People who knew me in high school are no doubt stunned that I am the happy father of four.
Harried, perhaps, but happy.
While some of my friends earned spending money by baby-sitting, I wouldn't go near such a job. I wouldn't even watch my younger cousins.
I would stop by and visit some of my friends while they were baby-sitting . . . after the little rug rats were asleep and only if there was something worth watching on the television.
So here I am with four of my own. Though I don't watch them nearly as much as my wife, I do take care of them some nights and several hours on Saturdays, when my wife goes "yard sal (e)ing."
And I actually enjoy it.
I don't even mind changing diapers. (I mention that only because I find a distressingly high number of men my age who say they don't change diapers under any circumstances. It's really not that tough, guys. Honest.)
The joys of fatherhood certainly outweigh the heartbreaks (though a column or two could be written about those, also).
There's a certain magic, for example, in watching an infant discover the world around her. She goes from an expressionless little bundle to a tiny creature that smiles, crawls, often expresses bewilderment and occasionly unhappiness before eventually walking and talking.
(Experience dictates that perhaps the most rewarding time in the parent-child relationship is that time from about 9 months to 18 months, when the kid can giggle and laugh and point and walk, but before the terrible 2's take hold and the holy terror starts demanding this and ordering that.)
Watching your kids mature is another source of happiness.
Our 4-year-old was not all that crazy about starting twice-weekly preschool away from his mother last September. Now, he's excited about going to the "big school" that his older brother and sister attend. And whenever we pass the Runnymeade Elementary construction site near Taneytown, he proudly says, "They are building me a big school."
The anxiety comes with knowing that next September he'll still be going to what he calls his little school, for three-times-per-week preschool.
As for the older kids, there's the joy of watching and helping them explore new activities. Among other things, our two oldest have been involved with baseball, softball, soccer, basketball, lacrosse, karate, golf, swimming, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. One hopes to begin playing a musical instrument when he enters the fourth grade next fall.
Such a list of activities has, however, made for some creative scheduling. Tuesdays in the spring are especially difficult.
We live in Taneytown and I work in Westminster. I work late shifts on Tuesday nights.
But Tuesday is the day our oldest daughter usually has softball games (her Taneytown-based team plays away games in New Windsor, Union Bridge, Manchester and Winfield); our oldest son plays for his baseball team in Westminster and then goes to the second half of his karate lesson at North Carroll High in Hampstead. Yes, Hampstead.
We shudder at the logistics when our younger children become involved in some activities. (Might we be able to rent an extra parent or two occasionally?)
Still, watching them grow up is worth the late meals, wasted gasoline and time spent freezing or sweltering at various sporting events.
It's worth the tired feet after long hikes at the Gettysburg battlefield.
And it's worth the occasional heartache along the way.
L Because being a father is the greatest job a guy could have.
And I think I'm doing a pretty good job at it, because I had an awfully good teacher.