“Having a kid is like falling in love for the first time when you’re 12, but every day.” —Mike Myers
Almost exactly two years ago, my wife and I were anxiously awaiting the birth of our first child – a son. As I write this, my wife is putting our son, Jake, to bed and she is again pregnant, due this July with our second child – a daughter to be named later. (We don’t have a name yet). But I digress…..
Back to summer 2013. We were waiting and planning for Jake’s ultimate arrival, which of course included (too) many trips to the “big-box” baby stores where they specialize in making first-time parents feel like they will ultimately fail and their child will never have a shot in life UNLESS they purchase at least one (two would be better) of everything in the store. It’s frightening and maddening. Sorry, another digression….
So, while my wife was circling Jake’s due date (August 27th- though he ended up coming a week late) on every calendar we had in the house and drawing hearts and smiley faces around the circled date, I was handling his impending arrival quite differently. While I absolutely was excited to be a dad, I wasn’t in as much of a rush as was my wife for the due date to come. I was enjoying the late spring and early summer – our fleeting time together without kids – and was starting to consciously try to cram as much fun, as many events, a few road-trips, plenty of golf, fishing and surfing in to the precious little time I / we had left before it was time to be a grown up and become a parent. I knew everything was going to change, and was a little (okay, a lot) afraid of that great unknown. August 27th (circled and illustrated by my wife) on every calendar presented to me as the end of the world as I knew it and the beginning of something new, uncertain and uncharted, where the new child would always be my first priority (at the expense of….????). As someone who likes to plan, to know what to expect, to have my ducks in a row, this pending great unknown was daunting. And I wasn’t sure I was ready.
As it turned out, I was half right – everything did change. But I was completely foolish in my hesitation and worry.
When my son was born, while the nurses were cleaning him off in the delivery room, he reached out and grabbed my thumb. I was from that moment immediately putty in his hands. I had only just met him, but already knew I’d jump in front of a train for him.Without a doubt. I was all at once in awe of my own parents and every other parent in the world, as I was faced with the excitement and gravity of knowing I was responsible along with my wife to shape the life of this child. I all of a sudden felt like I’d been initiated into some elite fraternity*** which you don’t and can’t fully comprehend until you first hold your own child.
***”Having children is like living in a frat house – nobody sleeps, everything’s broken, and there’s a lot of throwing up.” – Ray Romano
As the days (and long nights) progressed into weeks (with long nights) and months (with long nights) and then a year and now almost two years (nights thankfully started getting shorter around nine months – meaning he was and by extension we were sleeping through) I found myself having more fun, even at the very early stages, than I ever expected. Sure, I had looked forward to being a dad and all the fun activities and adventures I’d have with my son when he was old enough for such things, but I never thought I’d be having fun with him as an infant. For example, when, at around five-months old, I realized that he would laugh his head off if I made his stroller do wheelies and swerve while I made race-car engine noises and tire screeches, I would have the time of my life, like a big kid, doing what we called “racing stroller” anytime I pushed him around. I must have looked ridiculous, but I was having too much fun to care. As every passing week and month led to new experiences for my son (e.g. crawling, then walking, then babbling, then actual words followed by more words) and I couldn’t wait to experience all of it with him. And we had such fun together as a family sharing his milestones and increasing abilities. I had never expected the fun to start until he was at least a few years old and I was repeatedly shocked at how much fun I was having from the first day. (***DISCLAIMER*** I am not ignoring the fact that parenting, especially for the first few months, is difficult and exhausting and a trying experience. But I always tried to view the long hard nights in the beginning, the exhaustion, the fear the first time he got sick, and all the other difficulties, as an initiation process. My wife and I were earning our stripes as parents. The old cliché: “Nothing worthwhile comes easy” – was never more true***).
Instead of recounting more stories of how being a dad allowed me to have an amazing second childhood (or, more correctly, an “officially sanctioned extended childhood” – since I don’t think I ever really became a grown-up at heart) I will get to the point: In spite of all the apprehension I felt as we waited for our first child to be born about how life would change and worries I harbored about whether or not I would miss the life I and we had before kids, becoming a Dad is the most important, most fulfilling, most powerful, most challenging, most rewarding and (much of the time) most fun experience of my life. LIFE ABSOLUTELY DID CHANGE FOREVER. It’s more rich and special now than I ever imagined. Yes it is scary and difficult. It often is exhausting. It is also amazing. And I would never ever go back. Not even for a day. All those things I was trying to “cram in” before he was born are things I am still able to do now, albeit with more advance planning required and, even better, they are things I cannot wait to share with my son and eventually my daughter too. My son’s arrival was like meeting a new best bud, a new great teammate. I cannot wait for all the fun we are going to have tomorrow and every day after (until he becomes a teenager, loses his mind for a while, and then comes back to his senses in college and we pick up where we left off….).
Happy Father’s Day!