I was flipping through some images online today at my lunch break. Not looking for anything in particular, I came across a few that made me stop in wonder. In that moment, I felt such a wave of gratitude for the gifts and responsibilities bestowed upon me that I felt compared to share. The first picture listed below is of my son, Xavier. Xavier is two years old. He’s a brilliant, creative, burst of energy and will. Nearing his third birthday, he’s got an idea for how every moment should go and will tell you when you aren’t acting according to the plan. Xavier is the boy I needed but never envisioned. He’s more perfect than I could have ever expected. In the photo, you can see we are on a boat. The boat belongs to my parents. We try to get out on the water as frequently as possible, and some of Xavier’s favorite moments on the boat are when the throttle is slammed against the dash, propelling us as fast as possible to our destination. There’s something magical about the wind pulling at your cheeks, flailing through your hair as you anticipate swimming at your favorite beach. All the more magical, for me, is the opportunity to watch him full of excitement as he rests against me. The sense of security and belonging we have to and for one another is a unique bond I hope to foster forever.
There’s a growing sentiment among our friends and family that my daughter is my wife’s mini-me. While it is true that I am glad she doesn’t have her father’s looks, Quinn has always reminded me of myself, without the inhibition surfacing when new to a public scene or a gathering of large people. I love this photo because it incorporates Quinn’s personality to a “T”. Pictured below, we sit on the Brown’s Island Bridge above the James River on my birthday this past March. My daughter has her Elsa jacket on; something she rarely braved public spaces without, shouting her excitement towards the photographer. From the day Quinn was born she felt like she fit right beside me. I rarely experienced feelings of doubt or apprehension of what to do with her. She’s grown into the most amazing 3-year-old. She’s on the brink of learning to read, has an amazingly giving heart, and loses her s#*! when I leave for work in the morning before she wakes up. To say my daughter is precocious would be an understatement. She’s wildly curious about information, and feels several years older than her birth certificate would reveal. She’s a blessing of the highest order and I can’t wait to watch her be a big sister to a baby girl. That’s going to be both a wonderful, and tiresome process; as I am sure we’ll have to reinforce the fact that she is not, in fact, the baby’s mommy.
As I moved though my photographs, I stumbled upon this one. Richmond saw one measurable snowfall this year. Quite a departure from the 3-5 we averaged in Baltimore the years prior to this one. The snowstorm coincided with my plans to put the fire pit I was gifted for Christmas together. As soon as I busted out that first screwdriver, Xav had to be out there with me. My wife stepped out in the snow briefly to take some pictures, apparently. I didn’t notice until after this one, and its candid-ness is brilliant. You might notice the pink gloves. Those are his sisters. He had not a care in the world for the color of the mittens – they were the ones at the door and that was the stipulation for coming out into the snow with me. My favorite part of this picture is the emotions our eyes transmit to the viewer. My son, looking adoring at me, so happy to be building something with his Dad. My eyes reflect the same pride I see in old photos of my dad and myself. There’s a partnership forming there; a feeling I love sharing with my father. Whether we are splitting wood, starting a fire, watching a baseball game or prepping for a less frequently occurring activity, I love that my father always included me in his tasks. It’s absolutely something I want to transfer along as a father to my children.
I don’t think I have a more favorite photo in my album than the one pictured below. Taken by my sister at the Baltimore City Train Museum as we waited for our train ride with Santa Claus two winters ago, I was joking with her about something small. Had to have been because I don’t remember its reason. I also had no clue that my sister was taking a picture. The profile shot of my daughter’s smile is the most perfect capture of the life within my daughter, and the life within me when I am with her. There are so many things I’m not very good at. But there’s rarely a moment I get to experience something new with my children where I am not as eager to reach that experience than they are. My children bring out the very best in me. Being their dad is the most important thing in my life. I have to opportunity to shape the worldview of two, soon to be three, little people. That’s a very serious charge. In the short time I’ll have with them, I’ll need to impress upon them the need for ethic, empathy, integrity, accountability, compassion and love. I’ll have to expose them to the raw nature of the world at varying lengths of time. I’ll need to prepare them for the course they are to chart for themselves and I’ll need to do all of this knowing I’ll have to take my hand off the wheel at some point. I’m always thinking about this line. The amount of time between here and adulthood; where they’ll stretch out and form their own plans and perspectives. Just as my parents did, and still do; I’ll have to help them find their purpose, watch from alongside, allowing for their own discoveries while instilling the reminder that my presence will always be there. In the meantime, I have this picture to remind myself of the beauty of being a parent.
The O’Connor’s are inside of our one-month count-down to Baby O #3’s expected arrival to this world. Switching from man-to-man to zone defense will be a new challenge for my wife and myself, but I’m beyond ecstatic to welcome a new timeline of anticipating experiences together to our crazy schedule. We’ve been blessed with so much, and can only hope to continue praying for God’s assistance in forming the hearts of our beautiful children. Alongside my wife, my children are the purest form of reminding me of my happiness and helping me clearly recognize What Happiness Means to Me.
Yours in the Pursuit of Happiness,