We all know it's a bad idea to have a baby just so you'll someone obligated by culture and biology to love you more than just about anyone else in the world. It’s understandable to want the kind of intense, satisfying bond that characterizes a child’s love for their parent, but it’s important to have children for the right reason, and not just to make a buddy who owes their very existence to you. And you definitely don't have a child to fulfill your unmet emotional needs.
That said, I must admit that I receive a daily ego boost from seeing myself reflected in my 20-month-old son's eyes. Nothing has ever done as much for my occasionally fluctuating self-esteem than seeing how awestruck my son is by my ability to do the sorts of basic things most adults are capable of but strike babies as some strange manner of grown-up magic.
My wife might look at me and see an out of shape 40-year-old man devoid of anything that could even charitably be called athleticism. My son feels differently. When I catch an outsized rubber ball he hurls at me, he’s as dazzled and amazed as I was as a young boy watching Michael Jordan deliver a tomahawk dunk.
My son has such a gloriously outsized sense of wonder, that it takes almost nothing to wow him. And when I say wow him, I mean it in the most literal possible sense, in that when Declan sees me do things like hit a baseball 20 whole feet, his eyes go wide and he literally yells out, “Wow!”
I know that it'll take much more to wow my son in the years ahead. Right now, all I have to do is provide a steady stream of Elmo books and DVDs, illustrate my stunning ability to both throw and catch various balls and take Declan out for the occasional trip to get frozen yogurt to qualify as super-dad, if not Superman.
I feel like a prince of a man when I’m around my son.
And that's wonderful for my self-esteem. I feel like a prince of a man when I’m around my son. I want to live up to the image of me he has in his mind, but I know that the Declan who's amazed and overjoyed to be in his parents' presence will probably grow into a child who can be moody and remote, sulky and sullen. And while it's terrifying to even contemplate this, but there may even be a time when Declan considers himself “too cool” to hold Mommy and Daddy’s hand.
I think I’ve found a way to extend Declan’s awe of me for at least another couple of years, however. I just need to get him really into the music of Weird Al Yankovic (which should not be difficult, as every child loves Weird Al) before blowing his mind with the revelation that his dad and Yankovic once wrote a book together.
I hope that kid-centric accomplishments like that impress him even as he gets older and more discriminating. I want Declan to continue to see me as he currently does as the awesome dad who can do anything rather than as the schmuck I really am.