Two years ago, if you asked me to describe myself, I would’ve said I was a husband. That I was a writer. A loyal friend. Not to mention a really, really, ridiculously good looking militant Boston sports fan.
With the exception of the Derek Zoolander quote, I’m still all those things. But on April 3, 2008, I gained a new and more important identity: Dad.
We didn’t know if you were going to be a boy or a girl when you were born. Well, scratch that. MJ didn’t let the ultrasound technician or the doctors tell us the sex, so technically we didn’t know. But I knew. I knew I was having a son. I was on record from the very start that I’d have a boy and I never wavered. But because we suffered through two miscarriages, I didn’t really care what you were as long as you were healthy. And a boy. So when MJ delivered, I honestly forgot to check whether you were a boy or a girl. I just stared slack-jawed at the doctor holding you, desperately trying to process what had just occurred, while simultaneously being extremely thankful there was a guardrail on MJ’s bed because that was the only thing holding me up after my knees went weak.
The doctor’s voice was the only thing that snapped me out of my trance as he said “Congratulations, dad. It’s a boy.”
Dad? Dad. Whoa…that’s me.
Time passes strangely in a house with a baby. Sleep comes in two-hour intervals. Parents walk around like the Thorazine-riddled patients in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. It’s a confusing time when everything is in flux. So despite not knowing what the hell I was supposed to do with you, I did the only thing that came naturally. I loved you. Deeply. Like crazy. Sure I made some mistakes, but I dove into fatherhood head first and I never looked back. Because the feeling that swept over me when I watched you sleep or played with your little hands and feet, was something otherworldly.
As you grew, so did I. Six months brought crawling, mimicking and general joyousness. In my brief stint as a dad I gained confidence and skills. I could change diapers like a NASCAR pit crew. I could dress you with ease, although matching your outfits was a different story. I had no problem taking you in the car or out in public, just the two of us. Looking back I realize what a great age that was, because you could only crawl a little and there was no walking. No opening doors. No climbing things. But despite being limited physically, you were gearing up toward your first word and discovering new things about yourself everyday. And getting a front row seat was the most entertaining thing on the planet.
When you turned 1, your accomplishments were coming fast and furious. You had already been walking for three months. You were talking and signing up a storm. And you were frickin’ fearless. Seriously kid, nothing scared you. You may look like me, but I was petrified of everything when I was your age. If something was difficult or scary, I would run away or return to something familiar. But not you. You have your mother’s tenacity and determination. Sure you get frustrated when faced with a difficult problem, but you stare it down and concentrate until you solve it. I admire that and it makes me so proud I could burst.
No longer a baby, but a certified little man. Talking in short sentences, gaining dexterity and hand-eye coordination and grasping concepts left and right. You became decidedly more difficult to contain as you raced to explore the world around you, but I relished the fact that you did it with reckless abandon and without an ounce of hesitation. Not to mention you were the cutest goddamn monkey on the planet for Halloween.
On Saturday you turn 2. Two years old. In some ways it doesn’t seem possible that that much time has gone by. A tick of the clock ago you were a fragile newborn who threw my entire life into upheaval. But in other ways, it feels like you’ve been around forever. Because I truly can’t remember what life was like before you, nor can I possibly picture it without you. When I started dating your mom I fell in love with her instantly. I asked her to marry me because she was the only woman I ever met who made me feel like she had been there all along, and without whom I would cease to exist.
That’s what both you and your mom — who I’m also wishing a happy birthday to on April 4 — are to me. You’re air. You’re food and water. And while it’s not all flowers and pie, being a dad has been the experience of my life so far. Both the good and the bad. But there’s been so much more good. And the gifts you give back to me only increase as you get older. The smiles, the laughter, the “Hi Dadda” comments and the random hugs and “Love yous” are what keeps me going on a daily basis.
I know it’s corny but you’ve made me a better man. And while I’m not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, you make me want to be the best dad possible. You bring joy to everyone you meet. Even strangers. You’re only 2, but I’m so proud of you. I’m in awe of you everyday. And I love you with a depth I didn’t know was possible. And even though I don’t deserve you or your mother, it is a privilege to be your father.
Happy birthday buddy (and MJ). You’re the best.
CHECK OUT FATHERHOOD FRIDAY OVER AT DAD-BLOGS AND IF YOU’RE LOOKING FOR A BIRTHDAY GIFT FOR WILL, HE’S ASKING FOR OPENING DAY TICKETS TO THE RED SOX ON SUNDAY!