You made my dreams come true....
Meet the birthday boy.
In the lowest points of my childhood, when the yelling, swearing, threatening, hitting, throwing, or just plain ignoring started, I had two things I would focus on to distance myself from the terror of the present moment:
Those two things were either my "life at thirty" vision, or random basketball statistics.
While those closest to you are screaming at the childhood version of you things that no kid deserves to hear, there is always solace in Byron Scott's 1991 FG %(48), and the visions of your own American dream, if you're still alive to see it.
Decent stats. Excellent hair.
My vision that kept me strong and determined in my darkest moments was the things I never had. The loving spouse. The tidy well kept house with the fence and large yard to play in. The two happy, well-fed, and clean cut children giggling and chasing after each other. A world without fear, anger, violence, or living in a perpetual state of anxiety in regards to the next explosion of abuse. I always told myself "life will get better when you're grown up and in charge." Fortunately, it did.
23 year old Jer was definitely not on the path to achieve those goals. I dropped out of my post graduate program because I got injured and couldn't play basketball anymore. I got arrested twice in four months despite being as squeaky clean and law abiding as they come. My college basketball experience started out as "He Got Game" and ended up closer to "The Basketball Diaries".
I stuck it out and life got better. I grew up a bit when I had to resolve two court cases. No one made any "Free Jer" t-shirts, but they didn't have to because all charges were dropped. Jigga J Mac not guilty. I finished growing up that same year when on my 24th birthday I tripped and fell flat on my face and broke my jaw in three places because I was waaaaay too drunk. "Just say no" wasn't in my repertoire when I wanted to party like it was my birthday. The pieces started to fall into place the year I turned 26. As we all know, I found the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, and figured that out pretty quickly. She made me want to be better because she was already the best.
It turns out she wanted to spend the rest of her life with me too. By 29, I was a dad. I beat that 30 end date of being where I wanted to be by a solid six weeks!
We had the cute house with the yard to play in. At 31 we added another child. My wife revealing the gender of our second kiddo is on video, and involved filling the foyer of our house with the right coloured balloons when I got home from work.
I was happy because we were expecting again, but a tiny bit crestfallen because it was my first deviation from the life script I put together sobbing face down in the pillow when I was seven. It was like the Gordon Hayward - "Daddy's Always Happy" - Lite
Number two came. Life was still fantastic. We figured it all out and made it work. She's amazing and I love her. Our plan was always for four kids. As an essentially only child married to someone with four brothers, I was down for whatever my ride or die wanted.
Fast forward to finding out we were pregnant for a third time. It was about five months earlier than we expected, but hey it's working so far so let's gooooo. Then came the ultrasound and gender reveal. Holyshitholyshitholyshit it's a boy. At this moment, I felt whole. I had the wife, house, car, dog, two beautiful daughters, and a son on the way. I did it. I survived and became the person I always hoped to be. This was like beating Mortal Combat all the way through Goro and Shang Tsung on the same initial quarter AND my slurpee not melting a single bit in the process. We found out that his head was growing faster than my wife's petite frame could handle (surprise surprise given my supersized melon) and he needed to come out three weeks early.
My wife's cervix is made of diamond encrusted steel and it took 27 hours of labour and 160% of the maximum dosage of oxytocin, but he came out healthy and perfect. While writhing from the pain of medically induced contractions, my wife muttered out "f**k having four. I'm good. Call Vladars." (With Dr. Josef Vladars being THE GUY when it comes to the snip snip in our area.)
I was good too. I had the two perfect daughters and now also the son I had longed for my whole life. Sadly, my dad passed away a little less than a month before he was born. But he knew he was coming and was estastic as well.
Look at the mitts on that kid! Easy, handzilla
The first few weeks were HARD. He developed something called breastmilk jaundice where the more milk he drank, the more yellow he became and he had to go back for multiple days under the lights. It resolved on its own and we were okay.
Poor little dude....
Having a baby, a two, and a four year old in the same house was hard. But the love in our home was wholesome and enveloping and overwhelmingly beautiful. We were exhausted, tired, dirty, hungry, and none if it mattered because we were complete.
That little guy is three today. He is a handful and then some. In the most perfect way possible.
He's whip smart, curious, loving, and kind. He is hilariously funny, and cracks the most unexpected jokes possible for a three year old.
Example - last night I'm in the master bedroom with him, getting his PJs on. His middle sister is in bed on the other side of the house. He says to me "Daddy what's that smell?". I say "what smell, buddy?". He says "I think it's (middle sister)'s stinky breath. We should go tell her brush her teeth." Hilarious. Fast track to his own Netflix special and heavily downloaded podcast.
This kid decided he wanted to potty train before his third birthday all on his own. And did it. Big boy undies!
He pointed to the New England Patriots on the TV recently and said "daddy when I grow up I want to play football with those big kids." Yes you do son, yes you do. Likely catching passes from a 60 year old Tom Brady while you're at it.
On his own birthday today, he picked out something at Chapters that his big sister would like and asked if we could buy it for her. He's incredibly kind and always thinking of others, which is shocking for a child of his age.
I could go on and on with how amazing my son is, how lucky I am to be a father of three wonderful kids, and how blessed we are as a family, but that would bore the shit out of you. My son has taught me three main invaluable main lessons as a dad and a person: 1. Kids are CRUSHED when they think they've hurt your feelings. I have to watch my knee jerk reactions around him to normal three year old boy behaviour, because you can see him crumble physically and emotionally if he thinks he has hurt us, and it takes a while to calm him down. I've always been a fairly patient person, but his joie de vivre has reminded me to always be aware of and responsible for my reactions. Apologizing to a three year old is a real thing.
2. It is fun to dream big. When we went for a family hike in Warbler Woods a few days ago, I asked him if he was gonna come back there and run the trails with me when he got bigger. He said "yeah daddy and can we swing from tree to tree like Spiderman?". Absolutely, buddy.
3. Snuggling is the best. Boys love it just as much as girls do when they're little. Nothing makes falling back asleep after you wake up with a tummy ache or a bad dream or because you fell out of bed in your sleep easier at 4 am then having your big warm and snoring dad beside you. He even grabs your arm and wraps it around him if you forget. He loves being the micro spoon.
To all the dads out there, enjoy every moment with your kids. Even the ones when they're annoying you so hard that all you can think about is them going to bed and you pouring a fresh glass of Proper 12. They don't last forever, and will be gone before you know it. I realized today I was a bit sad that I won't ever have to do another bottle feed or diaper change. But then I realized that was okay, because I still had a ton more fun on the horizon, including big kid stuff like coaching their teams, and teaching them how to pwn noobs at video games.
I got one I got one....it's pretty tasty.
To my little dude - thank you. Thank you for making me feel like I'm the coolest dude on the planet. Thank you for screaming DADDY and pitter pattering to the door anytime you hear the door open and I am not home. I'm sorry that sometimes it's grandma. Thank you for always wanting me to be as much of your day as possible. Thank you for loving so hard, playing so hard, and mostly being a good little brother to your big sisters. Thank you for showing your mummy how much she means to you every single day. Thank you for being you.