As I sit to write this, I’m surrounded by my children. It’s a holiday. The sort of holiday that catches you off guard. “What? No school today? Crap.” Sometimes the kids are playing together. Sometimes they are fighting over something insignificant. Sometimes they are cute and awesome. Sometimes they are obnoxious and annoying, but at all times they fill my life with next-level love.
This is the point where people without children check out of the conversation. They roll their eyes and breathlessly express, “OK. OK. We get it.” They don’t, of course, because some things are impossible to get. Even as I experience this all-consuming love, I don’t get it. I’m surrounded by it. I’m immersed in it. I still don’t get it, but I know it’s by far the most powerful force I’ve ever experienced.
I’m a car guy. Finding this new depth of love has been like dipping into the throttle for the first time after adding more horsepower. Sure, I’ve had the turbos spooled up before. I’ve been full throttle countless times, but today the boost is turned up. The engine is breathing better, and I put my foot in it. Suddenly the car is more alive and angry than I thought possible. It snarls and pops. It leaps out of corners with reckless tenacity. Having children has added oxygen to my heart the way turbos inject oxygen into an engine. Functionally everything’s the same, but there’s just more of everything. This new level of love my children have spawned in my heart is overwhelming.
I find myself just manly enough to admit I can now cry over anything. I remember mocking my mom for crying at commercials or being too stressed to watch a tense movie. Now I take it all back. I watched a music video the other day (yes, believe it or not, they still exist!). The song is called “Happier.” The video details the relationship between a father and daughter.
This level of love and emotion defies logic. It wells up from a deep, incomprehensible spring. Experiencing this potent cocktail of emotion has allowed me to understand many issues, which had previously baffled me. Like: How could a man abandon his family? But I get it now. This level of love is difficult to rectify in the rational mind. These little helpless beings gush love unconditionally, and sometimes our baggage-choked lives won’t allow us to return the same. Their perfection amplifies our failures. Their selfless love exposes our own enduring selfishness. Many men can’t endure who it is they see in these emotional reflections. I’ve never wanted to flee, but I now understand how the force of this next-level love can repel men who aren’t ready for the level of love children bring to the table.
This dad life ain’t for everyone. There are forces here we can’t perceive until we’re so deep into the muck we’re struggling to keep our heads up. But, like all struggles, the lessons we learn are invaluable. This next-level love has taught me to love fully and live lighter. It has taught me to believe in more than I can see, and to be less judgmental of other dads struggling to find their own path.
I encourage you to let the next-level love your children express echo out into the world, because, well, I think we’d all be a little better off with more overwhelming and unconditional love in our lives.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Christian “Lemon Shark” Lemon, a member of our Cincinnati Dads Group, is rumored to be left-handed and allergic to writing implements. He’s a father of 3.5, a house husband and kept man. He writes, but not enough to be followed on social media — probably because he’s too busy asking youths to get off his lawn.