I know who I was before I was a farmer. I know who I was before I was a writer. But I have no idea who I was before I was a father. That person is a stranger to me.

And I remember the moment it happened, the moment I changed. All of the time I now spend staring at my son in awe, all of the intense and overwhelming love (for lack of a more piercingly accurate word) that I heap upon his very existence – that didn’t start when I found out I was going to be a father. Not fully. Fatherhood was still too abstract of an idea. It started when, after several days of intense labor in the cabin with my amazing wife, I caught his tiny frame in my hands. I probably hadn’t cried in ten years, but I bawled that morning. Some of the happiest tears in all of Bugtussle.

However, something changed that day. Something profound and visceral. Whether it was oxytocin––a contact high from the love hormone that mothers create to bond with their children––or overwhelming relief after a long week, I became a new person, forever leaving behind whoever I was before I was papa.

I knew it then, but I’m writing about this now because it still exists in the exact same capacity. Nothing has changed about this change in me. It doesn’t dissipate, it doesn’t go away. When I look at my son running through the sweet corn, or jumping on the couch, or reading a book with his mama, or sleeping––which I spend several minutes a day watching him do––I see him with eyes that are exactly his age. He asked me the other day, “Are you two and a half years old, too, papa?” And I laughed, but I guess I am.

I am two and a half, too, baby boy. Same age as you.

– Jesse.

further and papa.

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