I unstrapped my four year old, Frankie, from his car seat in the grey mini-van. We were in the parking lot at Noah’s Bagels going for a little father-son breakfast. When I asked what kind of cream cheese F4 wanted on his bagel he responded, unsurprisingly, “T-Rex cheese bagel.”
Everything with him is either “T-Rex,” or “T-Rex egg,” which I love. So, as I’ve done about every 10 minutes since he was born, I laughed and said, “Give daddy a smooch.” He obliged by planting a big T-Rex kiss on me and as I closed the door to the mini-van I heard from behind me, “I’ll trade you.”
I turned to see a good looking guy, roughly 10 years younger than me, dressed stylishly, standing in front of a black late model Corvette. I responded, “For the mini-van or the kid? “ He said, “Both, just for the day.”
Then he went on to explain to me how he wanted to experience what I have. He said that he was still in his ‘having fun’ phase but keeping an eye open for the right woman to settle down with and build a life. However, he also admitted that he wasn’t quite ready for all that.
He liked the women, he liked the sports car, and he liked the freedom. But when he saw my son and I exchange a kiss, he imagined it must feel pretty great to be a dad.
I shared with him a little about my past life and a little of what my life was like now. We both stood quietly for a moment then he went off to do what cool single guys with no kids do and I went to watch a 2 year old smear cream cheese from his forehead to his nipples.
With breakfast came a few unexpected events, one of which was Frankie sitting in his chair the entire time. This might not seem like a big deal but he’s not a sit still kind of kid. He’s a “this restaurant is a post apocalyptic world where I can run, climb, hide, accost strangers, and throw forks” kind of kid.
So him sitting and chatting with me for the whole meal was a first. In the middle of forcing me to eat a bite of the bagel he’d already licked, two cops walked in and he said, “Daddy, policemans. Two policemans.”
Lately he’s been obsessed with, mostly firemen and firetrucks, but also policemen and police cars. And saying “Two policemans” wasn’t news because he usually quantifies everything as two. He can actually count to 10, but that doesn’t come into play when he’s asked— How many eggs are in that carton, Frankie? Two. How many fingers do you have? Two. How old is mommy? Two. You get the picture.
But not long after the two policemen sat down, two more walked in. Frankie saw them and said, “Daddy, four policemans.” I was like, say what? “Four policemans, daddy.” I was super proud because he can count to 10 no problem, but that was the first time he’d added up things (people) in a room. A few minutes later one of the the policemans came over and gave Frankie some police badge stickers that I was got to wear the rest of the day.
After breakfast we walked to the park and along the way he stopped to pick up a leaf. He held it up to me and said, “Dinosaur bone.” Then he pulled me down to his level and put the leaf up to my mouth. “Daddy, show teeth.” He held the leaf up to my mouth, made his comparison, and decided, “Dinosaur tooth.”
He carried that leaf the rest of the way to the park, comparing it to the various leaves, flowers, rocks, and sticks he paused to study. Some he declared to be dinosaur bones while others turned out to be nothing at all.
We spent about an hour at the park, climbing up the slide the wrong way, going down the big yellow tube slide together 349,595,993 times, and running through the entire place playing “obstacle course” in preparation for my next Spartan Race. After a while F4 started to get lazy and eventually, he just gave up on exerting himself.
Just before we left another family arrived with a baby and he whisper asked, “See the baby?” I took him over to see the baby and when the mom spoke to Frankie he got real shy and put his head on my shoulder. That’s a sure sign that he’s exhausted so I knew it was time to go home.
Back at the house we played with blocks for a while, building both a T-Rex and a firetruck. Then we watched an episode of the bane of my existence, his new favorite show, “Dinosaur Dan”. Bordering the closing credits they had photos of some bones and he said, “Daddy, fossils.”
I had no idea that he even knew the word “fossil” much less what they are, but seems that both he and I learn something new every day. Just before I put Frankie down for a nap he planted another big kiss on me.
And, as I lay on the bed next to my sleeping boy I reflected on how magical the day had been so far. Reading this, I know you’re probably thinking, “That’s a pretty average day,” but you’re wrong. For me, every moment with my son, every word, every smile, and every kiss, is an indescribable feeling of discovery, awe, happiness, and love.
Just before I dozed off I thought of the last thing I said to Corvette guy in that parking lot just a few hours before. “I appreciate the offer, but I wouldn’t trade this for anything.”
He simply didn’t have anything to offer me, because I already have everything I could ever want.