Sherman made the terrible discovery that men make about their fathers sooner or later... that the man before him was not an aging father but a boy, a boy much like himself, a boy who grew up and had a child of his own and, as best he could, out of a sense of duty and, perhaps love, adopted a role called Being a Father so that his child would have something mythical and infinitely important: a Protector, who would keep a lid on all the chaotic and catastrophic possibilities of life.

- Tom Wolfe, The Bonfire of the Vanities

Maryam is one month old. Unlike our other two girls, Zaynab and Fatima, she arrived as expected, on the morning of December 14. Saniha and I woke up early, drove thirty minutes to the hospital, and an hour later she was in my arms.

The whole process felt like we’re going to pick up a parcel. It was so routine that Saniha didn’t even notice when her womb was being cut open. “When will they start?” she asked me, with a bored look on her face. “They already have,” I told her. A moment later, the doctor was cradling the baby.

Saniha burst into tears at the first sound of Maryam’s cry. She didn’t do that with Zaynab or Fatima and it reminded me how difficult this pregnancy was for her both physically and emotionally. I, on the other hand, didn’t feel any strong emotion—just gladness.

Maryam’s cheeks are now plump. When my wife is not feeding her, she is busy warding off the evil eye. So beautiful is our baby. And as the days have gone by, I am starting to feel something new: the weight of responsibility.

Being a father has been, without a doubt, my greatest source of joy. I knew this is a role for which I’m unqualified, but that I could become qualified while doing it. Capricorns, like me, are the most responsible people you’ll ever meet.

I did not sense any difficulty when Zaynab and Fatima were born. It was two-on-two (Saniha and I against the kids) and felt like play. With Maryam, we are outnumbered. That math didn’t dawn on me before she was born. Now suddenly ours feels like a real family.

“Fathers, you are your daughter’s hero,” wrote Elaine Dalton. Now I have three I am responsible for and something about my entire perspective has changed. Holding Maryam in my arms, I feel empowered to protect her. This should be an obvious mission for any parent, but heretofore it did not cross my mind. My wife was doing all the hard work raising our children and I was having all the fun.

According to parenting expert, James Stensen, nature endows men with physical and mental powers they need to protect their family and loved ones. This instinct lies at the core of a man’s masculinity, and it is an immensely powerful force.

Men are different from women. They are wired differently, they think differently. They have instincts, attitudes and physical strengths that empower them for tough-minded, sacrificial service to people who count most in their lives, starting with their families. All of the special features of an adult male’s personality, developed from boyhood—his muscles, willpower, stamina, competitive drive, aggressiveness and assertiveness, love for planning and manipulating physical objects—all coordinate toward a single purpose in life: protection.

As protector, my actions will live on in the inner lives of my children. This is something new I’m learning.

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