I wrote this on Facebook on the early morning of July 27, 2013…one day later it appears here:
It’s well past midnight and I’m sitting here with all sorts of sentimental thoughts in my head. My son – my only child – turns 18 today.
Boy that was fast.
Throughout my younger years, my own dad – the best ever – would tell me how great fatherhood was. Man, did he get that right.
Being a father has been the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Being a single father has been the most challenging – and rewarding thing that I could imagine. I’ve learned a lot. Most of it good.
I learned when he was born that you can somewhat prepare yourself for what was about to happen. But only somewhat. You’ll have new life changes that don’t come in any manual or video on a YouTube video.
I learned about projectile vomiting and the amazing force a tiny body can project liquid across a room. Without any notice.
I learned how to get a sense as to when it’s time to change a diaper. Done it thousands of times.
I learned, at 10 months, that my son will never directly know the best fatherly role model I could possibly had as a heart attack claimed my dad.
Eight months later, I learned my son would never get to know my other hero, my mom.
In between that time, though, at fourteen months, I learned, thanks to that old friend, projectile vomiting, that my son could now say a word. At about 2:00 in the morning, I was feeding him and suddenly the gush of warmed milk shot out of his mouth onto pretty much anything within a 10 foot radius. Including him and me. Impromptu bathtime. There it was, past 2:00, where he, sitting in the tub, looked up at me and uttered his first word… “Daddy”. Booyah!!
I learned throughout much of the time that he was two that I was going to be a single dad.
When he was about four, I learned that little boys loved the sound of fake burps and fake farts. Little girls, not so much. Y chromosomes give us a better sense of humor.
I learned that, despite the fact that I just spent 45 minutes with a retail store attendant telling them what I need and what his sizes were – or was it a doctor’s office where I would ask questions and give information – that there would be some well-intentioned fool to would tell me what to tell my wife regarding the best next steps.
I learned that I was going to be my son’s biggest role model. That he would look up to me and mimic my actions and try to absorb my attitude and thoughts. With this, I learned that I had a great responsibility. I learned that one should never utter a prejudicial thought if it is geared against a category of people. Never. And if one does, one should immediately apologize to your child and explain what had just been done was wrong.
I (re)learned about dinosaurs, about the planets, about our revolutionary war heroes.
I learned that some of us learn differently. My son certainly did. Sometimes he didn’t learn at all. Patience is key. I’m surprised I still have hair… figured I would have pulled all of it out.
I’ve learned that, no, kids aren’t chick magnets. Not hardly. But I will say that I’ve had two serious relationships over the years with two wonderful women and I’m very grateful to them for being part of my life and of his.
I learned that, as a guy who loved to follow and play sports, you have to give your son his own space when it came to such things. If he wasn’t interested, that was fine, even though inside I may have been slightly disappointed. The most important thing is to not force him to have my dreams as his dreams. But I also learned that you gotta teach a kid some basics – so, if need be, he won’t look foolish. How to swing a bat, how to dribble a basketball.
I’ve learned that any kid is going to be sensitive and insecure. We have to recognize this and not treat that as a weakness. Instead, we need to help them build their own strengths as they deal with their own challenges.
I’ve learned that you have to encourage a kid to strive for his dreams without becoming overly supportive to the point that he thinks that his dreams are your dreams transposed on him or that every minor accomplishment is overvalued.
I’ve learned that, as a single father, one needs to, at times, put career and career goals on hold. And event though that can be frustrating, it’s a lot better than putting fatherhood on hold.
I learned that once boys enter their mid teens, they don’t want to hear their dad tell them that they love them too often. And you have to comply. Even though you know how you feel inside. They know too.
I’ve learned that my son, who it seems just yesterday was a little boy, is now becoming a young man. I’m proud and I’m a bit scared.
I’ve learned over the past 18 years that there’s something I can learn everyday.
But most of all, I’ve learned that for the past 18 years, I’ve been one lucky bastard.