tiny pairs of anklets on even tinier baby feet and pull her out by her ankles as she giggles hysterically and squirms.
I too want a dreamy-eyed kid, who when looking lost in a crowd, breaks into a beaming smile when she catches sight of me, no matter how old she grows. A tiny messy haired elf, who I’ll wander around with me half pulling her off the ground, making her skip over jagged gravel and muddy puddles. Maybe I’ll drop her right into the middle of the puddle as she squeals like a tickled bunny.
But those are the easy parts.
Television fed dream montages.
Just like those other teary-eyed wedding speeches and graduation images and airport farewells. Where the rest of the world is a blurry bokeh. Where poverty and anxiety are beautified into creamy background colors.
No, those are the easy parts, for the sufficiently healthy and wealthy.
The tough parts are those where I have failed. Not tried and failed, but failed to try.
How can I pass on those lessons to you without shrinking in stature?
How can I test when is the perfect time to give you a reassuring silent smile? When will I know when I can distractedly brush you away because your problems sound like that of a billion other girl’s cry for attention, privileged and needy?
When will I know a hesitant “Dad, can we talk?” was to discuss your broken self-esteem because of your first partner’s own shattered self-esteem, or because you want the next new toy because you couldn’t be bothered with the one you got yesterday? How will that misstep change your outlook of me and mine of yours?
Will it be then that you see through me and realize I am not living how I urge you to live?
How can I teach you to fearlessly love yourself without hating others? I haven’t seen it in any of us around you. Not a single glimpse of it. How then can I baby talk to you as a toddler about love and cuteness and protection?
Baby powder scents and razor scooter memories are good if they don’t sour in adulthood.
Because it is easy to be petty and vile in real life. Motherhood, fatherhood, and filial relations are not immune to them and blood is not thicker than water. How then can I teach you art is good, but honesty is better? How can I explain why I changed my mind about why art is better than honesty the next time you ask me? How can I explain my lust towards artists as much as art, and a disdain for ideas over the body?
I feel already too tired and spent to be able to show you what I think should be passionate love for something. To effortlessly let go and pursue them without alienating everyone. I want you to be able to stand still and gaze up at a scuttling silverfish and not feel the need to opine about your obsessive need to clean. If you could miss a couple of turns on your way home and can gush about how the drive took you over new potholes, I will listen to you all day.
When will we discuss how children are not proofs of love, and that that means nothing? That there are million other ways love and families are made and lost.
I’ll look to the day that you perfectly help me understand how you can value time without wanting to hoard memories.
But would you be like me, who knows how to love only through a mixture of hate, jealousy, passion, and insecurity? What if you are one of those effortlessly happy beings? The kind that can laugh and shimmer and shine through life?
We would remain enigmas to each other.
Then will come failures. When you will crumble and make stupid decisions. Littered houses. Broken artifacts. Schools of life. Picking the wrong fights. Unprotected sex. Unfulfilled dreams. Tempered realities. Millions of tiny, terrible, avoidable, and inevitable mistakes made in innumerably personal ways that you think no other humans, least of all I, have done, ever contemplated doing, and will never understand. If you gather enough courage and trust to speak them out to me, I’ll learn more, and you might learn parts of me too.
Because when I come to sit down to talk, I wouldn’t know if you want to listen too. But I shall do it.
I’ll recount my own fears and convictions, failures and successes, ups and downs, hates and loves, and on those days I’ll resort to made up memories. Of how you were a tiny, clingy, koala bear baby, hanging around my shoulders, burying your face into my neck, wanting to go back home soon and be tucked into bed.