Kid Magnet

I am eating a cheeseburger, sipping beer, looking at a restaurant full of families and kids.

There is a band playing. They couldn’t be any worse if they detuned their instruments and started making bodily noises over the microphone.

But the children are loving the music. Some are dancing. Others are screaming, “Daddy! Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!”

“That’s all my kids know how to say,” says one of my exasperated friends. “‘Daddy, Daddy.’ Like a warped record.”

I love kids. I have always wondered how people with children enjoy their lives. I look around at a table of my middle-aged friends and I am thinking of this very thing.

These young parents seem to have more responsibility than the rest of us civilians. In fact, they’re so responsible that they can’t even focus on a conversation for more than one-point-nine seconds.

They are always too busy looking from the corners of their eyes, waiting for an impending catastrophe caused by a screaming toddler.

My friend Billy, for instance, is trying to tell a story, but his sentences are incoherent because he keeps diverting his eyes toward his kids. “Hey,” he begins. “You remember when we were fifteen…”

Billy turns his head.

“…And there was that water tower….”

Another head turn.

“…With the Hallelujah Chorus and..”


My friend Nathan tells me about being a dad:

“The thing about kids is, they say ‘Daddy’ about fifteen hundred times per day. It’s enough to make you nuts. You get so sick of hearing that word. ‘Daddy, daddy.’”

“Yeah,” another friend says. “For once, I wish my kids would just let me pee without having nervous breakdowns outside the door.”

Meantime, my friends’ wives sit at the other side of the table, rocking babies, talking. My wife is with them.

“DADDY! DADDY!” come the shouts.

My wife and I exchanged glances. We are the only childless couple here tonight.

We make these funny looks at each other because people with kids talk ONLY about kids. They breathe Playskool and Tonka Trucks. And we alone are outsiders.

Still, I can relate a little. If anyone even mentions the word “dog” I launch into a story and whip out cellphone pictures.

But a big part of me wonders what it’s like. What’s it like to be loved by a child? What is it like to be important to a kid?

When my wife and I first got married we thought we would have a kid. Maybe even a few. People in our church kept asking.

“When’re you two gonna put a bun in the oven?” Miss Willie would ask, week after week.

And I would only smile. We tried, but it wasn’t in the cards for us. It just didn’t happen. I don’t regret not having kids, but sometimes I think about it.

The truth is, my childhood was not pretty. I’ve never been sure that sharing such ancestral dysfunctions with an innocent kid was a good idea. This world is hard enough as it is.

“Count yourself lucky you don’t have kids,” said Billy, “at least you get to wake up at noon if you want.”

“Yep,” said another. “And you don’t have someone shouting, ‘Hey Dad!’ all day.”


Long ago, I thought the same way all young men think. Maybe one day I would have a kid with red hair. Maybe he would be a junior. Or maybe we’d have a daughter.

Sometimes, my wife and I would fall asleep talking about it.

“What if,” my wife would say, “he has grayish-green eyes like his father.”

“Yeah,” I would add. “Or brown eyes, like her mother.”

“You like the name Rose?”

“Sounds like one of the Golden Girls.”

“I like the name Rose.”

“Not me, I like Blanche.”

“How about Sophia? I’d name a kid Sophia.”

“Sophia sounds like the name of an AARP representative.”

“I think you’d make a good father.”

“You’d be the best mother anyone ever saw.”

I would fall asleep thinking about teaching a kid baseball, or showing a boy how to bait a treble hook. And anyway, I don’t know why I’m telling you this.

I guess you spend the first half of your life making plans. You spend the second half of your life realizing that God laughs at plans.

It’s probably a blessing I didn’t have children. I likely wouldn’t be a writer if I did have them. And well, I guess that’s something.

I am interrupted by a toddler walking toward me. Her name is Marie. Marie has more freckles than I’ve ever seen. Red hair. She is cuter than a duck in a hat.

“Hey, Mister Sean,” comes her high-pitched voice, cutting through the sound of a godawful rock and roll band. “Can I sit with you? This band’s too loud.”

“Sure,” I say.

Marie crawls into my lap, and she’s asleep in a matter of minutes. Head on my chest. Soon, there is drool all over me, and the face of an angel against my shoulder, and my heart is aching.

