This morning was bittersweet. My 8th grade son boarded a plane early this morning with most of his fellow 8th graders. They were on their spring break trip to Washington DC. We had to be at the airport at 4:30 this morning which meant getting up at 3:15 and leaving the house by 3:45. Today also happened to be the “Spring Forward” time change for Daylight Saving Time so in actuality it was like getting up at 2:15. We were both a little groggy!
As we drove to the airport and I prepared to put my son on a plane, his first trip without either me or his mom, I had a flood of memories about my 14 years with Hunter. Hunter has always been all boy and has always been loads of fun. There have been lots of broken things and the smells are sometimes indescribable but he is the type of kid that makes you smile.
As I drove him to the airport I would look at him sleeping and see the little baby that was seconds old when he first peed on the doctor. I saw the toddler who tried to make a run for it on his little motorized tractor only to be caught as he headed down the driveway. I saw the preschooler who would climb to the top of the pecan tree and try to catch squirrels that ran by. I saw his first day of school when he stood up about an hour into the day and said, “That’s enough. I am going home”. I saw the 7 year old who once rode his bouncy “hippity-hop” from the top of the stairs, buck naked, screaming “catch me if you think you can!” I saw his first basketball game when he tackled three other boys and yelled “fumble” as he dove on the ball. I saw his first day of middle school when I got a call from the principal because he had somehow managed to shut himself in his locker. When I asked him how and why he did this he said in a matter of fact tone, “I’ve never had a locker so I had to try”. It seemed to make sense to me at the time.
I then saw my boy begin turning from a child to a teen. I watched him put down his toy cars and pick up his headphones. I watched him go from gagging at the sight of a girl to fixing his hair just right. I watched him suddenly care about his clothes and wanting deodorant and body soap that smelled “manly”. The little boy that would run through the house to hug me became the strapping young man that often has a deeper voice than me in the mornings.
This morning, I watched my young man go off on his own. As I stood in the airport watching him go through security with his class I began thinking about all of the incredible moments I have had as a father. I was there when my two girls and Hunter were born. I have seen my kids get sick and bounce back to health. I was there to catch them when they fell after their first steps. I was there to hear their first words. I was there to see the look of joy and freedom that came when they peddled their bicycles for the first time without training wheels. I was there when they sang with their kiddy choir at church. I was there when they got their first Valentines gift and when they had their first crush. I have always been there with my kids. When I thought about this I began to see that this is the greatest blessing life has to offer: Being there with your kids.
But being a Daddy is so much more than just being there. Being a Daddy means that when you are there you are all in. It means they are more worthy of your time and your attention and that playing a silly game is more important than watching a television show. It means that playing catch is more important than catching the game. It means that going on a Daddy/Daughter date is more important than getting to go out to eat with friends. Being a Daddy is a much more demanding position than just being a father.
Any goofball can father a child - and many have! But being a Daddy is so much more than just contributing your DNA. Being a Daddy means that you spend time in thought each day thinking about the things you need to do to help your kids prepare for life. Being a Daddy means that there is worry for their future and there is heartburn over the shape of the world your kids will be inheriting. Being a Daddy means that their life in your home is not incidental or accidental. Being a Daddy means you are there not only physically but emotionally. Being a Daddy requires the same planning and forethought and decisiveness as being a doctor or lawyer or teacher.
I watched my little boy, I mean my young man, walk to the security line. It was bittersweet because I knew he was going to have a great time but I was really going to miss him. I also knew that I would spend a lot of time worrying until I saw him again. But I stood there and watched him walk away. And then something happened that will go into my memories forever. In front of his friends, my 14 year old son did an about face and walked over to his Daddy and hugged me. I kissed him on his cheek and he said, “I love you Daddy”.
I am a Daddy and it is the greatest job, responsibility, privilege, and gift I have ever received. Now, by God’s grace, I will teach my son that being a Daddy is the greatest job, responsibility, privilege and gift that he will ever know. And I will teach him that being a good Daddy begins with being a good man. It begins with planning and certainty. It begins by being there.
I am a Daddy.