A father is actually the last thing I ever expected to be. That's not surprising given that factoring the inevitable is not something idiots do particularly well.
Because it was understood that surviving my own childhood was about as far as I expected to go in life, no baby in its right mind would have wanted me for a father.
Sadly, babies have no say in the matter. If they did, a school bus would comfortably seat the entire world population, none of whom would be you or me.
Before receiving the news that I was going to be a father, my life plan was mindlessly simple. I wanted to listen to rock 'n' roll and blow stuff up. Because I was better at the former than the latter, my wife largely put a stop to it.
With nothing else to do, we got pregnant instead. Nine months later, the weight of the world settled onto my clueless shoulders. I was suddenly expected to be something I had never been before responsible for someone else.
Now seems a good time to point out that no guy is ever a perfect father. Any man who believes he was/is/will be the perfect father should be immediately sterilized for the common good, and then euthanized for his own.
The real issue is whether a guy is a good enough father. Fatherhood is a process of trial and error. And because it's practiced on another human who will soon have a mind of its own, it rarely goes as well as you hoped.
The first thing I learned about being a father was that making a baby shut up required the same thing that made me shut up: the baby's mother. The last thing I learned was that I should have shut up more.
Effective fathering is not something that comes naturally. It requires considerable practice generally for the rest of your life.
Most guys learn how to be fathers by doing what their own fathers did. For example, my father always worked to provide. Always. Maybe that's why, despite a strong predisposition otherwise, so did I.
But not everything that worked on you as a kid will necessarily work on your kid. In many cases, DNA is about the only thing a father and a child share. Your kids are like these whole other people. And every single one of them is just different enough to keep you off balance.
Any father who paid attention will tell you he regrets not being a better father. Some are certainly better fathers than others, but no father is perfect. That's why Ward Cleaver is a myth and Homer Simpson is not.
True fatherhood is about doing your absolute best, owning up to it when you don't and hoping you'll do better for the rest of your life.
Hopefully, what you did (or didn't do) works and your kids grow up to become parents themselves. It helps if they aren't the sort to carry a grudge.
But if they are, maybe you'll be lucky enough to watch them learn it isn't as easy as it looked.
Robert Kirby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/notpatbagley.