I don’t have any regrets. And I’m glad for the freedom I have. I like the way my life turned out. But I believe my friends are wrong.

It can’t be all that bad being called Daddy.


  1. WayneGina Yount - October 28, 2022 7:56 am


  2. John candy - October 28, 2022 8:54 am

    Well, I won’t say it because you already know.
    John candy

  3. Ed (Bear) - October 28, 2022 9:22 am

    My wife and I have two kids… one is my favorite oldest daughter and one is my favorite youngest daughter. I recall how they used to cuddle and rest on my chest as well… One of my favorite memories! They and my wife taught me that a good family is everything. And love is what matters most in this life. A family doesn’t have to be inherited… a good and best family is made up of friends we meet along our way. Sounds to me like you have started a pretty good family Sean! You write about love a lot… thank you for that!

  4. mikec4193 - October 28, 2022 9:50 am

    Fatherhood is the best part of being alive…

  5. Pubert - October 28, 2022 10:21 am

    It damn sure ain’t. I gave 3 grown ones now and love them just like they were babies. As you get older you really start to figure out what are the most important things in life. I’m all about my job, bit I’m really about my wife and my 3 kids… Sean, Sorry you never got to try it.


  6. Rachel Osborne - October 28, 2022 10:30 am


  7. Michael - October 28, 2022 10:32 am

  8. Emmagene Day - October 28, 2022 10:33 am

    I had my son at 19 and daughter at 25. I just turned sixty and have a 16 yo grandson, 9 yo granddaughter and 4 yo grandson. Would I get married again at 18 (ended in divorce after 8 years)? Probably not, but I don’t regret the people who came from that union.

    I enjoy your writing so much.

  9. Carol - October 28, 2022 10:37 am

    There you are, doing it again, Mr. Sean. Tears for breakfast!

  10. Melanie - October 28, 2022 10:38 am

    This one spoke to me on a deeper level. I have a daughter who is 35. All she has ever really wanted was to be a Mom. So far she hasn’t been found by “Mr Right “ and hence no children. However, God, he his grace and mercy, has filled her arms with children. She has a very successful nanny agency and is a teacher in a Montessori school. The longing in her heart is still there and we have cried many tears.

    • Dee Thompson - October 28, 2022 5:01 pm

      She needs to adopt a child. It’s very doable for a single lady these days, thru the foster system. It doesn’t matter if a child looks like you or not — you love them the same and care for them the same! I adopted two children and I love them more than my life. They are now grown, and I miss those intense parenting days.

  11. Robert J. Laplander - October 28, 2022 11:00 am

    It’s not bad being called daddy all the time. I miss it greatly. I will still wake up every once in a while and look at my half grown kids sleeping and think, “They let ME have children?!?!? Someone’s gonna get their ass in a sling over that decision.” Or I sit on the couch with my 17 year old watching TV or sit next to him as he’s driving and think, “Yesterday we were on the porch playing pirates. Who is this grown ass man with the cheesy mustache sitting next to me?” I didn’t have a real father – my grandfather was the closest I came. My stepfather tried, but we were too far apart most of the time. My kids haven’t landed in jail, or done drugs or done any stupid stuff, so I guess his mom and I did some things right. And the two younger ones still call me daddy on rare occasions. I love being a dad – even if I’m constantly broke and frustrated and have an energy bill that’s catastrophic because no one can take a normal shower. It’s the best job I’ve ever had.

  12. Oliver Rhett Talbert - October 28, 2022 11:21 am

    “Daddy” – it’s my favorite name. I’m the oldest of 4, and was blessed to raise 4 of my own before my wife died as the youngest started her first year of college. While they were growing up – all 2 years apart, like reproductive clockwork, folks would ask me what was my favorite year of fatherhood/ favorite age of kid to raise. And I’d always say, “This one. And I’m pretty sure next year will be even better.” Every year has been like that, and now it’s about the 10 grands. I’m a retired preacher, but being a Dad is far and away the best job I’ve ever had.

  13. Diana - October 28, 2022 11:25 am

    But sometimes that child that you love with your whole being and who brought joy that you never thought possible grows up, meets someone controlling and tears a family apart and causes pain that you never could have every imagined.

    • KAT - October 28, 2022 12:14 pm

      Praying your precious child learn his/her dignity in the eyes of God and seek therapy to stand up to the controlling bully or know when to leave to safety. May all controlling bully’s be converted in Jesus’ name.

