I didn’t want to be a father. It wasn’t that I had anything against kids. I just didn’t understand the whole melting oooh and aaaaah thing that people did around children.
It’s not that I was against having children. It’s what people seemed to do when they grew up so I figured that at some point I would probably procreate but it was just not something I thought would be all that big of a deal to me. I knew I’d accept the responsibility of loving my children and educating them. I knew it would change what I did but I never expected it to change who I was.
But the real reason I didn’t want to have children was that I didn’t want to become a Tenzing Norgay. You see, everyone knows Sir Edmund Hilary as the conqueror of Mount Everest but a little known sherpa guide Tenzing Norgay was right there with him doing more than his share of the lugging and climbing. He climbed all the way to the top of Everest too. And he saved Hilary’s life on more than one occasion. But Hilary was the star. Norgay was just the Sherpa with him.
You see, I saw myself as the star of my own adventure. My own brand of Sir Edmund Hilary. I’d always been ambitious and after college I worked hard to make a name for myself in journalism. And after just a few years I was a reporter for one of the biggest newspapers in the country. I was doing well. Heck, better than well. I wasn’t just proud of myself I was impressed with myself.
When my wife had our first child I’d like to say everything changed. I’d like to say I looked at my baby’s chubby cheeks and precious blue eyes and my life’s priorities immediately realigned like a magical Rubik’s Cube. But they didn’t. I loved the baby but transform me in my mind from a Hilary into a Norgay? Nope.
It didn’t happen all of a sudden. It wasn’t one night staying up late with the baby. It was hundreds. It wasn’t one smile that changed my life, it was a thousand smiles so pure that you yourself become like a child saying “Do it again. Do it again.” And it’s not one tear, it’s all the times they cried and you realized you couldn’t protect them from every hurt imaginable. And that keeps you up at night.
After a year with both my wife and I working full time and struggling with day care I decided to leave the newspaper and stay home with the children. And it was the best decision I’ve ever made in my life. We have five children now and I can safely say that I am a Tenzing Norgay now. I am a Sherpa, guiding my little Sir Hilary’s. That is, if Sir Edmund Hilary was about three feet tall, wore pigtails, needed rides to soccer practice Tuesdays and Thursdays, was confused by multiplication tables, and needed hugs for scraped knees.
But you know, the thing about being Tenzing Norgay that I discovered is that while you are doing the helping, the lugging, and the saving, at some point you find yourself right at the summit. I may not be famous and the journey’s been tough - but I assure you that the view is spectacular.