[This is one of my wife’s favorites. Originally published in March 2002, and revised for Father’s Day 2013]
In honor of Father’s Day, June 16, I’d like to travel back to before I was Autism Dad, when I was just “a new dad.”
The moment my son was born, I realized I held the most precious gift in the world in my arms, a gift I was unworthy of, yet responsible for, nonetheless. I was in way over my head.
But I was eager to learn, and my son taught me a lot those first six weeks. Here’s how I saw it back in 2002:
Six weeks of fatherhood, and already I’m defining myself by the way my kid sees me. I am Thick, Hairy Arms that lift him up and down (which is different from Mom’s Soft, Smooth Arms). I am Smiling Moon Face with Glasses. I am Stinky Breath at 4 a.m. Beard Stubble Man. I am Waiter, Maid, Chauffeur, Personal Assistant, Wipe My Butt Guy.
Actually my wife is all of these things and more. I’m the Assistant Waiter, Assistant Maid, etc. But in the past six weeks I’ve gotten a good dose of fatherhood … and I like it!
Like any new job, everything’s fun and exciting right now. I’m sure there will be days ahead that won’t be so much fun. But after completing six weeks, I’d say fatherhood is shaping up to be one of the most interesting and rewarding jobs I’ve ever had.
My son, Rocco, taught me many things in a short time. We already have much in common, like big meals and long naps. Rocco helped me rediscover the joy of life’s simple pleasures. A warm blanket is good. A wet bottom is bad. A big dog licking your face is startling at first … but funny!
Rocco taught me to appreciate sunrises, which I have seen more of in the last six weeks than in all of my 34 years prior. In fact, the whole sleep deprivation aspect of parenthood is something my wife and I severely underestimated. It’s brutal.
Most importantly, Rocco shared one of life’s great secrets with me. When I wake up in the middle of the night and wonder, “Why am I here? What’s my purpose in the universe?” all I have to do is peek in his bassinet and go, “Oh. Yeah.”
It’s not that my life didn’t have meaning or significance before my son was born. It’s that everything up until now seems like practice. I have seen the future, and it wears a onesie. And when I cradle tomorrow in my arms, it feels as light as a feather.
The future has gotten heavier, and wears jeans, t-shirts, and beat up sneakers now. The future also wears pretty dresses and Hello Kitty hair bows (my daughter, Francesca, was born in 2003). The future is also getting hairy legs.
But I feel the same now as I did in 2002. My children continue to inspire me, and give my life meaning and purpose. Their wonder and devotion enriches every moment of every day. If anything, my love for my children has grown stronger, more intense, over the past 11 years.
And I expect it always will.
Happy Father’s Day!
Reprinted courtesy of WAYNE TODAY, March 2002
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