Sunday marks my third father’s day. I had no idea what I was doing for the first two and, it seems, little more this time around. But the kid keeps growing anyway.
I don’t care what anyone says. The first three months are hard. You’re not getting any sleep, and the kid isn’t walking, talking, or even giving you an occasional laugh or a smile. But then things pick up.
Teddy was an early talker and a late walker. Imagine that! The genes are strong with this one. Well, kid, welcome to sports writing!
He’s learned more in the past year than I have in the past ten. He’s already using adjectives and adverbs, and whenever I let a swear word slip, he can repeat it with remarkable accuracy. Hallelujah!
It’s been even more interesting getting to know him. You realize pretty early on that this small person in your home is not simply a combination of you and your wife, but someone new to the universe – with his own personality that unfolds every day.
One night after we finished reading, I looked right into his eyes, and said, “I love you sooo much.”
He stared right back at me, and said, “Love.”
Awww, I thought. How sweet.
Then he added. “Cars. Trucks. Both!” In case there was any question.
The other day I asked him if I could have a bite of his macaroni and cheese. “No,” he said, his eyes fixed on the TV.
So then I sidled up to him on the couch, enjoying this game, and whispered, “Teddy, can I have a bite of your mac and cheese?”
He glanced at me, returned his gaze to the TV, and whispered, “No, you cannot.”
But he almost always says Please, Thank you, and “Yourrrr welcome!” And when he clocks the bridge of my nose with my own phone, he looks sincerely concerned, and asks, “Are you okay? Can I help?”
I don’t just love him. I like him. But I haven’t told him this yet, because a friend warned me what happened when he told his four-year old daughter, “I don’t just love you. I like you.”
His daughter let that sink in, then said, “I like Mommy.”
Jack Harbaugh famously told his kids, “Attack this day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind!” Well, our kid does. When you give him something as simple as a harmonica or even a sucker, he says, “Oh, man!”
And when he sees me walk in to his room in the morning, his face breaks into the world’s biggest smile, and he says, “Daadddeeeeee!”
No one has ever been that excited to see me before, and no one ever will again – including him. I’m saving that recording for when he’s in high school, and I need to remember how he used to greet me. I have no illusions.
When you have a kid it’s almost impossible not to look ahead to the next thing – whether it’s talking, walking, toilet-training, reading, riding a bike, or going to school. And before you know it, they’re off to New York or Chicago.
Another friend, whose sons are in their forties, asked me, “You know about the Terrible Twos? They don’t end.”
If only that were true.
John U. Bacon is the author of nine books. His latest is The Great Halifax Explosion: A World War I Story of Treachery, Tragedy, and Extraordinary Heroism. His views are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management, or its license holder, the University of Michigan.