While we were still pregnant, I would periodically go through "gender panics" about what fatherhood was "going to impose on me." It turns out, now with kid in sling around my neck, that this panic was all about me and not at all about actual roles and behaviors. This is a good discovery.
I expected--in part from experience but in large part from media socialization, to which I seem particularly susceptible--that fatherhood would HAVE to come with some kind of emotional insensitivity and then later with baseballs and such. In short, I felt that fatherhood would HAVE to consist of stereotypes of "American masculinity," from competition (which passes itself off as sport) to emotional cluelessness (which passes itself off as toughness, machismo, what have you).
I haven't had either of those things, really ever as part of my own specific gender makeup. I don't like competition and actively avoid team sports, unless I'm watching them on TV with my father when I visit over the summer (he likes this and it's a type of community-building now that he's full of arthritis). Also, machismo has never been my thing. The closest I ever get to that is the warrior-climber personality, but that's all about metaphysics and voodoo and cultural re-envisionining, not about seeing myself as the hetero conqueror of Jane the jungle chick.
Nurture (by which I mean actual care of others, not socialized nurture versus essentialized nature) is big in my life experience. I grew up with pets--mostly dogs but later cats too-from birth. They preceded me, in fact, and I was brought into a house with five dogs in it (I'm adopted, and so is my brother).
My parents were around most of the time, and so there was nurture to the point of overprotectiveness, and I've always had dogs and cats and so forth, and really, I see my own child as something of a very specialized, high-needs sort of pet. Not that he's MINE, not that he's somehow a belonging or a limited creature (I don't mean "pet" in any kind of perjorative sense) but in that he's currently something I very much care for, not interact with. He's not nearly independent yet, and in fact, the cats FAR outreach him in independence. So for now, I can pull in experience with animals from my own youth, in dealing with him. Yes, I realize he's more than this, but it's the experience with nurture which I'm pulling in, not the actual analog.
As I've said before (or heavily implied), my parents excel at children, but get weird with adolescents. They simply do not have the machinery to celebrate and enjoy the bodies that develop with puberty. They can discipline (in the Foucauldian sense) such bodies, but cannot enjoy and celebrate them; there's too much fear there. So in thinking of growing up with my own son, there's a like weirdness. This is simple nurture and care; this is fine. Later there will be language and hikes in parks and such, and that'll be fine. HOW WEIRD will my relationship to adolescent alienation (my own) be, when he does it? I'm not sure it'll get weird at all, I've pretty well shattered my own experience with this, so as not to hand it down.
J, as I've said before, did not have this alienation; she was raised by body-saavy people. I think that between the two of us, we can turn up the nurture and the body celebration, and then whatever issues about bodies and gender and masculinity I fear about handing down, won't be so handed. This will be good. Other issues--something, I'm not sure what--will no doubt be carried by this kid, but I think that my own, are over. They belong to me, stay with me.
I'm finding that fatherhood is a SOCIAL phenomenon--not that it's social versus essential, but that it is social in that it only REALLY exists as discourse to me, when I'm around OTHER people. When it's just J and the kid and me, we are all action. He is crying and we run the checklist. He is calm and we sleep or do errands or whatever. It is doing, not "thinking about roles" or "being certain to look like a proper parent" or any of that. That is a PERFORMANCE which is done and asked for (consciously or not) by OTHER people.
For example: when I'm in my office preparing to teach, other teachers come by and ask about how fatherhood is going. Wow! I have to, quickly, figure out what I think fatherhood means. It's like they see me in costume and I don't, so I have to quick-check in the mirror to see what they might see and then answer it. Usually I go right for experience rather than fucking around with roles. We talk sleep, behavior of child, that sort of thing. Action. Really, this answers the question, without addressing the weird "role in the middle" which somehow needs to be in the phrasing, but which DOESN'T AFFECT THE REALITY.
It's as if an action is overlaid with a discourse, but the action counts and the discourse is pure costuming. Let's say your hair grows (it does). Now let's say that, totally arbitrarily, culture decides to refer to hair growth as "mammothing." Hey, what's up with your mammothing? And there's this whole discourse about the degrees to which one does or does not mammoth. But the ACTUAL GROWTH has nothing to do with mammothing. You talk about reality--"I got it cut, I'm growing it out"--and the discourse of mammothing HAPPENS AROUND YOU.
This is not in the least to undefine fatherhood or to challenge it. I simply find that right now, at five weeks and some, fatherhood is almost entirely about ACTION and not about DISCOURSE. I acknowledge that there's a discourse, but it doesn't do anything to the actions. The actions are so prior, and so dominant, that discourse is just a pirate flag flapping on the ship so people can identify my role from a distance. Fatherhood discourse is FOR THEM, not for me.
Maybe with further socialization of the kid, more "fatherhood discourse" will ensue. Language, after all, is the house we live in (note that Deleuze and Guattari took this idea QUITE apart in A THOUSAND PLATEAUS). Maybe there will be baseball games and such, but I'd prefer to think that some rock climbing and ashtanga yoga will be seen as cooler :)
Or maybe it'll be Paris, Texas:
"What kind of father do you want to be, Mr. Travis, rich or poor?"
"Well, can't I be kinda in the middle?"
"No: you must decide, rich or poor."
"A rich father, looks at the sky; a poor father, looks at the ground."
Then we get the wonderful, totally alienated but performative, joyfully costumed, striding of Harry Dean Stanton, all around the Texas cityscape, looking up, seen across the street when he goes to pick up the blond-haired boy.
Tangentially, the reunion of the family is the reunion of Germany, and so in Paris Texas and in Wings of Desire we can't have union, but we can have desire, love and sacrifice, but also fear and imperatives. In Faraway So Close, the world is different.
Another quite nice Second series on Monday night. Kapo less cooperative, but still to toes with adjustment. Supta Vajrasana, hands popping off toes again. Dwi Pada, a struggle (again). But really, aside from the hardest poses, much of what I could do, has remained. This month off hasn't taken anything from me pose-wise.
More Eka Pada will build Dwi Pada, just like before. More cat-paw dropbacks from kneeling will build both Kapo and Supta V. Just like before. More exposure to this back-then-forward sequence will let me re-disover the bandhas in Pincha Mayurasana. Yes, just like before. I am re-growing hangbacks-to-dropbacks, which I knew would have to happen with the month of hard stress, off.
I remain an ashtangi, after the first wave of hard challenge from seventh series. I do not climb (haven't since February) but I remain that too. I remain an academic (perhaps temporarily, but still), and I am teaching the marvelous 12-hours of DADA course. My favorite, my most taught, my most developed, course. The child sleeps in the sling over my shoulder and is pretty much in my lap as I type this.
This all, somehow, will be fine. Look out for that first step (ahem, month). It's a freakin' DOOZY.