How to Unplug: Physical Contact
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 abachelor pad on the corner of Massachusetts and Commonwealth avenues in Boston. It was a moment thatsaved me. The smell of him. The feeling of his little body going limp with sleep. The sound of himsuckling 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 upnearby. Still I watched him sleeping, not wanting the moment to pass. Seamus is as big as I am now; astrapping teenager. He has an older sister who just went to her prom. I got remarried after six years as adivorced dad and had another boy, Cole, who is now 6. So I still get to read bedtime stories and lay in hiscowboy bunk bed well after he is asleep, just feeling him close and allowing the sensation of fatherhood tosweep 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 mystruggle throughout my life to feel like I belong—but to me, the touchstone of faith, unplugging, andserenity has always been physical contact with my kids, when they were small and even now when I, badback 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 thattake over the moment their babies are born. But the reaction of men’s bodies to physical contact is no lesspowerful. I have experienced similar relaxation by getting down on the ground and rubbing my yellow lab