  14. JJ Newman - October 28, 2022 11:44 am

    Thank you a giga-ton. Todays words made my heart ebb though every color in the rainbow.

    Kinda regards,

    JJ Newman

  15. Jane Miller - October 28, 2022 11:50 am

    Dearest Sean, Thank you for your musings today about children and families. A friend once told me that you can heal your childhood wounds with “the life you create for your own children”. I have been successful at doing that with my marriage to a wonderful man & two adult sons. Before I got married and had children, I went through therapy to make sure that I did not repeat the same patterns of parenting that my parents did. My favorite role in life has been as a mother. I am now blessed with being a grandmother to 2 young children who live close by. Life is so incredibly wonderful!!! My dear husband is now an angel in heaven looking down and smiling on us all. You still would make great parents-you take great care of your pup! Find a way to bless a child as there is a reason God put that desire in your heart!

  16. Jimmy Pool - October 28, 2022 11:52 am

    So many people that are childless think that fate determined this. Maybe, but November is National Adoption Month. Nineteen years ago my wife and I traveled to Kazan, Russia and adopted our daughter who is now a college sophomore. Sometimes I go months without even thinking about the fact that she is adopted. She is my daughter, period. And, every day that I live is made so much better because of her.

    • Dee Thompson - October 28, 2022 5:03 pm

      Exactly! My daughter is from Khabarovsk Russia and my son is from Kazakhstan. I rarely ever think about them being adopted. They are just my children, period.

  17. Linda Brannon - October 28, 2022 12:04 pm

    It’s not… it’s a little piece of Heaven here on earth And then grandkids, we’ll they’re the best invention ever!

  18. KATY462@8:10 AM - October 28, 2022 12:08 pm

    Dear Sean and Jamie, May you Surrender every moment to the good Lord. May he always speak into your heart and lead you into whatever he knows is best for you. May you spread joy as you love the little children He blesses into your lives. With love 💕

  19. Hall Powell - October 28, 2022 12:14 pm

    Great story, Sean. As a father of three daughters, I know that God establhed the roll of “father” with great responsibility, but also with great blessings. How a child views his or her conception of “father” can affect how they view God as Father.

  20. Anne Arthur - October 28, 2022 12:31 pm

    GOD has a plan for all of us. Yet, sometimes I wonder why some of our dearest wishes don’t come through. He made you a great writer, and you and Jamie are witnessing to us what true love can be. Sometimes I, too, thought what great parents you would have been. We’ll never understand His plans but there must be a reason… Hugs, your post deeply touched me.

  21. mccutchen52 - October 28, 2022 12:31 pm

    I have two boys. They are older now but I get pictures of the Grandkids and they remind me how they don’t remember being this rowdy..

  22. elizabethroosje - October 28, 2022 1:06 pm

    Yep. I found out before 30 that kids were not happening for me. There’s really a loss. Turning 40 was hard for me because it was like saying goodbye to a huge dream, hope etc. AND YET God has His ways of bringing people to me who need love and I see that I can give to my community in ways I would not have been able to if I had kids. I see very much the same in your and Jamie’s life how your story helps kids … and adults ❤️ remember that you are not alone in the no kids situation. We may feel alone in it but there are more of us than we first realize ❤️

  23. Phyllis Ward - October 28, 2022 1:30 pm

    Try foster parenting. There is a huge need and seems you both would be great.

  24. Patty - October 28, 2022 1:30 pm

    Of all my siblings, I would be the one you think would have kids, yet none of us did. I didn’t get married until I was 41, so that didn’t help things!

  25. Marsha Hamby Savage - October 28, 2022 1:34 pm

    We all miss the things that are not part of our lives… those things we see others doing and having, as in the children. We also know that there is a plan for us. Maybe not to be parents, and it is missed feelings that arise when this happens. There are the trials, and there are the good times. It works both ways. You have been given a gift of showing love to people and “dogs” of this world. That means something. Maybe you couldn’t have done both .. have children and give to the world your words. My advice, and I know you already do it, … give love to some children when you run across them. We are all parents to the children of the world.

