I'm writing a new column for the Greeley Tribune, something that tries to capture slices of life. Next week's column will be on a 4th grader who came out of her shell to sing at a performance of "Annie."
But I wanted to start it with a personal column, and I figured this would make a good blog entry as well. I don't know if I'll share the column every week. It kind of depends on you.
See you at the Mookie tonight.
Here it is:
As many times this column will rely on strangers sharing some personal confessions, let me start it by offering one of my own.
I did not expect to love my son as much as I do.
I expected to be a good father. I expected to raise him right. I expected to have him want to stay with me, one day, and hold my hand as I took my last few breaths of life.
But I expected to hold back a bit. It’s what I’ve always done in life. Only those closest to me, my wife, my parents and my brother, have bridged the gap between them and my heart. I’ve had close relationships, man hugs, poker buddies, a crew of adults for game nights, really good friends and lots and lots of acquaintances, but I always budgeted the amount of emotional investment I stashed into them.
That didn’t mean I didn’t care about them. Far from it. I cared about some a great deal. But the gap, even if it was a small one, served a purpose: It was much easier that way.
If the relationships faded, and many times, they did, even the ones I cherished, it was OK to remember the good times and say goodbye.
Even today, most of my relationships are safe and somewhat distant.
Only Jayden, in his 21 months, has reached what I call The Daddy Spot.
There’s nothing safe about the Daddy Spot. When he hurts, I hurt. When he cries, even about stupid stuff like when he wants to use our computer and his allotted time is up, my heart breaks. And when he’s not with me, I worry.
I not only didn’t expect this, I am shocked by it. Before I had kids, I didn’t really like them. I thought of them as demanding little creatures with sticky hands and dirty diapers. As someone who valued his free time more than money (and I keep a pretty tight budget), I didn’t look forward to my moments with a great book, a great movie, a great card game, a great dinner with my wife or a great trip to the mountains being replaced by spit up, “Goodnight Moon” and trips to McDonalds.
I still found myself a little resentful after he was born. Kate, who didn’t care if I went for this run or played that softball game suddenly and understandably questioned the moments I wasn’t home. When I was home, which was a little more than I initially liked, Jayden sat in my lap and cried all the time.
To help Jayden bridge my gap, Kate often pointed out that it was my voice, among the symphony of voices he heard, that connected with him. His eyes would widen, and he would look around to find out where I was.
Then, one day, when he did find me, probably whining about how tired I was and ready for a break, he looked up and smiled.
A baby’s smile isn’t as piercing, frantic or unsettling as a cry, but it works exactly the same way. It grabs your attention and latches on, refusing to let go, until you act.
When a baby cries, you change a diaper, get a bottle or walk up and down a staircase 40 times.
When a baby smiles, you begin to love it in a way that you never thought it was possible to love another human being.
At least, I didn’t.
The goal of this column is to offer you slices of life, packaged at times with a deeper meaning that we all must find in ourselves. Most of the time, we’ll explore them through other people. Occasionally, I’ll do it myself.
Kate is pregnant again, and this time, I expected things to be fine. I could do it. In fact, maybe this time, the baby wouldn’t have to work so hard to bridge the gap. Maybe I’d extend a hand and lead her along.
One month ago, we found out we’re having twins.
All those feelings of anxiety, of worry and downright fear are back. I worry for Jayden. I worry for Kate. I worry mostly for myself.
How will I find enough time to fall in love again?
I will attempt to remind myself that I’m more confident welcoming a newborn across the gap than last time.
I will attempt to remind myself to continually lower the bridge.
And in these next couple months, until the girls arrive, I will attempt to remind myself that diapers are diapers, sleep is overrated and your free time isn’t gone, it’s just different.
Mostly, though, I’ll work really hard on saving enough space for twins, next to their big brother, in The Daddy Spot.