Cliched it may sound, but I think I became a grown-up when my first infant, a very rounded and hearty girl weighing almost ten pounds, was put into my arms. At that moment of meeting, my settled, familiar world was profoundly shaken. Suddenly I realized the passionate attachment I felt towards this newborn child, with her black hedgehog hair and blank unfocussed gaze, was the same fierce devotion my parents had felt for me, their firstborn.
They had been, once, young and full of hope, with their lives stretching joyfully in front of them. The mistakes they had made in parenting me - and in the turbulence and self-absorption of my teenage years I felt they had made plenty - had been errors of omission, human mistakes. They had tried their best. And I too would try my best and make mistakes.
It was hard to reconcile the balding, myopic, defeated father I knew with the handsome, debonair and confident man who smiled down so proudly at me in those long ago baby photos. And my mother - what a beauty she had been. It was the sorrow of years that had clouded her eyes, made her mouth turn down and her sighs so frequent.
Soon my daughter would judge me as harshly as I had judged my parents. Would she, in time, forgive my faults just as I was beginning to forgive those of my parents?
There would be many stumbles along the way, but on that night in Tauranga hospital aching, tired and triumphant, with my daughter snuffling beside me in her Perspex crib, I had taken my first steps to grown-uphood.