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The Boston Globe

Magazine

Connections

What being a dad really means

If you really want to make an impact on the father in your life, don’t just settle for breakfast in bed or a cute card.

I CAN REMEMBER THE PRECISE MOMENT when I realized what it meant to be a father. We’d just brought our first child, Josephine, back from the hospital. She had proved unable to breast-feed, and I’d been instructed to tape a tiny plastic tube to my finger so she could practice sucking down formula. This was the first “finger feeding” I’d done solo. My wife was in the bedroom, sleeping the sleep of the dead. Things were not going well. Translation: Josie was wailing.

I tried everything in my extremely limited fathering repertoire — fresh diaper, burping session, tighter swaddle. Her misery escalated. She started choking on her sobs. Her tiny face turned Blood Blister Red. Before long I was also a trembling mess. My daughter was, for all I knew, dying, and I was completely helpless to do anything about it.

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