I remember the first time I laid eyes on all of my kids. I won't go into details because you know it was in the delivery room and what happens in the delivery stays in the delivery room…at least as far as the Dad is concerned. It's not my story to tell.

I know I felt panic the moment I laid eyes on them.

My tribe

My children

How do I pay for college? (A question I'm still trying to answer).

How do I pay for weddings?  (A question I hope I don't have to answer for a few years).

What happens if I screw this up?

Can I do this?

I love being a dad. I hate it when school starts back up. I miss my kids when I'm not with them.

My youngest is seven as of the writing of this post. That's significant because one of my favorite parts of parenting is going to come to an end. The phase of spontaneous and almost endless kisses and hugs. The end of snuggles for no reason other than he wants to be with me. I've been through this three times before.  I remember when that phase ended with all of my three oldest.

And the transition has some great things too. The phase that follows is awesome. I love having deep conversations with my older kids about weighty issues. I love hearing their takes on politics, leaders, and the world. But that's ending too.

I currently drive my two oldest to school every morning. But my oldest is about to get her license. Which means, she'll be driving herself and her sister soon. Even if that doesn't happen, she'll graduate in too short an amount of time. I will no longer have the daily car ride to glimpse into her world.

And I'm grieving. Even as I type these words, I feel it in my gut. When my youngest daughter reached the "I'm too cool to give hugs and snuggles too often" phase I grieved.  I hurt. My gut hurt.

Dear fellow dads, you too will grieve and it's OK.

I feel like society is doing a better job allowing mom's to grieve the growing up process. Here's my shout out to Dad's. I see you. I know you're pain. I've felt it and I will feel it again.

There doesn't seem to me to be a lot of space in society for men to grieve. Especially not to grieve their kids growing up. Not because I don't want my kids to grow up. I do. I am proud of the women my girls are becoming. I look forward to the day they are adults. I look forward to knowing my son as a young man.

And it hurts my heart. I love snuggles. I love holding my son and just squeezing him. I love his kisses. I miss the regular snuggles from my girls.  I miss their little hands and feet. I miss the cute things that only little kids can do.

As I prepare for my oldest to transition into her twenties, I imagine I will miss her teenage years.

The thing about grief is that it doesn't mean that you don't want the next phase to happen.

Grief just means that you can recognize how awesome the last phase was and how much you will miss it.

Once my son hits the teen stage, the next Martino I snuggle will probably be a grandchild and that won't be for a while (probably). And it will be different.

This morning I couldn't sleep (God bless my intestinal track) so I just watched my son sleep. I counted his breaths. I looked at his hands and his hair. I tried to take it all in. Put it into my minds eye for later retrieval. 

Because I know it's coming to an end. I can't stop it. I don't want to stop it. I do want to recognize it and honor it. I want to feel the joy and the pride and the pain.

This has been an awesome stage. With unique challenges and pains. And unique highs that I will probably never experience again.

Too often I think people dismiss the pain that comes with this. People don't know what to do with someone who doesn't dismiss the pain.

As I age, I realize more the wisdom of the saying, the days are long, but the years are oh so short.

So fellow dads, grieve.

Be present.
Enjoy today.
Enjoy this phase….whichever phase you're in.

And when it ends, welcome the next phase. But don't allow anyone or anything to shame you for grieving the passing of the last phase.


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