My kids are the most important thing in my world. No one had to tell me that. It’s something I felt from the start. I knew it before they were born.
I can say that with certainty because I realized, prior to their births, that they played no role in the decision process of becoming people. None of our kids do. We decide when they arrive and, in essence, choose their path. It takes nothing more than a whim or a last minute decision to bring them to life. Whether your kid knows the original Wiggles, the new Wiggles, or no Wiggles is all based on when mom and dad wanted to bring them into existence. The timing is all up to the parents.
Their names are up to us too. For the first year or so, you can rename your kid every other day. It doesn’t matter. They’re off the grid. Named him Ronnie, but he looks more like a Billy? Billy, it is. Liked Ronnie better? Back to Ronnie. Hell, you can name your kid Dipstick McDinglepuss and it won’t be an issue for years, until you check them into school or try to have Shoprite put it on a birthday cake.
Our children are our children and only our children when they arrive. They have no contacts, no credit history, and no resume. They’re all ours and no one else’s. We did that.
I remember processing that fact when Olivia was born and we would spend those long days together. She’d bounce in her little chair and watch whatever bright thing was in front of her. I’d run around taking pictures and trying to elicit a smile from her tiny toothless face. It was like seeing a human in training. I brought her here and now she is.
As time went on, though, she started to grow. She began to develop opinions and attitude. I could see this non-person becoming a real person before my eyes and, soon, she was a part of society. Teachers judged her and friends chose her. My little girl was real. Sometimes, I’d flashback to that baby in my mind. Mostly, though, I kept loving whatever new incarnation she would grow into next.
The same can be said for her brother. Lucas, due to his special needs, had both a later and earlier start to it all. He might not have found many friends in his younger days, but he was on the grid with in-home physical therapists long before his sister was. His journey from crying bag of flour to actual person happened at roughly the same pace.
Still, though, I always try to remember that they’re here because of me. Brought to life by their parents, neithter had ever asked anyone to give birth to them. It was a decision they weren’t involved in whatsoever.
Because of that, they will always come first in my life. I owe them that.
For my son, the challenges he will face at different times in his life are all challenges that I am responsible for helping him navigate. I think that about that a lot. When someone commends me for “being there” for him, it takes me aback because I don’t see it that way. Just as it’s not called babysitting when you’re watching your own children, it’s not called “being there” when they are challenges you share in. It’s not his needs. It’s our needs.
My daughter has challenges too and, as a neurotypical child, her challenges are even harder to ascertain than his are. With Lucas, they come itemized at the end of the school year. They give him checkmarks and scores based on his understanding and skills. With Olivia, it’s about reading between the lines and figuring her out. It can be often frustrating and always terrifying.
I want to do right by both of them. They’re a part of me and my greatest creations. Everything I am and everything I ever will be are wrapped up in who they are as people.
Missed events, parties I was too tired to attend, and people I’ve had to wish away into the cornfield have all been done in the name of my children. They are the ones I am most likely to spend my Amazon gift cards on and the ones who I buy 90% of the groceries for. They are the people I will put everyone else on hold for in order to handle their most basic of requests. If they needed me for something, I would walk through fire to be there.
It feels natural at this point to throw in an “I’m sorry to say”, but I’m not. I’m not sorry at all. I’m lucky. I’m lucky because I get to experience what its like to be a father and recognize the important meaning behind that moniker. When I throw myself 100% into caring for my kids, it’s not melodrama or exaggeration. It’s real and it’s right.
I feel it in my bones now, just as I did the days they arrived. Time should never dull those senses and, I will make them my priority until the day I am no longer here. They are on this Earth because of me. The least I can do is make their stay the best I possibly can.