In about 16 years — give or take a tolerant attitude — our IPs will be doing the exact same thing I’m doing right now.

It’s 11:30 p.m. on a Thursday night. I’ve just gotten home from dropping off my oldest daughter Emma at a midnight movie premiere of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. Months before the movie was due to be released, I had promised my 16-year old that she and her good friend Tresier — both of them huge Tim Burton fans — could go see the movie on opening night. As it turned out, it’s opening on a school night. But a promise is a promise, and so I’m back home waiting until 2 a.m. to pick them up. Normally I’m a pretty strict parent, but this one time I’m going to let her skip school tomorrow.

So as I brew some coffee and attempt to stay awake another two hours, I’ve got some very quiet time to reflect on my current parenting role. And the role I’m going to miss out on with the child currently taking up more and more space inside Michelle. When this little one is Emma’s age, someone else — our IPs Barb and Michelle — will be the ones keeping the promise to let them stay out late. (Probably to view the latest in the Harry Potter saga, number 24 when middle aged Harry and his wizard friends do battle with the greatest enemy of all — the Dreaded Curse of Male Pattern Baldness!)

As the weeks go by, and Michelle’s due date actually starts to come within view, I’ll be spending more time reflecting on just how … different….this journey has been. This experience has been a lot of things so far.

Rewarding. Fascinating. Fulfilling.

But it’s also been strange. Foreign. Awkward at times. And sometimes just flat out weird. Even a feeling of emptiness at what — or in this case — does not lie ahead.

Now that’s something I did not expect.

From my vantage point, it’s been almost all positive. Course I’m not the one gobbling up Tums like they’re M&Ms, or having my internal organs used for soccer practice during all hours of the day and night. But now I find myself noticing how different things are going to be with this pregnancy, especially the final act. Most of all the differences in my own thinking. 

Sixteen years ago I was watching Michelle’s belly swell up at about the same rate as my worries and headaches. ‘Holy shit,’ I remember thinking, ‘My pretty much carefree life as I know it is over. (There’s a shocking GuestWomb entry to come on this topic. Brace yourself kids — but you were pretty much all your Mom’s idea. Sorry to break it to you)

While I might not have been ready for this change, I certainly didn’t shrink from my responsiblities then or now. And that’s what it really meant to me:  Life was to be all about the responsibilities.

Focusing on keeping the roof over our heads, the wife and kid (and soon to be kids) clothed and fed. Praying that everyone stayed healthy through doctor appointments. Nursery school and kindergarten. Braces. And on and on. Saving for college. Paying for weddings. A lot of it was panicky headtrash that seemed overwhelming at the time.

And yet all the responsibility for the little soul currently in residence somewhere east of Michelle’s spleen lies elsewhere. It’s Barb and Michelle, the IPs, that will assume all the burden and more.  They’ll be the ones shaking their heads at how expensive 5 years of braces can be. They’ll be worrying about making sure their boy gets into Honors Classes to make a better impression on college admissions committees.

They’ll be the ones waiting up until 2 a.m. like I am tonight.

Am I going to miss that? Maybe so. Because while Michelle takes the credit for prodding me into becoming a family man, being a parent has been the most rewarding part of my life.  Even those daunting responsibilities that caused sleepless nights so many years ago bring only a smile to my face.