“I wanna hold you, Daddy.” My son says these words with some frequency, but it’s a guarantee that he’ll say this often whenever he’s sick. It warms my heart, makes me a tired dad, and often results in ensuring I catch whatever is ailing him. That’s OK though.
All this tracks back to May 2008. Paul was just over a year old and came down with his first real stomach virus. I happened to be holding him when he detonated. He was crying and groaning in a way I’d never heard before from him, was holding him out, facing me, and trying to get a good look at him to see if I could tell what was hurting him so badly. Then “it” happened--the boy erupted and hit me square in the chest. Lovely. I looked at Stephanie and calmly declared, “I think we’ll be in the bathtub for a bit.” I took Paul to the bathroom, stripped us both down and climbed into the tub to clean us off and soak a while in hopes the warm, steamy water would quiet him. Steph took care of what hit the floor and then came in to see how we were doing.
After a quiet and long bath, with new clothes on us both, we settled down and Paul slept in my arms. It was one of those 24-hour viruses and quickly passed. Thankfully I never caught it, and life for the family moved on quickly. What I didn’t know is that first real illness for Paul was a bonding moment for the two of us--father and son. Because I was holding him when he got sick, and then was the one who comforted him afterwards, I became the parent he wants to go to when he doesn’t feel well. Not that he doesn’t seek out Steph, or shy away from her, but it seems when we’re both around and Paul is sick, he prefers comfort from me. Steph tells me that when I’m not home, he asks where I am and tells her “I want daddy to hold me.”
Looking back to the time prior to having Paul, it’s clear I’ve changed. Kids change us and I’m convinced that people’s understanding of and appreciation for kids changes dramatically when they have their own. I tolerated them before having one. I had a moderate fondness for a very few of them, usually the children of close friends or relatives. Then we had a son. Paul changed my entire view of kids: my own and others. The same is true for Stephanie. And he changed the character of the relationship between Steph and I. Always strong in the past, somehow it became stronger as we found ourselves each anchored to two other people within the household. Like most people, I would never seek to be around someone else who’s sick. Past exceptions for me over the years include my wife, and my parents. I never gave it a thought when I was young and my parents were sick, and I’ll always wade right into it with my wife when she’s under the weather. And now I have a son. I’ve always said, and meant it, that I’d give my life for my wife. The same is true for my son, but somehow it’s different with him. I’m not sure why or how to put it into words exactly, but it’s probably the natural bond between a man and his son.
One of the great things about this is Paul draws different comfort from Steph and I. There are things he goes to her first for; Mom is the answer to my problem or need. Steph and I have never found cause to wonder or wish Paul would act differently. We’re not jealous of each other’s place in our son’s heart. He gets, and seems to want all the fullness of what we both have to offer him. We’re different people and he already knows we each bring something different into the family. For better or worse, when he’s sick he seeks me out. It warms my heart that my son already sees me in a variety of ways as his dad; one of them is as his comforter when he’s sick. And when he’s hurt or sick, all I want to do is hold him.
It’s great to be a dad!