Looking through some old photos with my 16-year-old daughter the other day, I remembered fondly the first few years of being a dad. Those were good times — the best ever — but at times it felt like I didn’t know what I was doing.
A little life, my newborn daughter Lucy, depended on me and it was a lot of responsibility. This was a baby and suddenly, looking at her there in my arms, I realized life had just gotten much more difficult, yet at the same time it was more joyful.
I discovered you can’t always be perfect when you raise a child. There will be bumps along the way. For instance, we had her bundled up like the books said, only it was 90 degrees out and the poor child was sweating. We kept her in her bassinette too long, before moving her to a crib, her little feet jammed against the bottom of the thing. I was also the subject of parent ridicule, I’m sure, when I would show up somewhere armed with a baby bag filled with several bottles of formula and enough diapers to keep Jon and Kate Gosselin’s kids changed for a week.
There were the unexpected challenges— like discovering Lucy loved waking up in the middle of the night and would not go back to sleep for hours. Or how she was prone to throwing up on her dear old dad, usually at the most inopportune moments. There was also the time she became mobile and rolled away while lying on the floor, once escaping as far as the kitchen.
All the advice, experience with my own mom and dad and parenting skills dished out by books were of no help. You learn how to be a parent as you go, by the seat of your pants. With the second child, Sam, it was more straight-forward, except having a boy comes with a different set of challenges. Like the discovery you can get sprayed with pee when you are trying to change them. The boy model also came with other options, like instead of waking up in the middle of the night and staying awake three hours, he would go nonstop all day until he crashed and had to recharge all night. He was also ALL boy from the beginning, meaning he loved trucks and sports from the time he was old enough to play with toys — whereas his sister had me playing Barbies and kept me locked inside her plastic gazebo for hours on end while I played dolls with her. Browsing through this collection of old photos, I was reminded how much fun being their dad full-time had been. Now they are growing up, one a teenager and lovely young lady who has plans for a promising future, the other not far from his teenage years, when life for him will become all about friends, girls and of course, sports.
Listening to the oldest talk about her college plans, I know even though the baby years are behind me, the biggest joy yet to come is watching Lucy and Sam become adults with goals, dreams and aspirations. They’ll always be my kids and I love them, I’m proud of them and I hope they know their old man is here for them, no matter what.
They are, for me, my greatest achievements.