Sometimes I get a little confused about who I am in this world.
Am I successful? I ask myself. Am I a good person?
Do I ever cross anybody’s mind and make them smile for a brief fleeting moment?
I think a lot of us wrestle from time-to-time with questions regarding our own humble legacy. It’s not that we all want to change the world in some monumental way or anything like that. And fame and the spoils that come along with it are way over-rated and over-hyped and I think most of us know that, too.
But there are still those lingering questions that ping around in each of our minds, usually around the time we hit our mid 30s. You know the basic ones I am talking about:
Am I living a fulfilling life?
Am I making any kind of impact?
Is my ability to love being put to good use?
And the kicker of them all…
Have I wasted too much time? Have I been a fool for half my life?
Now, I know that we all have different ways of answering these questions, so it wouldn’t really make sense for all of us out there wondering this stuff to collectively try and come up with any sort of answers; what might satisfy my question might not satisfy yours at all, right?
And that goes for the other way around too.
Yet, in my own experience (throwing massive conventions up in my head where all 5,000 versions of me show up to debate the “big questions” above) I have slowly come to one realization that might help out at least a few guys pondering the same life questions as me.
Here it is.
Being a dad is, by far, the greatest thing that has ever happened to me/will ever happen to me.
Why, you ask? Why do so many dads say that exact same thing over and over again? There are like a billion dads out there in the world and when you break it all down it’s kind of an easy thing to achieve, becoming a parent, isn’t it? And why on God’s Green Earth do parents always have to harp on parenthood as the most meaningful thing in their lives?
Isn’t it almost a damn cliche at this point?
Well, listen. Those are fair questions and I hear you loud and clear.
So with Thanksgiving coming and all I figured, what the hell. Maybe it’s time for a dad like me to try and put it into words this bottle of magic that I managed to snag when I became a pop. Maybe I should just take a stab at telling people why I think it might have saved my ass in the end.
So here we go.
My hope is that someone somewhere who has been on the fence about wanting to become a father will stumble upon this and follow me down this wild cool road that I’ve chosen.
(P.S. If you do, you owe me a beer.)
First Days 1 of 16From the very first days that my wife, Monica, became pregnant with our first child, I felt something buzzing around me that I had never felt before. It was as if a compartment in the sky that I never even knew was there had swung open and revealed some kind of new and more kick-ass style of sunshine into my life.
New Best Friend 2 of 16I had friends, everyone has some. But still, nothing can prepare you for the level of friendship you are getting dropped on you like a very cool bomb when you first lay eyes on a child of your own. It was the most one-sided relationship in the damn world from the get-go; I wanted to make my daughter happy and she didn't have to do a thing! But it works, I'm telling you. Your little boy or little girl looks up at you from their plastic hospital bin and every friendship you have ever known, no matter how powerful and lasting it may be, suddenly just pales in comparison to this new one in your life.
‘Hold My Hand, Daddy’ 3 of 16Let me tell you something. I'm not a real soft guy or anything. Fact is, I probably lack a lot in the ways of chivalry and being a gentleman. But when I first heard my little girl tell me to hold her hand because she was a little afraid of this or that, my heart started evaporating like cheeseburger steam, man. And it's still happening. Nowadays, my son has joined in and when I hear his teeny raspy voice rising up at me," HOL-MAH-HAN-DADEEE!"...well, it's like being handed the jangling keys to the Kingdom of Everything.
Things I’ve Witnessed 4 of 16I have seen a lot of stuff in my time so far. Some of it could probably get me in trouble. Some of it could probably get me killed. But I have never seen anything as overwhelmingly epic as when I manage to sneak into the playroom while my three year-old daughter, Violet, is pretending to read herself one of her favorite story books. Except of course, for when I stumble into the middle of a dining room fort session where she is reading to her little brother. It's no lie when I tell you that since the birth of my daughter almost four years ago, my faith in mankind is re-torched on a daily basis, again and again. Getting to watch my own two kids growing up and learning their emotions and their alphabets and their favorite kind of cookies, sometimes it just all seems too much for my soul to take. You watch these kids of yours and you feel connected to the universe for the very first time, I think. At least, that's how it has been with me.