  26. Chasity Davis Ritter - October 28, 2022 1:34 pm

    I know your nieces mean a whole lot to you too. I still think as some of the responders often comment too that it wouldn’t be so bad if one day you and Jamie decide to maybe foster a kiddo or two or even adopt someone who deserves the most loving parents there ever would be. But all in God’s time and God’s plans. We can’t go making them for you or HIM. Just like I bet you never would have said 6 months ago you’d be a 3 dog parent and here you are not even knowing how you ever could have lived without Marigold changing how you function on a daily basis. I KNOW how big yalls hearts are and who knows what’s truly ever in the cards for any of us. Thinking of you today….. and just putting it out into the universe my wish for your heart to not only be full but to overflow…….

  27. Fo - October 28, 2022 1:42 pm

    Even as young adults now, I love to hear our kids say Dad. Love, purpose, connection, family.

  28. Palmer Albertine - October 28, 2022 1:54 pm

    From a guy that doesn’t know how to say “ I love you” very well, “ I love you, man” ( notice the additional “ man”, it takes the awkwardness away a little bit). Now, how ‘bout them Bears”?

  29. Pubert - October 28, 2022 2:08 pm

    Good Urn Jimmy- I know the feeling, and you’re making my eyeballs rust!


  30. David - October 28, 2022 2:08 pm

    I have 2 great nieces who call me uncle paw paw. That’s the closest I will come to being called daddy. Don’t take it for granted. I have a friend who just lost his 4 year old son in a car accident about a year ago. He was the absolute joy of his life. He would love to hear Boogie call him Daddy all day long.

  31. Leigh Amiot - October 28, 2022 2:17 pm

    “Marie crawls into my lap, and she’s asleep in a matter of minutes. Head on my chest. Soon, there is drool all over me, and the face of an angel against my shoulder, and my heart is aching.” When I read this tears filled my eyes; when I read it to my husband, I got choked up.

    I haven’t experienced childlessness, but I got a glimpse of what it feels like through your words.

  32. Jenny Young - October 28, 2022 2:21 pm

    I think it’s pretty cool to be called Mister Sean. Kids just love their parents no matter how good or bad they are…but when they love someone who is not their parent…that is special. I have one child but I am overwhelmed at times by the love showered on me by children who are not my own…my friends kids who call me Aunt Jenny, the church kids (they call me Miss Jenny) who tell me I cannot leave without getting a hug from them. I know it’s not the same but it is wonderful. And I hope you get to experience more of being called Mister Sean.

  33. Melanie - October 28, 2022 2:32 pm

    I never had children but believe my place on earth is to rescue or adopt and care for dogs and cats that are abandoned and unwanted. It has been rewarding and the love received in return is boundless. ❤️

  34. Steven Dupree - October 28, 2022 2:40 pm

    The one thing I got when my girl was born was something only she could give me. I got to see and feel what it felt like to be a father, my response was now I know how my heavenly father loves me. Yes you would make a great father Sean….and you can still adopt, you do it for dogs why not a kid.

  35. MAURINE N. MILLER - October 28, 2022 2:40 pm

    We have a belief that this life is not the only place where people can become parents. We believe that in the next life, heaven, etc., you will be able to have children, and that families continue forever. This belief is a comfort to many. I hope it also gives you something interesting to ponder.

  36. Stacey Wallace - October 28, 2022 2:43 pm

    Sean, my husband and I married in our forties. so we tried to adopt a child, but it didn’t happen. God always knows best, and we love being retired school teachers. However, we do sometimes wonder what it would be like to be called “Mama” and “Daddy.” Love to you, Jamie, and Marigold.

  37. Robert Johnson - October 28, 2022 2:50 pm

    I hear you. I thought we weren’t going to have any either and then she was born. Best job I ever had.

  38. Peggy M. Windham - October 28, 2022 3:00 pm

    I can certainly relate to this, Sean. My husband and I weren’t able to have children either and I know in our earlier years of marriage, it really bothered him. He is a hunter and his friends would often bring their little boys. We are older now and don’t think about it much anymore! We are just content to be dog parents. I’m a retired teacher so I’ve had many children I’ve loved over the years. I became an aunt when I was just 12 so I’ve loved my sister’s children like they were my own. I think being called mom and dad would have been great too!

