The joy that fatherhood can bring is unparalleled. A dear friend of mine, mired in the craziness of having a newborn, sweetly reminded me of this fact.
My children have touched my soul in ways that I couldn’t imagine. As my wife and I often say to each other, it hurts, but in the best way imaginable.
There are many moments while being a father that have brought me incredible joy.
I was amazed and joyful when our first child was born. But I was also exhausted. My wife went into labor at 3 am and was in labor for 25 hours. The first day of my son’s life I took most of the late night shifts so my wife could sleep and rest. I went on 6 or 7 hours of total sleep over 4 days.
The first moment of pure joy that was not mired by total exhaustion came about a day or two after we returned home from the hospital. My son was slightly jaundice so we were encouraged to put him in the sunlight if at all possible. Since he was born in January, the closest he was going to get was in our living room, as the morning sun poke it’s head through the leafless trees.
One morning, in the early sunlight, while my wife was resting, I took my son in his pumpkin seat over to the window. While he slept peacefully in the warm sun, I sipped on a mug of strong coffee. The quietness of the house allowed me to focus and appreciate the gift of my newly born son.
He was healthy and beautiful. The gift of life and beauty of creation moved me to be filled with joy beyond my ability to receive. I was overwhelmed with the glory and magic of it all. I sat and wept tears of joy in a moment that I will never forget.
Since that day, my children continually bring joy into my life in unexpected ways.
The first time my son said “Dada”.
The first time he smiled.
The giggles, the unsolicited hugs, and now the unsolicited “I Love you Daddy”.
The music we create, games we play, and mess we make.
The trips to the zoo, lake, museum, and park.
But regardless how much we hope and want to experience joy in our lives, there are steps we need to take to experience the full joy that fatherhood can bring.
Firstly, we need to be present to experience the joys of fatherhood. These moments won’t happen while you’re at work, or mindlessly playing on your phone. We need to set aside time in our daily and weekly routines just for them. To play, to live, to experience with them. I chose to eliminate and modify certain activities in my life and I don’t regret it for one moment.
And we need to be grateful and learn to fully appreciate these moments. I often hear people talk about how fast the time goes. In their voice I sense a slight longing to go back to the times when their children are young, slow down, and appreciate the joy just a little longer.
Knowing these times won’t last forever, I now take more time to just be with my children. I’ll watch them play or sleep. I give them extra hugs and kisses, willing or not. I tickle them again and again because I can’t get enough of the sound of their giggle.
Learn to be more grateful and appreciate them.
One of my favorite things now is the wonder, excitement, and joy my sons have in experiencing new things in life. Seeing the new hippos at the zoo, the first winter snowfall, or the excitement of Halloween.
Recently I was able to introduce one of my favorite activities to my oldest son for the first time: camping. On a warm beautiful fall day in October, we went to a nearby campsite along a beautiful natural river. Since it was October, we were almost alone in the campground giving us plenty of space to roam and play.
Being outside with my sons feels very natural. They explore, play, and tinker with a freedom that evades them inside. They can get dirty and physical without fear of punishment.
My son and I had a blast. We had sand in our socks and dirt under our fingernails. We played cards and duck duck goose. I showed him how to skip rocks, pee in the woods, and use a headlamp.
We watched the full moon rise and we stared at the stars for the first time.
The next morning, we woke up right before dawn and the first thing my son told me was, “Dad, I really like camping.” And then we had popcorn for breakfast.