Jaden in an Alternative Universe
You see, ever since I hired Paul, we've been on a baby count down. His wife was 7 months pregnant, then eight months, and then finally nine months pregnant. Although lanugage constraints have dictated that Paul and I have not been able to have deep conversations about his impending fatherhood, I could tell he has been excited. This is his first baby afterall. He even asked me if I could find him a book of baby names, which I borrowed from a colleague. He liked the names Lisa and Carol for a girl.
Although we never discussed it directly, I had been mentally preparing for the day he told me that his wife is in labor, and for the week or two of vacation that would follow. I've learnt how to drive myself to work, the kids have been in a pre-school just across the street for the summer - so haven't been in need of mid-day transportation, and I figured I could get myself just about everywhere I needed to be for a few weeks.
So imagine my surprise when last Tuesday he dropped me off to work and we had our usual conversation (Me "How's your wife?" Paul: "My wife is fine.") but then picked me up later that afternoon (early because I had Swahili class) with the news that his wife had delivered the baby and it was a boy.
"Wow," I said! "Did you go home to see the baby yet?"
"No," he responded.
"Well, just drop me at Swahili class and I'll take a taxi home."
"No," he responded. "I will wait for you at Swahili class and take you home."
"But it is your first baby, don't you want to see him?"
"I can wait," he resonded. "First Swahili and later baby."
And not only did he wait for me at Swahili class, but he offered another student a ride home, as well. And, he refused to take off the next day, or the next. In fact, he hasn't missed a moment of work, even though I have offered him time. You see, he won't. It is not expected of him. In Tanzania, the husband works and the wife delivers. The man has no place in the delivery room (home or hospital) - and there is no expectation or guilt that he should participate in any other way than to give the baby a name.
And Paul took that job seriously. He went through a long list of boys names, but in the end he came to me when the baby was five days old and asked if I could do him the honor of letting him name his son, Jaden.
Of course, I said yes.
But it got me thinking about this Jaden - growing up in an alternate universe. In the US we put such pressures on boys... to grow up to be sensitive but manly men. To bring in the money, and treat their partner with the right amount of respect and affection. To be in the delivery room, when maybe that isn't where they want to be. The list of musts is long. And although the list of musts is not short for a Tanzanian man, maybe it is easier to be Jaden in Tanzania because there is not a lot of whishy washiness about who you are supposed to be as a man and what your role in the family is.