I love both of my children equally but I have become a better parent after realizing I have a favorite child.
I sat in the hospital room holding our newborn son, Joseph. Just minutes before, the doctor had to tell me to stop talking throughout the delivery because, as my son was being born, he was turning his head to see me, making things difficult.
I looked down at his eyes drawn closed in sleep after the arduous journey he had just taken. Something felt different at that moment than it did after William, our first son, was born. When I held William that first time, I had a sense of pride and pure joy at becoming a father. Holding Joseph, though, I felt an immediate connection — like I was a completely different father at that moment. Right then I vowed to be a better dad to my two boys.
I became the dad who would hop up in the middle of the night to take care of his newborn son. It was the opposite when William was a baby. I would sigh every time he disturbed my sleep.
I became the dad who loved feeding his child and making him smile and laugh. To those on the outside looking in, it was easy to see the bond Joseph and I shared. It would be easy to see Joseph was my favorite child.
I stayed patient, calm and cool in the most trying moments of taking care of Joseph. It wasn’t that case with William. Back then I was winging it. My confidence wasn’t there. I was a first-time dad without an understanding of what it meant to be a father. The mere thought I would be unable to hear the commentary of the game on TV because someone needed to take a nap drove me mad, for example. I thought being a dad just meant being the fun parent who talked about farts, burps, and sports at the dinner table.
Being present makes the difference
With Joseph, I feel like I have been given a second chance at being a better dad. I now could be in the moment instead of missing so many of them like I did with William because my head was down looking into my phone, more concerned about posting a set of his firsts to the social media world.
I’ll never get back those moments with my firstborn. I’ll forever be that dad who told his son to wait before taking his first steps so he could pull out the video camera. I’ll have those haunting memories of William wailing from his crib after he woke up from nap time, crying for me as I finished up one last blog or social media update.
Things seem different now. Whatever I am doing, be it cooking dinner, cleaning up milk on the floor, or out mowing the lawn, I always seem to stop and make time for Joseph.
To the outside world, he is my favorite child
What people don’t see, or maybe they do, if they have seen me change as a father over these past eight years is that Joseph has made me a better parent to his older brother. The lessons of patience, encouragement and being in the moment are now front and center for me in both of my kids’ life.
Sure, I’ve matured in the decade since I married to my wife. But there is also a confidence I didn’t have when William was Joseph’s age. I now have a deeper understanding of what it means to be a father.
The more that I think about, Joseph isn’t my favorite child — he is my second chance. My second chance to be the father I wasn’t for his brother. A second chance to be the dad who would get down on a knee to his level, and explains to him that I understand his math homework is hard, but it is giving him a foundation to fully understand the concepts he is going to learn in the upper-grade levels. It’s a chance to pick him up when he has fallen, and not worry about sharing that moment with the world.
This is my moment
I look at the years ahead, and I see that this is my moment. This is my time to teach my boys what it means to be a dad, to be a husband, and a human being. It is my moment to show William what it means to be a big brother. This is my moment to teach both children the meaning of loving a partner unconditionally.
That is the lesson William has taught me. Even though I might not have been the best dad when he was Joseph’s age, he still loved me unconditionally. I can still be the dad I have always wanted to be because he still gives me the chance.
I say Joseph is my favorite child if only because he taught me he and his brother are really my favorites. Now I must prove it.