I remember the first time I held you, thinking to myself that someday you would be a man. A great big grown up with hair on your face and muscles in your arms. I remember thinking; “some day – this kid will hug me and I’ll be surprised that he can squeeze me harder than I can squeeze back.” And while I’m happy to report that day still hasn’t arrived, it feels a lot closer now then it did back then.
I remember all the nights you and I used to spend together while mommy was away. You holding onto my finger as I bounced you in my lap. You lying beside me as I played video games as night changed into morning. You sleeping in my arms as we watched college football “together.” These are the things daddies wait for – and let me tell you son, you were worth the wait.
I remember waiting for your first words, your first steps, and your first time using the real toilet – I won’t tell you which one I was most excited for. I was wishing those things would come, and now I’m wishing I could go back. There are still “firsts” now, but they come so fast I don’t even know that I catch them all; despite being so incredibly sentimental. You are growing so fast I don’t think I my emotions can keep up.
I remember the time you taught yourself how to ride a bike (seriously I did next to nothing) while I was mowing the lawn, and how excited I got that we could ride together. I remember the first time we went out on your real big boy bike, and how much you wanted to keep up. I also remember last summer, when it became obvious I no longer needed such fat tires to allow you to. Time to buy a new bike I guess right?
I remember when you used to come with mom and watch ME play flag football and softball. One of the pictures I will cherish for all time is of you standing in the fog, right next to a ball, watching daddy play football with his friends. I was so proud then; that I could bring my son to my games. Two blinks later, and I am the one standing on the sideline, teaching you how to throw to the open man and grab and pull the flag. I sit in the dugout and tell you to “take a deep breath” as you smile at me and calmly strike out the side. I don’t know when or how we swapped spots; but I THINK I’m ok that we did.
Nine years ago, I held in my arms, a baby boy – full of potential. No one knew then, what you would sound like when you talked, what you’d look like when you smiled, how you would handle all life throws at us. Life was still a mystery.
Today, nine years later, I can’t begin to describe how proud I am of the little MAN you’ve become. You are kind and caring; and fun and adventurous. You have the imagination of your mother, and the true sarcastic wit of a Steffen. Your laugh is infectious, and your tears come from the purest of places. To watch you play and take care of your sister is the truest thing of beauty. We’ve never had to tell or teach you to love her, because well, you really just do. Esther is blessed to have you in her life; as are we all.
As the years continue to go by, I’m sure there will be more of your games than mine; although receiving high fives and atta boys from you as I come into the dugout at almost 40 might keep me in the game a few more years. I know our conversations will shift from how to throw and catch a ball to how to catch the eye of a girl; and I’m sure there will be at least a few more chances for me to console you after a crushing Packers defeat (don’t worry bud, daddy was crying inside too).
And while I’m eagerly awaiting the day I get to baptize you, watch you graduate, and marry the girl of your dreams – really I am – I have to say I hope they hold off for a little while. You see I’m just not quite ready for my little baby boy, to be my big grown up dude, full capable and on his own. If only for me, could you stay needing dad for just a little while longer? I promise to still tie your shoes and show you how to style your hair. I swear I’ll help you make the team, and teach you how to read a defense. You know I got your mom to marry me, so I must know SOMETHING about the ladies, right?
So just for a while, maybe 30 years or so – if you could hold off on being big enough to walk and wish me away; and instead remember how much you love your dear old dad, I’ll be forever grateful. I’ll hold you in my arms and remind you of the nights I spent watching you push the “mow-mower” or cuddling a pug. The Owl City song I played on repeat to calm you down when you were sad; or the first time I took you to Lambeau Field and I heard the words “dad, it’s SO big.”
Ezekiel, my incredible and wonderful son. The truth is time will never slow down. It seems to only speed up. Soon my days of taking care of you will turn to yours of taking care of me. But one thing will NEVER change. I will ALWAYS love you. Forever and always, and no matter what. Remember that. Live and rest in it. KNOW, that no matter what life brings us, you will always be my baby boy – even if you’re already; my little man.