EllieRoo is easily the best thing that’s ever happened to me. This thought scrolled through my head like a stock ticker yesterday. We were on the carpet. Me piling pillows around the sitting-up baby, as she slapped her palm on mama’s water bottle like it was a bongo. The “da” sound pumping from her mouth like a chant: “da-da-da-da.” And then a brake-squeaking shriek of happiness or momentary frustration or just-checking-my-pipes-y’all yeeee. The water bottle gets slapped left, falling on it’s side. EllieRoo reaches for it. Topples left, side of the face submerged in pillow. Uh-oh, I say. Lifting her up first, then the bottle. Round 2. This time the water bottle gets slapped to the right. We play this game for an hour. Until she’s ready for milk.

EllieRoo is easily the best thing that’s ever happened to me. New parents say this kind of thing all the time. But it’s true. When Kate and I were in the kid-contemplation phase, it was hard to imagine the texture of this “best thing that ever happened to me” feeling. Better than sex? Better than a rainy day with frozen pizza dinner, beer and a movie? Better than Colorado cookie yoga sesh where you really open hips and hammies? Yeah.

Yesterday mama bear was KO’ed by flu headache, chills, body ache. So it was just me and El for a couple of hours in the morning. Part of the sitting-up-then-falling game is getting up after the fall. Post fall, I extend my index fingers as handles for El’s little peanut hands to grab onto. I say “come up.” And she tucks her chin to her chest, contracts her abs, presses with her legs, pulls with her arms. And she sits up. I say “come all the way up.” And from a sitting position, she keeps her grip, pulling with upper body, pushing with the legs. And bam she’s standing.

Why is this “the best thing that’s ever happened to me?” I’m sure there’s a fair amount of genetic-evolutionary circuitry that gets activated—the protective and developmental value of highly interested parents, etc. But honestly, and with sober objectivity, what else have I done that compares in value to bringing a new human life into a world in a loving and nurturing manner? I could go through the laundry list, but it’d just be a list of positive things with a note next to each describing how this or that particular thing isn’t THAT fulfilling. But EllieRoo gives me this purpose that’s as massive and clear as a glacier standing up out of the damn ocean water.

Not just a glittery existential *father* purpose. Specifically, I mean so many things I’ve missed growing up thus far. Like: 1) how to put another life genuinely and earnestly before my own. I’ve done nice things for people before, but most of the time it’s with an expectation of something in return. Or because I know it looks good. Or out of obligation. Never really because I want want want to. 2) I’m starting to see other people as babies, instead of fully formed people. Like we all started as these helpless little diaper-filling specimens, and it’s from that point that the growing emerges and experiences are gathered and character and career and all that flow from the diaper. That’s such an empathetic perspective. 3) EllieRoo is balancing. So is Kate, for that matter. They’re anchors. Reasons to stay responsibly semi-sober. Reasons to balance work/home. Reasons to not write ALL day. Reasons to go the playground, literally and metaphorically. 4) The list goes on. Caring about the future, environmental stewardship, community engagement, civic leadership, etc.

Also. In Sports News, yesterday we solidified our high-5 skills. I say “high five, El, high five” and she reaches her open palm up and presses it into mine. It took a few times, me moving her hand into and out of position. And then bam. She got it.

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