  39. It's okay. - October 28, 2022 3:13 pm

    I love children and have two myself that I had in my late 30s. But I’d just like to say that perhaps we could normalize not having children? It’s okay to live your adult life without having your own children (or adopting, for that matter). There are plenty of children on this planet, and resources are dwindling. And yes, I’d also like to say that I had trauma as a child myself, and I found it impossible not to transfer some of that to my children. Talk about remorse. Not to mention active shooter drills at school, and everything else they will have to contend with today. Children are a blessing. But they don’t come without material and emotional costs. Hugs, Jamie and Sean.

  40. Kim Whittington - October 28, 2022 3:38 pm

    I just had a conversation with my daughter about how time flies. One day very soon she will miss “mama,mama” and homework, soccer, swim meets, church youth group, Girl Scouts, homecoming parades, birthday parties, dances, and everything else that comes with 2 children. That time will come and then you will have grandchildren. And it’s like heaven.

  41. Lisa - October 28, 2022 3:39 pm

    The saying, “People will forget what you said, forget what you did, but will never forget how you made them feel,”comes to mind as I read about the little freckled angel, Marie. Children especially remember how you make them feel and it doesn’t matter if they belong to someone else. Based on everything I’ve read, you and Jamie mean so much to so many. I have adopted more dogs and cats than I can count and I know I have made them feel safe, secure and loved. I am also the proud mother of two beautiful girls who were adopted internationally as babies, but are now lovely young women, ages 19 and 21. They still call me Mommy and it warms my heart and soul every time I hear them say it. True, there were times it drove me to distraction, but I wouldn’t change a thing. Adoption is a beautiful love story. However, if you have no regrets about not being parents, simply keep on being who and what you are to far more people than you can possible count. You are both wonderful people and we need more like you in this world. God bless you both.

  42. farmmom - October 28, 2022 3:42 pm

    it’s true. it’s the hardest thing we’ve done to have 3 children. we are in the middle of raising them, working with 5 going on 13 attitudes, daily (or more) 2 year old tantrums about food at the table, and dreading the impending surgery to fix our 7 month olds cleft palate. but we wouldn’t trade it, because they are the sweetest part of our life too. they cause tears and laughter over and over. my heart goes out to you and Jamie, because there was a time I wondered if we would have our own children. And yet, I see other couples such as you guys, and I just see such a blessed opportunity to fill, all the people who live far away from parents or grandparents, or need babysitters or just need some extra love for whatever reason, you guys can fill those spots like we parents never can. never doubt God’s plan, I believe he has a special place for you.❤️. God bless you.

  43. Rena’ - October 28, 2022 4:27 pm

    I’ve watched the way you and Jamie love people. Teacher…writer. You are both parents to many…just without the drool. 😘

  44. Melissa Brown - October 28, 2022 4:39 pm

    My husband and l thought we would never be able to have children. The doctors said it would never happen. Then at 40 l found myself pregnant with a little boy. God brought us that little miracle ! It was wonderful but a very hard job balancing the work position l had always worked for and being a parent. Now almost 30 years later we find ourselves at home alone, but have just become grandparents of a beautiful little girl. I just wish they did not live 6 hours away. Parenting for me was hard but very fulfilling. I loved every minute except for the years 16-18. Hard raising a teenager, but in the end he turned out to be an amazing man with many accomplishments. It is now especially wonderful watching him become a parent and how protective he is of his little girl. He recently told me how appreciative of how he was raised. This made my heart feel so full. I felt like l really had been a good parent.
    I expect you and your wife would have been good parents, but hey you can enjoy children of others and then go home without all the fuss and responsibilities. I enjoy all your writings so much. I cannot wait until your new book arrives. I pray one day l will be able to hear you speak in person.

  45. Skeeter - October 28, 2022 6:48 pm

    The best and worst thing you’ll ever do, have children. No greater thing in life than to love so much it actually hurts, in the best way possible!!! Helps a man understand God when he becomes a father.

  46. Betty Higdon - October 28, 2022 7:04 pm

    I think I might be allergic to your column. My eyes water and I have to grab a tissue sometimes!! But I continue to read!! ❤️

  47. Linda Moon - October 28, 2022 7:15 pm

    “Daddy! Daddy!” is wonderful for the very brief time it lasts. And then, hopefully the children become wonderful adults. Mine did, but I still miss and cherish the “Daddy Daddy” and “Mama Look” times. It all went by so fast, and it was good even with some challenges at times for Mama and Daddy. I love you, Tig and Kak.