In the Tub 5 of 16In all honesty, some of my greatest moments in life so far have been when I'm just giving one or both of my kids a simple bath. I can remember a couple of years ago, just before putting my daughter to bed each night I'd give her a warm bath in the tub with all of these little green rubber turtles she had. She'd play with them and show them to me and her tired little eyes would fight to stay open as I washed her curls and her toes and all. Then, wrapped in a towel, I'd take her to her bed and put on her PJs and turn on her quiet music and watch her drift off. There might be better ways to end a day than that, I guess...but I haven't ever found them.
The Force 6 of 16Being a dad is intriguing for me because every day I look into two small faces and can see them looking back at me with this kind of look that says, "Okay boss, what do we do now?" And I love that feeling. I get to decide if we are heading out to the park to ride the swings or if we are all going to the grocery store to grab some stuff we need or if we are just going to chill out in our own small corners of the world while I get some work done. Having that kind of power, that sort of authority can easily make some people loco in this world. But when it's a power reserved for your kids, you tend to treat it with major respect; it becomes, in a sense, a privilege more than anything else. And I love that and feel lucky to have 'the Force' with me, if you know what I'm saying.
Good Times 7 of 16As I got older, I think life had begun to make me a little jaded in ways. I wasn't nasty or suspicious per se, but like anyone in their late 30's, I had been around the block a few times and I had had been disappointed by life more than once. So by the time my kids came along, I think I had actually forgotten how damn fun the world actually can be. But now, I see it all again. Puddles of mud, handfuls of sand, sticks that look like swords, you name it and they reveal it to me in fresh new ways every ten minutes or so. Kids coming into my life might not have physically made me younger. Hell, if anything, I've probably aged three years just this week. But, by being around them I honestly do FEEL younger quite a bit, especially when I'm rolling down a steep grassy hill or chasing them across a field. It's an awesome feeling...and there is nothing that your doctor can prescribe for you that even comes close.
The Road to Self-Discovery 8 of 16The more I hang with my kids, the more I realize that I never knew much about myself until they came along. I am learning that my patience is lame and that I have no real problem getting up at 4:30 every morning as long as there is a little partner who needs me to do it. Violet and Henry coming into my world made me realize that taking a good hard look at myself from outside of myself wasn't anything I could avoid doing anymore. And I really believe that has made me at least a slightly better person...and a radically better daddy.
Smiles 9 of 16Before kids, I managed to make a few people smile. I turned a couple of pretty girl's frowns into grins in my time. Or maybe I was dreaming, who the hell knows, right? But one thing I can tell you for certain is that watching your kid smile at you, whether it's because you are making a really idiotic spaceship sound with your tongue or because you just handed them half a brownie, it really does put the strong wind up in your sails. I know it might seem goofy or corny to say that I'm actually 'thankful' for making my children smile, but I am not lying to you when I say that it's maybe the truest thing I have ever written. And that's that.
Someone Waiting 10 of 16Being married or being in a relationship, being in love or being loved, it's all good. There is a real satisfaction that comes from knowing that there is a man or woman out there who has your back through thick and thin. But, let's face it, there are down times, times of struggle in most relationships. And in my case, there are probably a lot of times when my wife wishes she could turn my ass into a plate of nachos. With kids, though, it's always magic when you come back home. My son hurls himself at me when I walk through the door, much the way I reckon young girls jumped at the Beatles or Elvis back in the day. It's such a rare commodity, that feeling of always being welcomed back into someone's life as if you were a rock star. But, kids will give that to you every single time. And your heart will never ever get tired of it.
