A time for learning - Shawn Loughlin editorial
In the weeks following Tallulah’s arrival into the world - as I’ve written about before - I had a lot of time on my hands. Jess, of course, was busy feeding her, putting her down for naps and more and there was only so much help I could offer. So, during that time, I engaged in the time-honoured pastime of aimlessly staring at my television.
I caught up on movies I’d always wanted to watch and, as a new father, I was always surprised at how often I’d get choked up or find wisdom in something I was watching when the subject matter would lean the way of fatherhood. There are three that stick out.
First, there’s Lost in Translation. Bob Harris (played by Bill Murray) says to the much-younger Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) of fatherhood: “It’s the most terrifying day of your life, the day the first one is born. Your life, as you know it, is gone. Never to return. But they learn how to walk, and they learn how to talk, and you want to be with them. And they turn out to be the most delightful people you’ll ever meet in your life.”
Don Draper of Mad Men had this to say as a father who had endured a trying childhood: “I don’t think I ever wanted to be the man who loves children. But, from the moment they’re born, that baby comes out and you act proud and excited and hand out cigars, but you don’t feel anything. Especially if you had a difficult childhood. You want to love them, but you don’t. And the fact that you’re faking that feeling makes you wonder if your own father had the same problem.
“Then, one day they get older and you see them do something and you feel that feeling that you were pretending to have. And it feels like your heart is going to explode.”
For something a little more to-the-point, we go to Furious Styles of Boyz n the Hood (a secretly great father-and-son movie), played by Laurence Fishburne, who tells his son Tre that “any fool with a [penis] can make a baby, but only a real man can raise his children.”
I tried to take an instinctive approach to being a father, just doing what felt right. I did read a book on becoming a father (Tallulah came two weeks early, so I blame her for whatever I missed in the last quarter of the book), but I mostly followed my gut. Through that, I learned that it’s hard to be a good father and it’s easy to see why many men fail.
There have been times of frustration, of course, but I think Jess and I have done our best to root all of our parenting decisions in love. Through love and care for Tallulah, we took actions to raise her always with the goal of ensuring she knew that we loved her.
A lot of these thoughts came flowing back last week as we had our second child, a little boy named Cooper Stephen Loughlin - his middle name a nod to Jess’s dad who now shares a birthday with his (middle)-namesake.
A new challenge, a new adventure, a new chapter of life at the Loughlin home. And with a boy (after two-and-a-half years of parenting experience with a girl), come new discussions.
How do we parent Cooper and ensure that Tallulah feels all the love and support she had from us when it was just us three? How do we teach our kids to stick together and remain a unit through thick and thin? How do we make sure Cooper doesn’t pee all over us time after time? All questions to be answered in time.
It feels like a wholly singular journey that millions and millions of people have also taken. Strange and familiar all at once.
The next chapter of life for our family starts now. It’s exciting, scary and incomprehensibly joyful all mixed together.