Why yes, I am. Very happily so. And yes, I’m very much in love with my lovely wife.
But I’m also in love with someone else.
He has bad eyesight, no teeth, bad hair, no money, he can’t control his bodily functions, he cries loudly every time he’s upset, and he wakes me up in the middle of the night.
Still, I love him more than anything.
That’s because he’s my first-born son.
Since my late teens—when I was in the Army and hence around Army families—I’ve been surrounded by acquaintances, friends and relatives who had children and thought “maybe, someday” I’d like to have kids, just not “now.” I appreciated the fact that they loved their children, but loving a child was an abstract concept for me.
This was true, albeit to a far lesser degree, when my nieces and nephews were born. And it was even true to a certain extent while my wife was pregnant.
I was told by all these parents I knew, “wait until you have kids, you’ll see.”
I waited until I was 43 years old and found out they were right.
A colleague called me while I was on “paternity” leave, during the few days I took off after Danny was born. He has two children of his own and his advice was to “hold him as much as you can now, one day he won’t want you to hold him.”
I’m taking his advice to heart. Nothing I’ve done before compares to the feeling I have when I hold Danny in my arms. And I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything in the world—not a winning Powerball ticket, not a chance at getting my column syndicated or published in book form, not an offer of an all-expenses-paid trip around the world—nothing.
Right now, if you’re a parent, you’re probably nodding your head in agreement (at least, I hope you are). If you’re not a parent, you might be like I once was, thinking it sounds good but you have no idea. I don’t fault you for that, I was in those shoes myself before.
Parenthood is something you can learn, study, read about, observe all you want before it happens. But until you have that cute, helpless little baby—a small image of yourself, your hope for the future—in your hands, you really won’t know what it’s like.
I’m not advocating for you to go out and become a parent today, at least not if you’re not ready. I’m just saying it’s something you have to experience for yourself to fully understand—like sex, combat or sky diving.
Not even pet ownership prepared me. I’ve had a couple of dogs—I had to put one to sleep the very week Danny was born—mice and tropical fish, and although they all brought me pleasure, nothing compares to having Danny. Or to holding him. Or to watching him react to the sound of my voice. Or to having him look up at me and smile and coo.
I can’t wait until the first time he says “daddy.” Having Danny has been humbling and a great reminder of what is truly important in life.