First Born

This past Saturday my son graduated from the Univeristy of Arkansas.  I read this to him at a little celebration we held after the ceremony.

I believe it was a Saturday morning, maybe Sunday, but it was definitely late morning because I can remember the warmth of the sun low on the horizon as it filtered in through the window behind your changing table. You were only a couple months old, flopping around like a wind-up toy and making things difficult for me as I attempted to change your soiled diaper. I remember thinking this was going to be my fate, changing all of your shewy diapers because the smell didn’t bother me. But I didn’t mind. I knew that your mom was destined to bear the brunt of chasing after you through the coming years, so it was something I could do to help.

As I went about the business of cleaning you up, I would always talk to you. The more animated I became, the calmer you would be, making my job that much easier. I’d describe all the things you were going to be doing some day, football, baseball, basketball, hiking, poison ivy, chiggers, prom dates, blind dates, rock & roll, slick bikes, fast cars, and college (LSU of course). That particular morning, when I was finished, I didn’t pick you up right away. I stood there staring down at you, and you laid there peacefully looking back at me. Then the fear started to creep in. All the negative thoughts that as a parent you struggle to keep barricaded in the back of your mind. All the what if’s. Accidents, illness, car wrecks, emergency rooms, court, emotional turmoil, all started breaking through that mental barrier I worked so hard to preserve. My heart started racing and I seriously started wondering what it was I had gotten myself into.

That all changed in an instant…when you smiled up at me. It wasn’t prompted…nobody blurting “Boo” in your face…or talking in a funny voice. Just a smile. And in that instant I understood what you were telling me…or rather…how I needed to look at things.

It was as if you were saying, “Dad…I got this.”

I knew then that I didn’t need to worry so much about screwing up and venturing into the dark thoughts, because we were in this together. If I just stayed out of your way and made sure I trailed just far enough behind that I could catch you if you stumbled, things would be just fine.

And they were. Look at all that you’ve accomplished. You graduated today and became an independent man of your own right, creating memories along the way that would bust the seams of the sturdiest treasure chest. We are so proud of you! The rest of your life is ahead and there will still be many choices, some of them tough, but they all will be yours to make, alone.

So the days of looking over your shoulder are over. We surrender that role happily. But that doesn’t mean we’re backing away. We will always be here when you need us, and if you want to discuss those tough choices…or even the easy ones…we’ll gladly do that. Face to face.

I love you son! Whatever the rest of your life has in store, to me you will always be that little boy on the changing table, instilling confidence in me with your smile.

39 comments

  1. This is very dear to me. My son, also my first born will be graduating high school in a couple of weeks. Can I steal this from you? Hee hee.

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  2. oh, that is so sweet. I hope you got a big hug for that one.

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  3. What a beautiful, sweet story. Thank you for sharing.

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  4. I"m sitting here crying...my two little ones (both boys) are 3 1/2 and 18 months (expecting a 3rd in Oct.), so I am in the early stage, but I've had the same "what if" thoughts run through my mind all the time when I get them to myself and enjoy the rare quiet moments with them. This was beautiful and congrats to the grad!

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  5. That is wonderful. What did he say when he read it?

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  6. What a wonderful gift to give to your son :)

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  7. Waahhh!!

    This is beautiful. You have a very lucky son :)

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  8. Very nice! Did you get a big smile from him after you read it to him? My oldest is in college right now, while raising a baby. We were worried but she's succeeding! Thanks for the reminder that I need to let her know I am so proud of her.

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  9. Oh, congrats to you and your wife and your son! What a beautiful message. You've exactly captured a parent's love and anxiety. It is true--those little ones seem so wise! I hope it was a great weekend. Hug that graduate!

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  10. That's a really beautiful thought, DL. I'll bet your son was pleased to hear it.

    Big congratulations to him for graduating, it's a wonderful achievement!

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  11. What a great gift! He's lucky to have you as a dad!

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  12. That's really wonderful to hear from a father - usually it's the mom who expresses such thoughts.

