Ever met someone who has a small zoo at home with a variety of animals – cats, dogs, birds, hamsters – and yet they don’t have any kids? Or, just in general, people who maybe have one dog, and they refer to their dog as their ‘baby’? In the past, I never did any of those, but it didn’t bother me. Now, though, it does. Now that I have a child of my own – an actual, human child – it irritates me when people treat their pets like their children. It’s not their fault, really. They have no idea how substantially better children are. Yet, at the same time, it irritates me … because they have no idea how substantially better children are.
The love people have for dogs is understandable (though in my case, it’s a love for cats). To look at a dog (cat) and just instantly be overwhelmed by its cuteness, and wanting to spend time with it … we’ve all been there. Whenever I see a cat, I get excited and say, “Kitty!” (True story. Ask anyone who knows me well.) But this all pales in comparison to one’s own child. In fact, they don’t even compare.
My daughter is nearly a year old now. She’s still in that phase of life where all she can do is eat, poop and cry. But there’s something she does that brings immediate joy each and every time I see it: When she smiles. It’s cute, but it’s so much greater. It’s as if she is imparting actual joy. It’s as if she’s radiating pure happiness.
You know what you’re living for each and every time you see your baby smile.
What’s even better is the fact that this is not limited only to when she smiles. It’s … whenever she does anything, really. I love her when she eats food and then spits it out for her own amusement; I love her when she explores her environment; I love her when she stares at something for a solid 5-to-10 seconds, figuring out what that is; and I love her when she crawls around. Speaking of crawling around…
This is easily one of my favorite moments with my daughter so far. Recently, I brought her over to my best friend Mitch’s house, so that she and I could both meet his newborn daughter. While his daughter slept in her bassinet, my daughter played with Mitch’s son (his first child) in the living room, and the two adjusted to each other rather quickly and seemed to like each other. But there was this one moment that I will never forget. While Mitch’s wife stayed in the living room with the two kids, Mitch and I were in the kitchen preparing to do a quick project he needed help with. Now, their kitchen and living room can be directly accessed from each other, and are in straight line-of-sight with each other, like in most homes. At this one moment, I looked toward the living room, expecting to see my daughter playing with Mitch’s son, but instead what I see is my daughter crawling toward me. And she wasn’t just crawling, she was bolting. I’m talking maximum crawl speed here. Right toward me. I didn’t even know she could move that fast! She had this big smile on her face as she ran. I just picked her right up and snuggled her, now with a big smile on my face as well.
If you’re confused as to why that moment meant so much to me, then it’s probably because you’re not a parent. I can’t explain it, but I’ll try. It was adorable, it was funny, and it was my baby girl joyfully ‘running’ toward me just to be held by her daddy. Granted, I don’t know exactly what she was thinking, like any other moment in time, but that’s certainly how it appeared. Here I thought she and Mitch’s son were becoming besties, and they were, but out of nowhere she runs toward me like she hadn’t seen me in years.
Now, after all these years, everyone knows my disdain for religion, but being a father, especially with moments like these, is undoubtedly a spiritual experience. Having a child is unlike anything else you can find here on Earth or in the universe. You know how some say music is a glimpse of heaven? I’d say the same applies to children. Nothing compares. Nothing can imitate or duplicate it.
It’s a joyful experience even when it’s not, during times like when my baby is cranky because she doesn’t want to go to sleep. It can be frustrating, and when I was new to all this, it was even more frustrating, but now, I love the not-so-great moments as well. Lately, I’ve been very lucky, because my daughter hasn’t thrown any fits for about three weeks straight now, not even when it’s time for her to sleep. Will that last forever? Probably not. In the years to come there will be plenty of less-than-perfect times. Defiance, angst, rebelliousness, risky behavior, etc., etc. But I know it will still be a joy, because I know those things will just be a byproduct of my daughter figuring out the world as she grows up.
She’s my joy. I had a feeling she would be before she was born. I was the one who named her, and it’s no accident that I gave her the middle name Joy. She’s my joy, and she’s my angel. A spiritual being of sorts. I still can’t believe I’m blessed enough to be her father.