My Dad always told me that time flies by, and before I knew it, I would look back and wonder where all of it went. He was usually talking in terms of us growing up and I typically would shrug that off and not really think too much about it. As I get older and watch my own kids grow up much faster than I thought was possible, that sentiment really hits home and makes me rethink those conversations with my Dad. My oldest child is now 13, my second is 11, and my youngest, the baby, is 7. Time has, indeed, flown by and my Dad looks so much wiser today than I ever imagined in my younger days. The more time that I take to reflect on his lessons and think about my own experiences has shown me, to a greater extent, how to apply his lessons to my own life and share those lessons with my own kids.
Crossing over into the teenage years is something that we obviously knew was coming and we have been really looking forward to it with a great deal of excitement. I do, however, have some nagging doubts and uncertainties that are ever-present in my mind. Thoughts about how I don’t feel prepared to lead a teenage daughter, fears about what is out there in the world just waiting to get to her, the knowledge that relationships get harder and much more complicated from here on out–all of those thoughts are always there with me, just waiting to knock me down a peg when I am feeling confident about my own standing as a dad. These thoughts are not so different from those I had before she was born. Knowing that we were about to have our first baby, I was full of so much uncertainty, anxiety, and frankly, so much fear, that it really weighed on me. That’s not to say that I wasn’t super excited to become a Dad, because I was, but there were so many things that I had never experienced before and I had no idea how I would respond or how we would adapt as a couple. We really went into it with eyes wide open, waiting to see what would happen and how we would adjust. We, of course, were afraid of not sleeping and trying to adjust to child care while also both having careers. We were a true mix of emotions as we went into the hospital early one morning 13 years ago.
As soon as she was born, though, those fears and doubts vanished. The nurses let me hold her and she looked at me and things sort of “clicked” into place for me. I realized, finally, that all of those thoughts and doubts were in their own strange way preparing me for this moment. A moment that would change my life forever and permanently adjust the trajectory of my purpose. I wasn’t just a man or a husband–I was now a Father. Wow. I still remember that realization, and that fulfillment of some unspoken purpose is still staggering and leaves me thankful every time I remember that moment.
Coming home really was an adjustment, and no sooner than we were settled did things get hard. Our baby didn’t sleep when we wanted, cried in the evenings when we wanted to rest after work, and had us constantly on our toes. We read books about how to adjust her sleep cycle and self soothe. We tried different formulas to help her settle when she had her bottles. We read books to her constantly and sang the ABCs. So many things that we learned on the fly, and so many things that I never imagined myself doing in my twenties. We did them, though, and we didn’t have instructions. And before we knew it, she was walking, talking, eating real food, going to PreK, riding the bus to school, using a cell phone, and now she is riding next to me in the front seat of the car that I just bought knowing it will be hers in around three years. Wow. The time has flown. Dad was right, again, as usual.
Last week, I was writing an Instagram post for her birthday and posting some old pictures and trying to come up with the words to properly describe my thoughts at that moment. I struggled so hard because what I was feeling was so emotional it left me feeling wrecked. Trying to hold back my tears, thinking how much time has gone by, even though the future is unlimited and bright. That is exactly what I said–I was equal parts wrecked and excited. The world is, indeed, completely open to her, and I get to go along for the ride. No matter what we experience together, or I get to see her do from a distance in future years, I will always turn back to those early days at home and remember that I was there at the beginning. I’ll be there at the end. And I will tell her, the whole time, to remember how valuable her time is, because before she knows it, it will have flown by and she will wonder where it went. A wise man once told me that, and I will always be grateful for his lesson.