Michael Phelps/Instagram
July 14, 2017 01:30 PM

What’s it like to watch your son incessantly crawl around the house and up and down the front staircase? According to Olympian Michael Phelps, it’s just the “coolest” thing.

Phelps chatted with PEOPLE about being a dad to 14-month old son Boomer Robert at Thursday’s Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Sports Awards 2017 in L.A. And for the retired pro swimmer, it’s about savoring all the small changes that make fatherhood so special.

“It’s so funny, but I had somebody tell me, ‘Never wish that they walk, talk, do this or that, because by the time they do, you miss them,’ ” the first-time father, who picked up the legend award and was coated in gold slime at the event, says. “And it is hard because now he is walking, he is cruising around the house, and it’s awesome just watching his emotions.”

“[Even] watching him get frustrated at times when he can’t really tell us what he wants,” adds 32-year-old Phelps. “I think that is the coolest thing, watching him grow, and watching him figure out new things.”

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The 23-Olympic-gold-medal holder also seems to be very patient when it comes to Boomer’s toddler antics.

“We came into the house where we are staying out here, and we don’t have steps in Arizona, so the only thing that he [wanted] to do was crawl up and down the steps,” Phelps tells PEOPLE.

“That is all we did, we just stood by the steps and he went up-down, up-down. It is the little things in life, where watching him are the coolest.”

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Phelps and wife Nicole welcomed Boomer in May 2016, and the little guy made quite a splash during his Olympic debut at the 2016 Rio games.

“We’re at the stage where we’re constantly looking out for him, because he’s grabbing everything,” Phelps previously PEOPLE. “Boomer has a pretty short attention span, though, so he’ll go from interested to not in a second.”

  • Reporting by REAGAN ALEXANDER

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