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  13. You're a very lucky man and he's a very lucky boy.

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  14. What a touching tribute. I have a ways to go before I reach that milestone; my son goes to Kindergarten in the fall. But today he's happily, of his own choosing, wearing the superhero shirt I made him for Halloween a couple years ago. It will be too small in a few months, but for now, he wears it whenever I let him. Makes me feel good.

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  15. Can I just say, Awwwwww. And I mean it.

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  16. You totally made me cry! I don't even have kids so I can't relate, not really, but you still made me cry. Congrats to you and your son!

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  17. This brought tears to my eyes. My first born is a son, too, and I can just see him at his own graduation one day. You say it so well!

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  18. Aw! What a great dad you are, and what a wonderful thing for you to read to your son. Congrats!

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  19. Tear...

    So sweet. I'm curious to know what your son said as well. I've only got one daughter and I will fall apart the day she graduates from college. Heck, I'll fall apart the day she graduates from high school! I would never be able to read something like this outloud without crying like a baby.

    Excellent!

    ~JD

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  20. Aw, how sweet!! Congrats to your son!!

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  21. Congratulations to you, your wife & your son.

    That was beautiful, sweet and ever so touching.

    Love it!

    Visit My Kingdom Anytime

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  22. Congratulations and what a beautiful post. :)

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  23. Wow. Even as a non-parent I am tearing up at this. Beautiful post. Bet it made your big boy son cry like a baby ^_^

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  24. This brought tears to my eyes and made me thing of my own little guy. Thanks for sharing:)

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  25. Wonderful! Congrats on sending your (not-so-little-anymore) man into the world.

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  26. This is wonderful, thank you for sharing.

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  27. That was really wonderful. Thank you so much for putting it out there for everyone to read. Being a parent is an amazing thing. Right now my boy is still little, but I know someday I'll be going through the same thing. I can only hope I am able to say something this wonderful to him. Congrats to your son!

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  28. What an amazing congratulations!!! This was so sweet and I am sure that he appreciated every word! What an awesome dad, and you must be very proud of your son! That was silly of me, of course you are!!

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  29. How great that you put this into words for him. It's neat that it happened, but more special that you 1. recognized the moment
    and
    2. put it in writing for him.

    what a good dad he has.

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  30. Congratulations! What a beautiful thing you wrote.
    When that day comes, I just know I'll be in tears. Of course, I'm still waiting on my first born, so it will be about twenty years.

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  31. Freaking wow. You made me cry at work. Curses. *wanders off to find tissue*

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  32. Wow, congratulations! I'm still far from that, but hopefully I'll feel that way when I reach it. Letting go can't be easy.

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  33. Looks like you don't need an extra award but I gave you one over at my blog today! Congrats!

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  34. Damn you, DL, for making me cry at work. And damn my female horomones, too!

    That was so beautiful. The "I got this" part absolutely squeezed my heart. I can totally relate and I'm so worried I'm not doing this whole parenting thing right. And mine are 10 and 8! Oy vay.

    Thank you so much for sharing that. Well, I'm off to my secret underground lab where I've been trying to invent the serum that will make my kids stop growing. Have a good day.

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  35. Aww that was sooo cute! I'm sure he was blushing like crazy but wow that was crazy! I felt like I was in your shoes and it made me feel all warm inside! Congrats on your son's graduation!

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  36. Congrats to your son, and to you and your wife. It's a big deal.

    Thanks for sharing this with us. :)

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  37. This is such a sweet story! Hubby and I don't have any children yet, but I read aloud to him the part about you changing diapers. I said to him, "You can't smell at all, so you'll change all the poopy diapers, right?"

    He said, "Yeah, right. Your blog friend is just a lot nicer than me!"

    Hahaha, I know he's kidding, but I thought you'd like to know how awesome it is you changed the dirty diapers to spare your wife some of the smelly mess!

    Congrats to your son. :)

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  38. Great tribute. It also brings back those parenting fears I think we all share. C

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