It seemed like an ordinary enough day. Mom and T were at Grandpa’s house and I was at home taking care of errands, meal planning, and some general household chores. But that’s not how it ended. Mom pulled into the garage, took T out of the car seat, and headed toward me. T turns, wide eyed and cute as a button, locks his gaze with mine, and says:
“Da da da da”.
Time stops. My son just said words!!!! I know they’re not associated with any particular meaning yet my brain neurons were firing full force in all their kaleidoscopic glory. I instantly feel overjoyed, proud, floored, nostalgic, and excited; a complex cocktail of emotions that consumes so much energy that I have to intentionally brace myself to keep my legs from giving out. In just a simple fragment of time my son grew up before my very eyes, added a vast new layer of depth to his entire being, assembled all the communication skills he’s learned on his own for the 8ish months of his existence, and formed a word using consonants, vowels, and syllables, all without even trying.
It’s the strangest yet most wonderful feeling. In my perception of time, just seconds before that moment I was unaware he had developed that capability. And instantly, he had it. Like it was no big thing. Truthfully he had been practicing those words all day unbeknownst to me, but hearing it described by my wife pales in comparison to actually experiencing it. Despite overwhelming physical exhaustion it took me quite awhile to come down from that natural high and fall asleep that night. I just kept staring at my son, tucked away next to me in Dreamland, the proudest father I could ever be.
I don’t even care what’s next. This is now, and this is incredible.
Here we are in such an unfamiliar situation, you and I. “Strangers in a strange land”, as they say. Usually it’s Mommy who puts you to bed being the Superwoman that she is. But tonight? It’s my turn. The stage has been set – you’ve had a bath, you’ve been nursed, the lights are down, shades are drawn, fan and sound machine quietly humming in the background. You’re clearly tired what with the rubbing of the eyes and all, yet still as energetic as if you just woke up. Exploring all corners of the bed with your newfound crawling abilities, climbing Mt. Daddy and squealing triumphantly with joy at the summit, even somehow figuring out how to push pillows out of the way with your head like a bulldozer. I lay there and watch in amusement, adjusting every so often to keep you from falling off the bed and onto the wood floor.
Slowly I see you start to wear down. Little chirps of frustration – are they because you want to sleep or because you don’t want to be tired? Your arms give way on the half-pushup-to-crawl maneuvers as you deplete your energy battling the Inevitable Sleep Monster. I try to lay you on my chest to sleep just like when you were a mere infant. You rest your head on me briefly but No! The Monster will not take you tonight!!
But the Sleep Monster is winning this battle. Chirps of frustration turn to anger. No position is comfortable for you. I hear your cries – “Why am I not asleep yet??” I pick you up and slowly walk the room, rocking back and forth. Still cries of frustration, legs kicking wildly in the air as I hold you. It seems we’re headed off the cliff to a meltdown when suddenly, without thinking, I start to softly whistle The Lullaby. Our lullaby. “Great Big Stars”, the song we learned together in music class. The song that calmed you down as we paced the house in the dead of night all winter long. There it is…..
You’re quiet now, body starting to relax in my arms. Head now on my shoulder. Eyes still open but very calm, comforted by my embrace and the connection we’ve made through song. I lay back down in the bed with you resting on my chest. No struggles, no more climbing, the Sleep Monster turned out not to be a monster after all. I shift over and lay you on the bed next to me snuggled close. A heavy sigh confirms it – you’re nearly there. Eyes closed, tiny fingers gripping my thumb, head nestled against my arm. Never worry, my son, Daddy will always be here for you. A blanket pulled up slowly to keep you warm. Now let’s set sail for Dreamland……
My Beautiful Boy,
The last month has been an incredible ride. Every time I blink I feel like you grow more, develop more, learn more. You’re now eight months old with 2 teeth, the ability to pull yourself up, and what seems like mere seconds away from crawling around the entire house. Your energy is unparalleled, and while exhausting for both me and your mom, at the same time just amazing and astounding. My challenge now is to keep up with you! I wish I had more to say, but in all honesty this month was a complete blur. They say time accelerates when you have children and they were most definitely NOT kidding. Part of me wants you to stay little forever, but another part of me realizes that you are destined for great things in this world and that you must continue to grow to reach your full potential.
As always I’m here to help you, guide you, laugh with you, cry with you, share in both your victories and your defeats. Please keep me humble and honest if my priorities ever start to drift away from our family.
I love you.