Being a New Dad in the Early Years by Chris Cottle
As I think back over the last 10 years of being a father, I reflect on the joys and the struggles of the early days. There have been many joyous moments such as being there when my son was born, watching him smile as he woke up from a nap, his first words, his first steps and I can go on and on. But the biggest struggle through all those joyous moments was I physically could not tell him that I loved him. It is even difficult for me to type those words, that I couldn’t. It’s not that I didn’t. Because I truly did and still do. I was able to overcome this difficulty with the help of my friends and my wife. I now have three kids and I tell them every day that they are loved. Now let’s take a difficult walk down memory lane.
As a child I don’t recall my father being present much, mostly due to the fact that he was in the Navy as an officer. He was out to sea quite often. Even when he retired from the Navy he was going to work early and coming home late. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not knocking my dad in any way. He was doing what he had to at the time. The more I think about it I don’t recall many of the men in my family telling myself or my brother I love you. We heard “I’m proud of you” when the time called for it, but not those three important words. I never knew how they would affect me later down the line.
It was the summer of 2005 and my wife was due with our first child. We were the typical first time parents. We had read all the books we could find, bubble wrapped the entire house, and had prepped for this day for weeks in advance. The day had come and we were officially parents! I held my son for the first time and everything changed. My whole world was fixed on him. While at the hospital I felt the need to say I love you to my boy, but the words physically wouldn’t cross my lips. I shrugged it off and hid it from my wife, she was a ball of emotion and I didn’t want to blemish this moment. Flash forward to a few weeks later. I felt the urge to express my endearment yet again, but nothing but “I” would come out of my mouth. I was heartbroken and thought what kind of father can’t tell his son I love you.
I talked to my wife about my issue and believe it or not she was understanding considering my history of being emotionally inept (In the past I have not been one to express emotion much). I spent a lot of time discussing my lack of verbal communication with my best friend at the time, who was also quite supportive. Finally I came to a conclusion. I chose to show my son I loved him despite the lack of words. I was constantly holding him and taking care of him on my off shifts. I knew that if he felt loved I wouldn’t have to say it. If I remember correctly, with the more I showed him, the easier it was to say it down the road. Once he began making noise and communicating in his own way, I was able to tell him I loved him as well as show him. My wife began calling me the baby whisperer as I was able to soothe him on occasion when she could not.
After everything was said and done, I found comfort in my wife and friends. Because I felt comforted I in turn discover a solution to my issue. If I couldn’t say the words like I wanted to, I was able to wrap him in my loving arms showing my love. Sometimes you have to find other solutions that may not show themselves in the beginning, give it time and you will discover them where you least expect.
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