"You're gonna make a great dad someday."
That sentiment was expressed numerous times to me throughout my prodigiously extended bachelorhood. I'm not sure why. What did they see in me? Was it my mind-of-a-12-year-old sense of humor? My affinity for Alan Thicke as TV-dad Doctor Jason Seaver? The fact I was still playing video games well into my forties? That I got/get along far better with kids and animals than I did/do any adult?
Yeah, probably the Alan Thicke thing.
Truth is, they couldn't know. I sure didn't. I still don't.
But what I can say is that from day one -- like literally, your first day off the big Umbi -- the moment you peed in my face the very first time I changed your diaper, I have loved you. Before then even, before we even knew if you'd be a boy or girl. Maybe even before you existed if that is possible.
I have loved you the very best I know how, like I had never loved a thing or person before. Yes, Sunshine came close. But I don't have to worry about her inheriting my introversion, crippling anxiety, or Peter Pan syndrome. Explain to her why she has to do lockdown drills at school. Or worry about her not making friends with other cats.
Is she eating too many Pop Tarts? Why have I still not signed her up for swim lessons? Am I spending too much time with her? Not enough time? Am I pushing her too hard in her in her first year playing organized basketball? (I use the word "organized" very loosely.) Or am I not pushing hard enough?
And I don't have to worry about some teacher putting her on the wrong bus on the first day of school!
It was the first time you ever rode a bus, when you weren't even supposed to ride the bus at all. Your mother called me in a panic saying, "They've lost Luke!" after your teacher said she mistakenly put you on the bus. She then rushed back home hoping to get there before the bus did and minimize the damage, only to have that bus driver stop and tell her you weren't on his bus -- the bus driver who knew who you were even though you had never ridden a bus because of the countless times you'd stand out in the yard and wave as the bus went by in the mornings. I left work immediately, rushing home and driving around town to try and find you to no avail. Your mom called the school and was told you were safe but they couldn't drop you off until the end of the route!
(Apparently I should have scheduled a therapy session for this.)
I won't ever forget seeing you stepping off that bus, a full hour after you should have been home, doing everything your six-year-old little self possibly could to hold it together. I walked you inside. You went straight to your bedroom and locked the door. And I cannot explain the godawful feelings I felt, knowing the whole time I couldn't begin to know how you felt.
If you never ride a bus again, I will understand.
I suppose some of this parenting thing is instinctive. God-given. A lot is probably learned from your own parents, some by watching other parents. What to do, and sometimes it seems to me even more commonly, what not to do. But way too much of it (for my worrisome heart) is trial and error.
One day, perhaps you will read or learn something about the pandemic of 2020. Assuming, that is, all the books have not been burned by then. (If you're reading this in 2040, just Google "DeSantis.") There was no playbook for parenting through that. Your Mom and I tried to make the best decisions we could based on the information we had and what your doctors told us.
Sometimes that is all you can do.
This was supposed to be a post about you. About you turning seven. About your recent and unforced (I swear!) love of football, and how every day when we get home we rush outside to use up the waning moments of daylight practicing on the football field we lined out of marking paint in the backyard.
About how you watch entire Bama games with me, your many questions interspersed with your ever-so-excited commentary, such as: "Ooo, Daddy! A false start!" Or "Ooo, he just punted it!" Or my favorite, the unprompted, "Go! Go! Go! Yeaaaah!!" whenever Alabama makes a big play.
About how when I am mowing the yard, you are walking along right behind me pushing your toy mower, sometimes even carrying a pair of scissors with you so that you can cut some blades of grass for real because Dad was unable to find or build a mower that would actually cut without significantly endangering your appendages.
About your air traffic controller Halloween costume and how you have to "direct" us out of the driveway anytime we go somewhere now, always ending by coming up to the driver's window and saying, "I'm gonna hop in now" before sauntering around and climbing into your booster seat. As if we thought you were just gonna chill at the house by yourself.
About what an awesome big brother you are to Harper. How you walked over to her and leaned your head over to give her a "hug" the very first time you met her, and how that is still how you give hugs today -- leaning in, very little arms involved.
About how she can hit you or take something away from you, but as soon as I get on to her, you suddenly turn into her high-priced defense attorney, whispering, "Daddy, maybe we don't have to take away all her dolls. Maybe we can just take away one... for one hour." (Insert facepalm emoji.)
Truth is, buddy, if I am at all a decent dad, it is because you make it so easy. You are kind, respectful, funny, and way too smart for my own good.
I'm not sure there are words able to convey the pure joy you bring into our lives every single day. But I hope they can at least convey some of the love I feel for you.
So I'm writing them down, so that I won't forget. And maybe even so you will find these pages some faraway day and be able to smile as you read about some of these storybook moments.
And don't worry, I'll fill you in all about Alan Thicke someday. Probably after you finish listening to the One Thousand Selected Songs You Should Know playlist which I will give you when you turn seventeen. And we have re-watched every one of Alabama's national championship victories.
I love you, Lukie. Looking forward to practice this afternoon.
Oh, and by the way, I have a feeling you're gonna be an amazing dad someday.