When you were born and I held you for the first time, I felt wonder, but my overwhelming emotion was fear, and my brain kept whispering, actually shouting, that I was going to fail as a dad. I became obsessed with trashing myself for both not adhering to the cliché of falling in love with you the first time I held you.
I kept waiting for THE MOMENT, the flash of light, the mental click of a button. I suffered through panic attacks during which I sobbed and curled into a ball while you cried and ate and pooped and cried and ate and pooped.
Around six months after you were born, your mom took a picture of us. When she showed it to me, I was stunned. As I stared at my facial expressions, the softness in my eyes, the slight smile and I realized I’d loved you all along.
Boy was I wrong! My mind had trapped me in this cycle of shame and guilt and self-loathing refusing to see the truth, the utter joy you brought to my life.
As you grew we developed a strong bond filled with love, playfulness, silliness, wonder; the shared love of going to the movies; Transformers (the original cartoon, of course); all things Star Wars; superheroes; powerful girls and women like Wonder Woman, Rey, Black Widow, Princess Leia; nature (you still love that video about the mimic octopus of Indonesia); and funny sounding words and phrases.
“Did you see or touch any monkeys?” I’d ask when I picked you up from Pre-K.
“Did you eat any poison dart frogs?”
“Daddy! That would make me sick!”
“Ok…whatever you do, don’t say ‘Bork Bork Bork!’
“BORK BORK BORK!”
And we laughed, both of us with gleaming eyes and silly grins. We laughed like a father and daughter who shared a special secret.
I gave you my childhood toys and watched with glee as Frozen‘s Elsa took on the Decepticon, Shockwave (remember Transformers were made of metal? Craziness.). I watched you dress up as Rey from Star Wars: The Force Awakens and my heart filled with pride and happiness.
There’s no more fear in my eyes when we take pictures together. Just joy, fun, love.
So #thanksbaby. Thank you for showing me that I’m not failing nor will I ever fail as a dad. Thank you turning that fear I felt 5 years ago into unconditional love. I’m your dad and I’m proud as hell to be your father. And on this Father’s Day, I remember…I remember that fear, but I KNOW that love.
Sunday is Father’s Day and I’ve partnered with Pampers on their #ThanksBaby campaign. In addition to this post and some great stuff from me and other dads on social media, we’re also hosting a Twitter chat on June 17 at 8 pm EST, where you could win a VISA gift card worth $250.
Also, please check out and share this fantastic video from Pampers honoring dads.
Disclosure: I have partnered with Life of Dad and Pampers for this campaign, but as always, all opinions are my own.