  48. ocasey - October 28, 2022 7:37 pm

    Precious! You hit a soft spot! Like always! I can’t write a sentence into a story to save my neck. But Pat and I have two precious children and they are beautiful. That gave us 5 grands. That gave us 6 great grands. So far. I guess we can both say “Life is good.”

  49. Suellen - October 28, 2022 8:04 pm

    For those suggesting fostering it takes a special kind of person to be able to do that. My brother and his wife did that and you have to be able to take them in and give them the best home possible only to have to relinquish them to go back into the same horrendous situation they came from at times and sometimes the child is so badly damaged that you have to be prepared for the total disruption to your own home life. I’m sure they’ve considered the options.

  50. MAM - October 28, 2022 8:24 pm

    Parenthood is an adventure! But I must admit, I wasn’t sad when the empty nest arrived. I’m happy both are successful and we have one and only one granddaughter and one granddog. We need your positive words every day, Sean. Just think of us as your ‘grandchildren,” even if many of us are older than you. You help us remember every day the good in our world. Thanks!

  51. AlaRedClayGirl - October 29, 2022 12:45 am

    Parenting is a hard job, but the rewards are out of this world. We didn’t think we would have any, but then God blessed us with three and later we adopted one. They are all grown now and leaving the nest. I’ve often wished you could trade a “toddler day” with a “empty nest day” and vice versa. That way it would ease you through the hectic preschool days with alternating days of an empty house.

  52. Mark - October 29, 2022 1:25 am


  53. Slimpicker - October 29, 2022 2:38 am

    Sean, you are actually in the best position. You get to love your friends kids and be their Uncle Sean or Mr. Sean to them as they grow up, but without the tax exemption. I’ll bet you’ll even end up being The Godfather to a couple of them and share in their achievements. Maybe you will windup sharing your God given talent with one special youngin, who will carry the torch of listening, loving and sharing with others through writing. God bless.

  54. Susan Kennedy - October 29, 2022 1:36 pm

    This story made my eyes sweat. 😉

  55. Sean of the South: Kid Magnet | The Trussville Tribune - October 29, 2022 2:25 pm

    […] By Sean Dietrich, Sean of the South […]

  56. Pat - October 29, 2022 3:04 pm

    When reading your articles I always try to guess the closing paragraph, I just knew you were going to share that you and Jamie were expecting…………..maybe another day.

  57. Eve - October 30, 2022 1:08 am

    We have empty nest syndrome at our house.
    However, we do not suffer from it. 🙃 😉

  58. Kristen Dunder - October 30, 2022 4:02 am

    Kids weren’t in the cards for us either, even though we wanted one. We made the decision to be happy (with dogs, of course!). But every so often, I still get that little, sad tug at the heart. With allergies acting up. Thank you for this column. It helps knowing that there are other people who can relate.

    By the way, we have a nephew and niece now. Their arrivals brought a lot of happiness to our lives. We’re looking forward to spoiling the nephew when he comes to visit us for Thanksgiving next month.

  59. SUE OSTERHOLD - November 1, 2022 1:04 am

    All of us ARE your kids!

  60. Bob - November 1, 2022 3:27 am

    We have 3. Empty nesters. I miss them…bad. Wish I could do it 10 times over. The things you remember. Our youngest, on his own now 5 years. Use to sit next to me and I would love to smell the top of his head. I can still smell him…

  61. DeeDee - November 3, 2022 11:12 am

    You would have made a great daddy, because you are such a kind and loving man.

  62. Jane Tallent Shoultz - November 5, 2022 12:07 am

    My husband and I had been married 10 years, after beginning the second marriage for both of us in our mid 30s. Neither of us thought children were in our future, but God had other plans. One day, out of the blue, two little almond eyed boys came into our lives. We were each blown away at how God shook our world and made it work. After 2 1/2 years of fighting a long hard fight – details too crazy to go into here, they were ours. That was 32 years ago! Those have been the best years of our lives. I couldn’t love our two sons more if I had birthed them myself! Hearing them call me Momma and my husband Dad are the sweetest sounds in the world! Don’t write off the possibility of being parents as part of God’s script for your life just yet! You just never know!


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