Tom Matlack shares five tips for full-contact fatherhood.
I still remember the first time I fed my son Seamus a bottle. He was 6 months old. I lived alone in a bachelor pad on the corner of Massachusetts and Commonwealth avenues in Boston. It was a moment that saved me. The smell of him. The feeling of his little body going limp with sleep. The sound of him suckling in my darkened bedroom.
I held him long after he went to sleep. Finally, I placed him gently into the pack ’n’ play crib I had set up nearby. Still I watched him sleeping, not wanting the moment to pass. Seamus is as big as I am now; a strapping teenager. He has an older sister who just went to her prom. I got remarried after six years as a divorced dad and had another boy, Cole, who is now 6. So I still get to read bedtime stories and lay in his cowboy bunk bed well after he is asleep, just feeling him close and allowing the sensation of fatherhood to sweep over me like a cool breeze in a hot desert.
Maybe it is my difficulty with words, or my tendency to spin off into a male Eeyore grouchiness, or my struggle throughout my life to feel like I belong—but to me, the touchstone of faith, unplugging, and serenity has always been physical contact with my kids, when they were small and even now when I, bad back and all, play an all-out game of one-on-one basketball with Seamus.
I know that I am not alone in this feeling of connection. Moms obviously have deep instinctual drives that take over the moment their babies are born. But the reaction of men’s bodies to physical contact is no less powerful. I have experienced similar relaxation by getting down on the ground and rubbing my yellow lab puppy Penny’s belly. So, if you are a mom, dad, dog owner, or just an aunt or uncle, listen up. Here are some easy ways to forget your troubles and bliss out.