My friend Michelle gave birth to her first baby a couple of months ago.

Michelle is my age, (happy birthday!) which is to say that we both went to the Hudson High School Senior Prom 20 years ago this month, where the first song of the night was “Boom Boom Boom (let’s go back to my room).”

I’ve been thinking how great it is that she’s had this baby boy, because he will certainly bring great joy to her life, and she to his. But, also, because of what it does for me.

Knowing that a friend of mine, someone my age, has just had her first child reinforces my notion that I’m still young.

Hey, it’s the truth if you believe it.

Seriously, one of my favorite parts of being dad to a toddler is getting to act like a kid again. And now that I’m older, I could care less what other people think, so if I want to dance around the mall with my daughter or sing in the middle of Target, it’s OK, because I’m interacting with my little girl, participating in her healthy development, and that’s just part of being a good dad.

But since I’m also an adult, I can do all the stuff that requires fine motor skills and a salary.

For example, I’m getting really psyched about starting to budget for a playset, for Ella, one of the wooden jobs, but an inexpensive one (Some of them cost more than my first car! … Geez, that’s something an old person would say.) I can buy the playset with my own money, put it together with my very own Ward-Cleaverish power tools then run around wild in my backyard and go down the slide head first, all in the name of fatherhood! I’m going to show Ella how to skip two monkeybars at a time!

I couldn’t have enjoyed life this much if I had become a dad 10 years ago. For one thing, I wasn’t making squat, so no nice backyard, no cool toys, less meat for dinner, etc. And I was still hung up on trying to look and act “normal.” The day I took my little girl into the men’s room at Lowe’s during their winter blowout power tool sale to change her diaper, “normal” went out the window.

And then there’s all the energy required just to keep the kid entertained. Ella’s favorite words are “doit gin,” and “doit gin, Daddy.” She likes for me to toss her up into the air, so I throw her 9, 10 feet high and catch her right before she hits the ground, and she squeals and laughs until she can hardly breathe, except to squeak out a “doit gin, doit gin.” (Trish refuses to watch.) There’s no way and old guy could do that three or four or 12 times in a row. I must be young! Never mind that after about 10 minutes I need oxygen, or the next morning I can get out of bed.

Yesterday, when I got home from work, Ella said to Trish, “I want to play with Daddy.” And I thought, score! I get to play chase! In my own house! And the only person who can tell me to stop is me, because Trish is worse than I am!

And, I get to play with a Big Wheel. This is important to me, because when I was about 4 my brother pushed me into the street on my Big Wheel, in front of an oncoming car, and that was the end of my Big Wheel. I can still see my brother in our front yard cracking up, until he realized that I had escaped danger.

I can put one foot on the seat of Ella’s Big Wheel and push off with the other and coast by like four or five houses! When I was a kid, I could coast by maybe two. But now I can push off harder, and I know how to steer, mostly. No way an old guy could do that — or would want to.

Oh! And maybe the BEST PART OF ALL … Popsicles and other frozen novelties appear regularly in our freezer! And I get to eat them! Sometimes, even before bedtime!

So, congrats, Michelle! I hope, for my sake, you have another kid in time for our 25th reunion.

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