On My Son's First Birthday

Today, Judah Bennett Sharpton turns one.??

365 days ago, Ella and I were in East Jefferson General Hospital, with very little clue of how much our lives had just, and were about to, change. We were also amazed at and thankful for the beautiful, healthy baby boy we had just been given. Ella was exhausted and drugged up, I was running on fumes and coca-cola after our more than 20 hour ordeal. It's the greatest thing that either one of us has ever done.

Judah is a joy to be around. He's smart, playful, loving and infectiously funny. He's the reason I get up early in the morning, work hard all day, and then rush home to share a few hours together before bedtime. He's my favorite cartoon-watching buddy, a budding basketball and football expert, and a pretty good dancer. He's literally my pride and joy.

While we'll celebrate him today (and tomorrow, when the actual family party happens), I also want to celebrate Ella. She's shy, and hates public...anything really, so I'll try to make this fast and as painless as possible. Ella has been my best friend for five years now. She's been my confidant, my companion, and my cheerleader. In the past year, she's also become my hero. She transformed herself in ways that I don't think anyone knew she was capable. Anyone except her, that is. She's the best mother I know (no offense, mom, since I didn't really know you when you were doing the heavy lifting for me and Jena), and the best teacher I could ask for for my son. She's carrying our second son, right now, and in January of next year, when Judah is attempting his first high-flying wrestling move on his little brother, I'm sure that Ella will be there to stop him, and redirect that energy into something positive, and less bone-crushing.

I'd like to thank Judah for the following lessons over the last year:

Teaching me how to cook. -- Technically, he didn't teach me, but the necessity to keep him (and Ella) fed, combined with the fact that it's hard to take care of a baby and cook at the same time, has given me a new set of skills. I'm no chef, but I can mix up significantly more meals than I was capable of at this time last year. Ella, would also like to thank Judah for this one.

Teaching me humility...and the true meaning of love. -- I was fairly certain that I loved Ella. I was positive that I loved Judah from the first moment I ever saw him, but the first time that I got pee on my face, or a hand full of poop, my love was verified, and my ego downsized.

Reminding me that not everything is in my control, and that that's alright. -- I'm a guy that likes to be in charge, and generally I am. I'm on top of everything, and rarely let anything get by me. But Judah has taught me that sometimes, I won't be able to catch him when he falls. I won't always be able to stop him from eating that important note/phone number/dollar bill. That I won't always be able to keep his hands out of the toilet water. That, occasionally, he's going to eat cat food, and there's nothing I can do about it. Those are good lessons, and I've learned them well. I've also learned to keep my toilet spotlessly clean.

Showing me how to have a really good time. -- I'm a guy that loves video games. I like movies, books and lots of TV shows. But hanging out with Judah, wrestling on our bed, or the floor of his bedroom is much more enjoyable than any of those other pastimes. He's also taught me that no matter how much I love books like "The Once and Future King" and "The Lord of the Rings", nothing beats Seuss' "The Foot Book" with me reading and him turning pages.

I'd also like to thank Judah for the following moments, memories that I will hold the rest of my life:

Watching him roll over for the first time, almost right off the couch. -- For the first few weeks, he was this perfectly beautiful, terribly fragile, very still, little man. Then one day, Judah got mobility, and I started getting grey hairs.

The morning he crawled for the first time. -- He had been threatening to crawl for a few days, so when he woke up one Sunday morning, I got one of his favorite toys and the video camera and waited him out. He didn't disappoint, scooting himself all the way down his crib to grab onto his cow. He might as well have finished a marathon in record time as happy as I was about that trip.

Saying Dadda for the first time. -- I know it's the easiest word for babies to say. The sounds come natural to them and don't require the sophisticated development of their mouths/teeth/etc. that most other language does. I know all that, and it doesn't lessen at all the pride I felt the first time he called me by my new name.

Holding my hand, then letting go and taking some of his first steps on his own. -- Scared, thrilled, awed. That's just a few of the things I felt as he took those first steps alone. I imagine it's a lot like the way my parents felt as they drove me to college.

Judah, you are a great kid, and you make your father very proud. I know you'll be an amazing big brother, and a big help to your mom and me once he gets home. I love you more than I could have imagined, and less than I imagine I will in another twenty years. I'll always be here for you, though I bet you'll not lean on me too much, but prefer to stand on your own. Just know that while I'm not always there to catch you when you fall, I'll always be there to help you back up, and spank the ground for hitting you so hard.??

Happy birthday, Judah, and many many more.