The following was originally published in “The Good Life Men’s Magazine”
Nobody told me parenthood is a path toward enlightenment. They told me it’s expensive, tiring and thankless. There’s a bit of truth to both takes, but lately I’ve found myself inordinately delighted by the unpredictable antics of my three-year-old son, Macklin. Tomfoolery that would otherwise inspire madness has become the highlight of my days. I’m completely content with evenings spent lying facedown on a living room floor that hasn’t seen a vacuum in weeks, getting jumped on by a 40-pound toddler. It may not be your definition of enlightenment, but it’s as close as I’ve so far come to my own.
As we approach the holiday season, starting with Thanksgiving, I can’t help but reflect on ‘The Good Life’ I’m living. Each day of parenthood brings new revelations, but while playing the part of doughy-soft crash pad for Macklin — future WWE star — a deep realization burst into my awareness. Or maybe it was a budding frontal lobe migraine caused by the repeated blows. Either way, the thought holds true: every phase of Mack’s young life somehow becomes my favorite.
Again, it may just be a sign of cumulative brain damage and memory loss, but every shift in personality, every major or minor milestone achieved, every new word, step or stumble beguiles me. Is it possible to fall in love with potty training? To find beauty in bloodied knees? To embrace fits of tantramonious rage? Why yes, it is. It is the zen of parenting — loving your offspring so much, that (most) every moment blossoms into a cherished memory. A few examples…
The First Giggle
Looking down at a newborn in your arms is tough to beat. It’s a moment of purity, like looking out the front window to see winter’s first blanket of unblemished white snow great the morning sun (unless you hate winter, of course). But that first giggle… ah, it’s life changing. A smile may be the first indication that your child recognizes you, but a giggle is the first time he really gets you. I’ve shared in thousands of giggles by this point, but each one is my favorite.
Curious About Everything
Toddlers are as enlightened as any being out there. Why? Because they live completely in the moment. Everything is new and mysterious, and everything is capable of inspiring awe at a moment’s notice. If you go along for the journey with them, you get the chance to catch a whiff or two of second hand awe. Every walk to the park is an adventure, an opportunity for him to discover something new… and, through his questioning everything around him, for me to rediscover that which once surely delighted me, too. Perhaps it’s an ego trip, but I love delivering answers to his many questions.
Even Potty Training
Yes, I even find ways to love this ongoing experience of potty training. It’s perhaps the longest phase yet, but oh so worthy of cherishing. Watching Macklin learn to take himself to the bathroom, even interrupting bathtime to do so, I’m witnessing him take a monumental step towards independence. Sure he misses a lot, but the pride on his face after a job sort of well done makes the lingering smell of stale urine almost bearable. Honestly, we’d all be a lot happier if we could manage to be as pleased with ourselves as Macklin is after pulling up a dry pair of undies.
With each new phase, the challenges grow and intensify just as Mack does, but so do the rewards. As does my optimism. When Mack was an infant, I didn’t want anything to ever change. He was perfect. But then, he rolled over, looked up and smiled. Suddenly, I was in love with a whole new version of him and everything was newly perfect. It happens again and again and I’m thankful to be able to trust each new challenge will also present new gifts. It may not be true enlightenment, but I’m thankful for a son that makes me content in the moment, yet eager for the future. What a good life indeed.