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The Joy of Fatherhood Exceeds My Wildest Dreams

Dear Dad,

Why didn’t you tell me? Why didn’t you tell me what would happen to Father’s Day as my kids grew? Don’t get me wrong. I still get my one special day of the year. But what about those other 364 Father’s Days?

Now that my own kids have become teens, I’ve found that Father’s Day happens much more often than once a year.

Especially when I’m paying attention, and I notice that they are little adults-in-the-making.

I quietly celebrate every time I see my son do some subtle little thing that reminds me of his mom. When my daughter has to turn off the house lights in a certain order, my wife will turn to me and apologize for passing on that strand of DNA. And I love it. These moments are a kind of Father’s Day.

Sometimes, I can see the faint outline of myself. When I hear my boy make that ridiculous noise when he is genuinely surprised — that sort of hiccup/gasp — I think, Oh my god, that’s me! And I love it.

Dad, why didn’t you tell me that I might be helping my wife in the kitchen and I will smile when we hear our stoic 15-year-old yelling at the TV because his guy couldn’t get the ball out of the infield with a man on third and only one out? That I will quietly chuckle when he’s singing in the shower and he doesn’t realize everyone can hear him? That I will feel a disproportionately large amount of joy when I see my seventh-grade daughter light up when she inadvertently runs into her friends while we are at the mall together?

You know what just happened, Dad?

I saw my son talking to a girl and he kind of, sort of, looked reasonably comfortable. I thought I was going to faint. Did you know that my wife and I wanted to high five each other after showing the kids “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and they laughed at all the right parts? And, also—do you know how hard it is to watch your boy get second place in the 110-meter high hurdles and not scream your fool head off? Maybe you do.

You should have told me, Dad, about the perfect joy I would get out of measuring my kids every year against the kitchen door and seeing the new lines two inches above where they were last time.

You could have warned me that my face might become a little sore from smiling after coming home to find the lawn mowed without me even asking. Or about how I felt I might actually burst with pride after hearing another parent tell me how impressed they were by how my kids behaved at an event.

Want to hear something crazy? My son was actually proud of something I did. Me. You read that right; he was proud of me. You know what amazing thing I did? I had the fourth best time of the day at the local go-cart track. My son bragged to all his friends. There are no words to describe how that made me feel.

This year-round Father’s Day thing is amazing.

I receive gifts all the time—all I have to do is open my eyes and appreciate my teens’ daily idiosyncrasies, generosities, mistakes, and simple pleasures. I had no idea this was coming.

So why didn’t you tell me, Dad? Well, maybe you did, and I just wasn’t paying attention. Maybe you did by simply being around when I needed you, by helping me through my own teen years, by leading me by example, and by raising me to be a good father in my own right. Maybe this was simply the payoff that you knew was coming. Either way, thank you.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a couple of gifts waiting for me at home right now. One is 15, and one is 13.

Bryan Johnston is a freelance writer, author of several books, and the Creative Director for a creative agency in Seattle, Washington. He is married, has two teens, and one large goldendoodle. He loves baseball and movies and thinks A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles is the most enjoyable book he’s ever read.

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