I hadn't needed to do much for the baby, and as I was leaving the delivery area a nurse asked me if I could just let the family know how the baby was. Of course, I said, and went to the labor room where the new father, grandmother, and an aunt were waiting.
I walked into the room to see the grandmother and aunt looking expectantly and nervously at me. Next to them was the baby's father, looking a young 16 years old himself. He wore a skewed baseball cap, an oversize T-shirt, and baggy low slung jeans that didn't bifurcate into legs until about the level of the knees. He didn't even bother to look up when I entered the room but just kept staring at the floor. I sighed internally. Another young punk, I thought, not brought up with proper manners and certainly not prepared for fatherhood.
I told them the baby was fine and congratulated them, telling them the usual happy spiel about a normal newborn. The grandmother inquired about the mother, who was still on the C-section table, while the father remained uncommunicative, almost on the verge of seeming impolite. But then I noticed something wet drip off his cheek unto the floor. I looked a little closer and saw that he was crying, and not just crying but weeping profusely. I had taken his lack of eye contact and speech as a sign of impertinence, when in fact he was overwhelmed with emotion by the situation. He was looking at the floor not because he was a jerk, but probably because he was too overcome to do anything else.
Whether his tears and emotion were of concern for his girlfriend and baby, or joy that everything was going to be fine after the minutes of uncertainty, or of a new realization of the responsibility now upon him, I don't know. But I do know that I had judged too quickly. My heart went out to this young man who a few moments before had somewhat disgusted me. It would be a cliche but true to say that it reminded me I shouldn't judge a book by its cover. Maybe the lesson isn't quite so broad but just that, hey, punks have feelings too.