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No manual exists for good fathers

Yet another in what will become a long line of “firsts” will happen today as yours truly celebrates being a father on Father’s Day.

Just four months ago as we welcomed our bundle of joy into the world, I remember thinking around 3 or 4 a.m. in one of the rooms at Natchez Regional as Julie tried to sleep and I tried to calm baby Anna, “What next?”

It’s a question that all new parents probably ponder — oh about a dozen times or more each day.

The day after Anna’s arrival, I recall talking to my older brother, who is a father times two.

My brother asked, “How’s it going?”

“Everything is good,” I said almost a reflexively.

Laughter came across the other end of the phone line.

“Oh, you might think it’s good, but it’ll never be completely the same again. Mine are adults, and I still worry about them all the time. There’s always something.”

Good brotherly advice. So far, even in these early weeks, he’s been correct. Something is always a worry; I suspect that will be true for the rest of my life.

Another friend, who is father to three told me, “After the newness wears off and you’re over the worries that you’re going to harm them accidentally, you’ll probably get kind of serious and think, ‘I’m responsible for making sure this little person grows up and becomes a productive member of society.’”

Good grief, he’s right. That’s a big responsibility for all of the parents out there.

At this point, however, we’re having too much fun playing, reading books, trying to roll over and generally worrying about eating, sleeping and going to the bathroom.

Thus far, we’ve been blessed. Anna is sleeping well and has been healthy so far.

Some of the folks with whom I work seemed shocked recently when they learned that I’m fully comfortable in the role of father.

Dirty diapers? No problem. Tackled one within the first few hours of her life when the strange tarlike substance appeared — if you don’t have children, trust me, this is some weird stuff, but perfectly normal.

Feeding, burping and rocking? Check, check and check.

Playing and other fun things are also on the agenda. Anna probably gets it honestly, but she’s interested in seeing the world and soaking up everything in it.

Early on she didn’t have the patience for book reading, at least on my shifts. But lately, she enjoys reading when she’s winding down for the night.

We fairly regularly read about the “wasket in a basket” and the “bofa on the sofa” and other Dr. Seuss favorites, but we also tell the moon “goodnight,” thanks to a gift from friend Carolyn Vance Smith, who knows the value of a good book.

But the ironic thing is that while tons of books exist on child rearing, parenting and the like, no book really exists to tell us all how to be parents.

You just sort of have to figure it out on your own, I suppose, taking pieces of advice from some, ignoring others.

No magic formula exists, for sure. Fathers are just regular guys trying to do their best. Some of us, however, are lucky enough to have had some pretty good role models in our own fathers.

Happy Father’s Day to all.

If you’re lucky enough to have a father who is living, please remember him today.


Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.