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The question has been asked of me from time to time, what has been the most surprising part of fatherhood . My answer has varied depending on what comes to mind, but the more I think about it, the number one thing that has surprised me the most is how funny it all is. I don’t know that a day has passed since Noah was born, that I haven’t found myself laughing about something he’s done, something he’s said, some way that his little developing mind has put things into perspective for himself, or something he’s learned.
A couple weeks ago, Noah walked into my study with a perplexed look scrunched across his face. “What’s the matter, pal?” I asked him.
“My toes aren’t the same.” He was upset.
I immediately started laughing. I didn’t know what exactly was bothering him, but the very way he asked his question left me little alternative. “What do you mean they’re not the same?”
“It’s not funny, Dad!” He sat down and held his feet high in the air, then grunted. “My giant toes are not the same! Look!”
I reached out and took hold of each foot one at a time. I carefully studied them, now trying to suppress my laughter so as not to offend him. I saw nothing wrong, and I didn’t see anything different from one toe to the other. When I told him so, he wasn’t having it.
“Dad, look!” He strained to sit-up and he grabbed each of his big toes. “This one goes this way. This one goes this way.” I again started laughing. He was referring to the natural curve to the left and right. Again he insisted, “it’s not funny!”
“You wanna know why I’m laughing?” He grimaced at me with a look that told me I better have a good reason for making light of his new discovery. “I’m laughing because my toes do that too!” His expression immediately loosened.
“Your toes do that too?” I nodded. “Let me see.”
I pulled off my shoes and socks and put my feet together in front of him. “See, this toe goes this way, and that toe goes that way. It’s the same as yours, but mine are more hairy!”
He started laughing. “Yeah, our toes are the same, but yours are more hairy!”
I looked at him and smiled. He had just made my entire day. “Do you think it’s just you and me that have toes like this, or do you think that other people have toes like this too?”
He thought for a minute and told me he didn’t know. “Well, let’s look,” I said. He pulled himself up onto my lap and we pulled up an image search on the Internet. “Let’s see. F-E-E-T, I said as I typed the letters into the search box. Immediately the screen filled with various pictures of feet, most of which made it easy to make comparisons of the big toes.
It didn’t take long for Noah to be convinced that his feet were awesomely normal. After another conversation about when he might expect to grow hair on his toes as well, and another about when it would be warm enough to wear sandals, he fled the scene, content. I sat and looked at the empty doorway from which he had just disappeared, and couldn’t help but laugh again. That kid is awesome, was all I could think.
The occasions offered to dads to laugh are unending. A real dad laughs or smiles every time his child puts his shoes on the wrong feet, every time his child has to suddenly sprint for the bathroom, and every time his child says new words the wrong way. He laughs when his child comes up with new ways to try and thwart bedtime, and he laughs every time his child experiments with new tactics of independence.
Real dads laugh, and they laugh often. They recognize and appreciate the beautiful simplicity that their children are, and they have a hard time not laughing and smiling as that simplicity transforms itself into their own constant entertainment.
And, even more than that, they laugh because laughing makes the rest of parenting a lot easier.
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