My son, Reid, turned eight months old today. These past eight months have been a blast. They haven’t been easy. Nor have they been inexpensive. But they have been equal parts fulfilling and surprising.
Less change than I expected
My biggest surprise over the past eight months is how little I’ve changed. Not only am I fundamentally the same guy. I’m the same guy in just about every way imaginable. Having a child just means everything about me is a little more cohesive. For almost everything I do, I at least consider the impact on my role as a dad.
Here’s a quick example. My dad and I went to the Shell Houston Open golf tournament last weekend. We’ve done the same thing in the past. This time, I kept thinking about when in the future Reid might enjoy watching golf. And when he might enjoy playing it. And how I should introduce him to the game. Those are new thoughts I have now, being a dad, that I didn’t have before.
Staying on the theme of how little things have changed, I haven’t grown much wiser. My parental instincts are about what you or I would have guessed, given who I was before becoming a dad. Fortunately I make the right calls most of the time. Sometimes, not so much, like when Reid fell off the couch because I got distracted watching a basketball game. We’re good now, but that was a rough few minutes for both him and me. Not my best effort.
How my son surprises me
Another surprise for me is how interested I am in watching Reid play. Sometimes, his play is random. Other times, it seems deliberate. It’s crazy to watch him move toward a basket of toys, pick out one specific toy he had his eye on, then manipulate it purposefully. He performs experiments, first confirming what he already knows about the toy, then trying to do new things with it. It’s really fun to watch.
Yet another surprise is how big a kick I get out of him smiling at me. Some smiles are predictable, like when I walk in the door after getting home from work. Other smiles are totally unpredictable, like when he takes a short break while eating just to smile at me. Or when he’s deep in play, stops everything, looks up and smiles. Each smile has its own effect on me, but they’re all remarkable. Before having a kid, I couldn’t imagine responding so strongly to something as simple as a half-smile.
Sources of fulfillment
The fulfillment comes mostly from having such a clearly defined purpose outside of myself. Before having a kid, if I thought of helping others, I thought of charity. Should I donate money? Should I donate time? Should I seek out a trusted, established institution to work through? Should I reach out in new, more personal ways? Having a kid takes all the guess work out of serving someone else. It’s clear what he needs. It’s clear what his (and my) goals are. Now it’s just making sure my actions take us both closer to those goals.
Another, related source of fulfillment comes from the growth of my marriage. That relationship changed when the little guy arrived. Our marriage is strictly a bond between the two of us, but now we have this third party who has as much stake in the quality of our relationship as anyone can have. Frankly, he probably has a bigger stake in our relationship than either of us does. That’s crazy. But it helps justify, and motivate, doing all the little things necessary to build and maintain a healthy marriage. The added fulfillment is an incredible byproduct of that effort.
Looking forward to the future
I’m only eight months into being a dad. I know this gig is going to change dramatically as time unfolds. The first eight months have been a blast. It’s the best job I’ve ever had. While it isn’t easy, and while there are times I probably don’t perform as well as I could, I’m really, really looking forward to the next eight months, and the eight months after that, and the eight months after that…