Enlightenment, they say, is not a gradual thing. You can prepare for it, but you cannot learn it. It is sudden; an instantaneous and complete understanding, like getting the punch line of a joke.
I had a such a moment the other day as I carried the diaper bag and our coats, chasing Mama and the Little Man around the library. I had a flash of how many fathers have done this very thing.
That’s the thing about fatherhood, it’s been around a while.
Ever since that first lonely nematode thought it might be more fun with a partner, dudes have been changing diapers. And it’s not just us homo sapiens, either – primates and marsupials have long been pioneers in attachment parenting and baby wearing.
This is one of the things that stuck with me as a new father; you are instantly and tangibly connected to hundreds of thousands of years of biology. It’s difficult to understand until you’ve experienced it, but each mama mood swing, every unfocused infant stare, every chubby fist in every drooling mouth has happened millions upon millions of times since the onset of begatting.
And it all has a purpose, some evolutionary significance that, at some point, between primordial ooze and the new season of Downton Abbey, slightly increased the life expectancy of that particular mutation.
And you can feel it, that’s the crazy thing. It may, of course, be delusions brought upon by sleep deprivation, but you get the tingle down in your brainstem as you fail to stop him from eating something off the floor, you get existential root sense that this path you tread is very, very old.
I’m not sure exactly how my carrying the bags increases the little man’s eventual chances of reproduction, but it can’t hurt, right?
And so I trudge on through the library with pride and humility and extra pants and a snack. Understanding my place in the great sequence that has led to his existence and the existence of that train video he likes to watch and the 4 minutes it buys me to brush my teeth. I will be grateful for this new perspective, and carry the bags, like my fathers before me.