Two of a Kind 11 of 16It might be a weird thing to say or observe, but I think one of the grand prizes we get when we become dads is that we can help mold and shape tiny people into the kind of big people we think the world needs. We can, in effect, cast them in our shadow. How bizarre and wild is that? Now, I want my kids to follow their own whims and desires, you can be sure of that, but everyday, while they are still so young, I keep finding new and interesting ways to help them get there. They wanna dance? I put on a Little Richard record. We go to the store together? I drag them through the fishing section, talking up a storm about how cool trout are. It's usually a bunch of little things I end up peppering down on them as their little minds are cooking inside of them. But someday, it will all add up, I hope. And that makes me feel kind of invincible.
Dig The New Stuff 12 of 16Watching your children form interests of their own is pretty fascinating. Watching my daughter become smitten with dinosaurs or the Fresh Beat Band, or seeing my son getting serious about playing with the toy castle and dragons, those are the kinds of things that have led me, a grown man, down about a thousand strange new paths already; paths that I would have never ever ventured down if it weren't for them. And I dig that more than I can even explain. I am being introduced to all this new stuff and it's stuff that THEY like, which means...Hey, I want to like that, too.
All-Star Conversations 13 of 16Nothing beats talking to your own son or daughter. I'm serious; it's mind blowing. Just today, I was eating some lunch with my daughter (almost 4) and we were talking about food and out of nowhere she just blurted out," Fruits and vegetables will make me STROOOOONG!" Oh my God, I thought to myself, that is the most incredible thing I have ever heard anyone say ever. And yeah, maybe it hit me so hard because it was Mini-Me over there across the table saying it, but still. I adore talking with my kids and I find that just hearing them stringing sentences together lifts me up and hurls me into the clouds.
Love Bonds 14 of 16Love, the kind of super galactic love that forms between parents and their children the very second that they get born, is a massive solar system of a thing, huh? And what makes it even more astounding is how that particular love tends to move into our skin in those first few seconds of parenthood and never ever leave. I don't honestly understand how some dads stray from their kiddos and end up missing or uninvolved with them. That has to be some type of Hell On Earth for those guys, I would think. And I'd be a fool if I didn't mention here that I am ultra-thankful that I am not that type of man.
Little Stuff 15 of 16My two kids manage to get chocolate in their ear holes sometimes. And I've seen Violet seriously attempt to reason with Henry about why he shouldn't be looking at the same book she is looking at because it might turn him into a balloon. Taken one oddity or crazy moment at a time, living with kids is novel, to say the least. But as an amalgam, when you pile all of the craziness and all of the hysteria and all of the laughs and the teardrops on top of each other, that's when I think that I start really realizing the sheer majesty of being a dad. We are incredibly lucky, you know? We are surrounded by Shakespearean-style theater 24/7. We exist in a sort of underground chamber of comedy and tragedy, of mashed potatoes up the nostrils and grocery store temper tantrums that could make any audience weep and guffaw with us if our lives were unfolding up there on the silver screen instead of in our kitchens.
Love, Unconditional and Forever 16 of 16Some guys are just damn near perfect. They have the grace and the charm, the successes and the proof to pin this circus tent called life down with silver stakes. Me, I'm not exactly one of those fellas. I have struggled with things, like a lot of fellows my age (40) have done. But, it's okay. It's okay because sometimes in the evening, when my daughter or my son has fallen asleep and I sneak quietly to their side and lay down and listen to them breathing, when I lay the edge of my hand in the path of their tiny exhaled breaths, I feel the weight of their very lives on the tips of my fingers. Then, at that moment, I understand that my life has become exactly what I have always dreamed it could be. Mine's a life spent trying to get better for good reason. After all, I'm a father, a daddy. And I might not be within ten thousand miles of perfect, but to each of these kids, I have the chance to be the greatest super hero who ever lived. And I'm thankful as hell for that chance. And I don't aim to blow it.
You can also find Serge on his personal blog, Thunder Pie.
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