Today is my son Jackson's 1st Birthday. Yep. 365 Days ago my life changed in ways that, let's be honest, no one is prepared for at first.
On September 7th, 2016, I was wearing a bacon outfit while interviewing Demi Lovato and Nick Jonas at our Rooftop Pool Party.
About 6 hours later, my wife and I were headed to the hospital, about two and a half weeks early, and at 8:39am on September 8th I became a father to a 19-inch, 6 pounds and 13 ounces screaming, pooping, eating machine, which we named Jackson Thomas.
For us, it wasn't an easy road. Our first son, Brysen, was stillborn at 21 weeks due to Potter Syndrome (a 1-in-5,000 disorder where the fetus doesn't develop kidneys or lungs in the womb). There were two other early-term miscarriages mixed in, and the natural instinct was to wonder if we just weren't meant to be parents. Self-doubt and blame snuck into our minds. There were so many questions that just seemed to have no answers. Was there something wrong with us? Could we ever have kids? Is this a sign from a higher power?
So needless to say when we found out that my wife was pregnant again in January of last year, there was hesitation every step of the way. "Okay, don't buy too much stuff yet", we said on more than one occasion, fearing the inevitable heartbreak. There were numerous late night conversations about staying positive, being optimistic, living in the now, but it was difficult knowing that we had been down this road before. So what a sigh of relief when we made it to the 20-week ultrasound and found out that everything was perfect, and we were going to have a beautiful baby boy.
Funny story - my wife and I were both convinced he was going to be a girl. We didn't even pick out boy names. We just both had this gut instinct that we were having a daughter, who we were going to name Emma Grace. Literally the first thing we said when we saw the ultrasound was "Oh my God, we have no idea what to name this child".
Anyway, I digress. Obviously we made it through the pregnancy (my wife would not recommend being in the 3rd trimester during summer), and on September 8th my life changed in so many ways that I can't even count. For example, I can tell you zero words to "Despacito", arguably the biggest song of the year. However, I can recite entire episodes of Bubble Guppies almost verbatim.
Photo Credit: STP Photograpy
What I've found the most fascinating, though, is that even though my role in my son's life is to be the provider and teacher, I've learned just as much from him as he has from me. It's so easy to get caught up in our everyday lives - our jobs, our friends, our relationships - that we fail to appreciate the little things that so often are taken for granted. It's so easy to find reasons to be stressed, upset, or angry. But watching a child grow up reminds us how precious life is and how, if we just take a step back and enjoy it, the world is a pretty amazing place.
Here's a few life lessons we can all take from my 1-year old.
- Strive to be as joyful about one thing per day as my son is about spaghetti.
- Sometimes, a hug is all someone needs to feel a little better.
- You will definitely fall, and sometimes it's gonna hurt, but if you get up and keep going pretty soon the times you fell won't matter.
- Dogs are awesome.
- It's amazing how much more of the world you can see from other people's perspective (even if it's just from Daddy's shoulders).
- It's pretty difficult to put a square peg in a round hole, but dammit you have to keep trying anyway because maybe someday....
- People are pretty great, no matter how different they may be from what we're used to.
- Pants suck.
- Smile when you see someone. You never know what they're going through and that smile can light up their world.
- If one door won't open, keep trying until it does. Turns out locks can break with enough determination.
- Laugh when you want to cry. You might forget what you wanted to cry about.
- A little silliness can make the worst day more tolerable.
- Never stop learning.
- Love unconditionally and with your whole self, regardless of how much metaphorical poop is in your diaper.
Photo credit: STP Photography
So, Jackson - Happy Birthday little dude. In 20 years I'll buy you a beer and tell you all of these things that you won't remember. And hopefully you will have learned a few things from me by then too.
Thanks for letting me be your dad.