The thing you never hear about impending pregnancy is the enormous library you will develop. Cherise and I are both pretty well-schooled (six degrees between us!), so it’s natural to want to do some reading on any new topic–especially this one. But even if we didn’t, we wouldn’t have a choice as other parents are quick to provide reading material. We must have over a dozen books on pregnancy or neo-natal care and we haven’t bought one. They just keep showing up with useful recommendations, caveats, etc. Some scare the living daylights out of you (if you inhale smoke, your baby MAY be born with three heads!). Others provide methods for how to treat your child in the early days. While I am not usually one for user manuals, I expect Iris to be slighly trickier than an 802.11b router. The reading materials are definitely welcome.
But as great as all these books are, I guarantee you that the most influential book on how I’ve been thinking about parenting is one that no one else has on their list: "My Life" by Bill Clinton. For those of you who managed to make it through the 900+ pages, you’re probably saying "I don’t remember any child-rearing tips". Well, no there wasn’t anything explicitly said about child-rearing. But after having read that book, there’s one lesson that sticks out in my mind more than any other: childhood experiences truly shape who you are. Say what you will about the man’s personal life and his politics, but there is no doubting his compassion and his ability to see past color, gender, etc. I remember reading the early chapters and thinking "maybe I should skip this and get to the good stuff about Newt, Yasser, and Monica". I’m glad I didn’t. It’s amazing how much Clinton remembered about his childhood and how he could relate the experiences as a child to his philosophies as an adult. Little William Blythe (his original name) of Arkansas got a chance to live hand-in-hand in the deep south. He was raised by a mother who loved him (his birth father died before he was born), but wasn’t afraid to discipline him. These experiences were all tremendous in their impact and they were happening before he turned 10. He gained empathy for minorities, single mothers, and those who scraped to make ends meet. Like I said, I don’t want to get political, but I feel like that is something that is someting our current President doesn’t have and, with all due respect, I think it shows. I think about Iris. Will she be President of the United States of America? Nobel Prize Physicist? Clerk at a convenience store? I don’t know and, as long as she’s happy, I don’t care (OK, I care a little). But the fact is how she carries herself out in any of those situations will be directly related to her relationship to Cherise and me as well as the experiences we can afford her–and when I use the word "afford", it has nothing to do with money. I’m excited about her multi-ethnic background and how she will be embraced by two very different families. Perhaps we’ll travel someday (as Cherise did in her childhood) so that she can gain an understanding that the world is not just made up of Americans (I love how Bill Gates thinks of the philospophy for his children in regards to his wealth: "enough that they can do anything, not enough that they can do nothing").
I feel like every day I spend with Iris is going to be an opportunity to affect the way she views the world. That’s an impossible responsibility, but one that gets me excited. Whether she’s running the free world or a Target in Kenosha, I want to make sure she does it in a way that would make me and her mother proud (as President Clinton’s mother clearly was of him). And for the record, I’d be down with being the "First Father". C’mon, say it with me: "President Iris Khaund". Cool!