I love being a dad. I remember the day he was born. I remember just staring at him for hours. I was amazed. Terrified. Overwhelmed. Scared. Amazed. Fearful. Astounded. Petrified. Over and over, the same emotions just kept running laps through my little head. They still do, though a little less often. Now, there's a lot more laughter. And a different kind of fear and a different kind of care, hopefully more mature. And of course, there's a few tears now and then.
Back then, I couldn't hold him long enough. Until he started crying, and then I couldn't get rid of him fast enough. Daddy didn't do well with crying babies back then. Still doesn't.
But I still wanted to hold him, and never let him go.
Of course, I know the big point of parenthood is to raise kids who can live without you—to grow 'em up and let 'em go. They are supposed to go, to branch out on their own—a few hours a day at first, then more and more, until they have a job, a place of their own (including a refrigerator that they put food in), and then they can repay you. Or at least not mooch off of you any longer. Hopefully by this time, they have a coherent worldview built on the foundation of loving God and loving others, of living the gospel and serving Jesus.
In the early days, though I loved him to death, I didn't enjoy him much. I didn't know how. So I was still living the old life. Then, one night while tickling him on the couch, I heard him laugh. And I loved it. My wife said he was doing it all the time; I was just never around to hear it.
Then we started playing. Just making faces and laughing at first. Then little stuffed animals, peek-a-boo (or peek-ooo as he called it), a stuffed baseball or football here and there, and a truck or two.
Then he learned to walk on Father's Day weekend in 2007 in Grandmamma's house in South Bend. I wish she had been there to see it.
After that, it all just kind of blurs together.
I remember the old days of watching other people's kids doing silly things, and being a bit embarrassed for them, both the parent and the kid. Today my kid does these silly, embarrassing things, and I just smile real big, sometimes laugh out loud, and say to myself, "He's just a kid. He'll get over it one day."
These days the playing is better. It's baseball in the backyard, sometimes soccer. We play golf together. Well, at least we go to the course together and hit balls at the chipping green.
He finally got brave enough to ride his bike this summer, and now he rides like a wild man. He almost ran into the curb tonight looking at me. He has already learned to skid his tires on the pavement, which I guess is better than running into the side of Uncle Jim's truck like he did a few weeks ago.
He learned to swim, and he worked up the courage to jump off the diving board, though that took momma pushing in him a few times.
We still tickle on the couch. I don't know how long that will last, but I will enjoy every minute of it.
Tonight, bed time will be early. And tomorrow we will drop him off at school and drive away.
And that big loud wailing you hear just after 8:00 a.m. tomorrow will probably be me, not my son.
So just smile real big, maybe laugh out loud, and say, "He's a new dad. He'll get over it ... one day"
And remember, this is what fatherhood is about—preparing your child to live without you, and teaching them to love Jesus while they do it.