I, like most men on Fort Bragg, consider myself one of the guys. My interests are typical, nothing out of the ordinary — I have my favorite sports teams, enjoy physical activities, the outdoors and a passion to travel and explore my surroundings near and far.
I entered into fatherhood later than most. Two years ago, a month before my 40th birthday, I was blessed with a little girl. I had heard from many that would tell me something along the lines of “get ready your life is about to change.” And to be honest, the change part was something that I was not looking forward to.
The idea that the person and identity that I had been growing into would somehow vanish overnight and I would become this different person scared me a bit.
Maybe it was the image I had of a cookie cutter dad, the one that the media shows us on TV.
Was I going to come back from the hospital that day to discover my closet to be filled with belted slacks and button-down shirts and sweater vests? Not that my identity is wrapped up in my wardrobe, but I’d like to think of myself as a bit higher on the coolness scale than George McFly or Ward Cleaver.
But two years into this fatherhood thing and I am happy to report that I’m still the same old paratrooper. Sure, there were adjustments to my routine, especially in that first year when my daughter never slept through the night.
But what I discovered is the Army prepared me for the rigors of being a parent. We condition our minds and bodies to often operate on little sleep and not always having control of when we would be woken up to execute some task in the middle of the night.
Except this time, it was not my battle buddy jabbing me in the ribs to let me know I’m on duty, but my little 10-pound bundle of joy kicking me in the face or ribs to change or feed her. Babies require a lot of gear and we military parents are prepared for that as well.
So, just as you would do your pre-combat check on your assault pack and LBV before a patrol, now you are checking your diaper bag and Ergobaby before you head out on your grocery run, although baby wipes and water are probably the only things on both packing lists.
Another aspect of me that has remained is physical fitness. Being physically fit is nearly as important to being a parent as it is to being a Soldier, especially over time as my daughter has grown and become more mobile and energetic.
I find that I am either carrying her around or I’m chasing after her. I love the outdoors, and I love to hike and trail run and being a parent didn’t mean I had to stop those activities. Now instead of an ALICE pack, I have a baby pack.
As I have made my way through this parenthood journey, I think what I have discovered is that fatherhood didn’t change who I am or my life. Fortunately, we chose a profession with values that translate well into other aspects of life.
Having my daughter did not suddenly awaken me to the idea that life is about more than just me. Values like selfless service and duty were already part of my identity as a paratrooper and a man and now as a father.
Sure, I could point to certain hobbies or interests that I have not had as much time for or were replaced. For example, I used to take pride in knowing the pound-for-pound list for boxers, and now I can recognize and name all the My Little Ponies. I certainly would not know that information if it were not for my daughter, but it feels great to share in her excitement and learn about her interests.
I’m looking forward to the rest of this journey and introducing her to the old paratrooper I’ve become and discovering the young woman she will be.