by David DeWitt
When Erin and I decided nearly five years ago to have a child, my first worry was of having the physical energy to do so. I saw my former high school classmates on Facebook becoming empty nesters and grandparents. I was embarking on territory where I had no peers to look to for advice.
I had a brief conversation with a friend who was several years my senior. He had become a father for the first time three years earlier. I told him we were thinking about it and he said nothing. He just stared with his mouth open, seemingly at a loss for words. Moments passed and I heard air escape as if he thought, “If I just let some breath out maybe the right words will follow.” Finally he said, through a forced smile, “It’s just so expensive.” Yes. Well there is that too. But having grown up in a large and sometimes poor family I knew that a child could be happy with very little.
|Painting by David DeWitt.
There is the school of thought that says if one can be discouraged from doing something, then it wasn’t meant to be in the first place. We began “trying” at the beginning of the year. Our first ultrasound was a few months later. The heartbeat was so strong that even the technician jumped. As a father-to-be, I heard the sound of a child who was ready for this world and stopping for no one. My thoughts turned again to being able to keep up with my kid. “You don’t wanna wait till you’re too old to play catch with them!” was a comment rattling around in my head.
By chance or maybe by design, we were invited to dinner along with another couple. They were becoming empty nesters, but I soon discovered they’d had their child at the same age we were embarking on our journey. I voiced my fears. The father calmly said, “What you lack in energy you will more than compensate for with the extra twenty years of life experience.”
That extra twenty years gave me time to realize that I don’t remember ever playing catch with my dad. But he gave me much, much more to get through life. I realized that my happiest moments from childhood had common denominators. They were moments free of expectations that included the presence of one or both of my parents.
As an artist I worried there would be no time for my work, not in the way that I was used to anyway. That, I was right about. My way of working would never be the same again. But neither would anything else. Work, sleep, and socializing would all morph rapidly into a form I wouldn’t have recognized or imagined five years ago.
But the pay off. Ah yes, the payoff. It’s the joy of sharing fleeting moments free of expectation with a boy who shoots out of bed every morning like a rocket, ready for this world and stopping for no one.
David DeWitt is a painter, writer, and dad. He lives in Ulster County with his wife Erin and three year old son, Finn. To read David’s blog on art and fatherhood, visit www.daviddewitt.com.