Four.

My Baby Boy,

What a year. I know every year is different, but this year has been an indescribable ride. You’ve grown and changed so much it’s nearly impossible to put to words, but I’ll try and at least cover the highlights. You’ve rolled with me on some very big life changes – living half the year in the Netherlands, starting pre-school TWICE (once in Dutch even!!), seeing some of your Swedish cousins for the very first time, riding your bike everywhere, creating and singing your very first song, earning your “stripes” in the bathroom (including stops on the side of the highway in Switzerland, Italy, and the Netherlands!), and my personal favorite – communication. You are so articulate in telling me what you want and what you don’t want. And sometimes that leads to battles.

Oh, the battles, my son. Things haven’t been all roses, and there’s been a lot of tears shed this past year by both you and me. We’re learning in this together, and I know I still have a lot of work to do, so thank you for growing with me, being patient with me, and forgiving me for my mistakes. There are few things better than a post-battle hug through a light fog of tears. Promise me that no matter what happens we will always come back together like this. Your spirit is so strong, bright, and resilent that in a few ways I’m envious. I absolutely want you to carry that spirit with you for your entire life, and from what I can see the fire in your heart grows bigger every day.

You really are going to do great things one day, Trenton. It’s impossible to know right now what those things are, but with the pure joy and passion you have for life your possibilities are endless.

Happy Birthday, and I love you.

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Goliath.

[Preface: My family and I are living in the Netherlands for the next 6 months due to my work assignment. I haven’t written anything about it here, but I hope to soon.]

Big day yesterday. Big, big day. The first day of preschool, sort of, anyway. While living here in Eindhoven it was critical that we found ways to expose our son to as much of the culture as possible. So as serendipity would have it there is a preschool/daycare less than a 5 minute walk from where we’re living. So for 3 days a week, 4 hours a day, Trenton goes to Kinderdagverblif’t Parelbosch to play with other children his age and absorb as much of the Dutch culture, language, and education as he can. By the end of this it’s very likely that he’ll speak Dutch better than we will after studying it daily for over a year.

My mind was racing with worry the night before and the morning of. Other than babysitters and family this is the first time he’s been left without us for so long. And having to do it in an unfamiliar space in a foreign country where he doesn’t speak the language? For 4 hours??? Did he eat enough for breakfast? Will the 1 snack they feed him be enough? What will the snack be? How well will he play with the other children? Have we as parents prepared him enough for this? Will he melt down from the tremendous pressure and separation anxiety?

I cooked him a special breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, cheese, and Mandarin oranges. He ate some of it, but I fretted internally about him not eating enough protein. We made the short walk from the house to Parelbosch mostly with Trenton being carried in mom’s arms. We walked up the stairs and through the door together holding hands. We walked into the room and he made a beeline right for the cars and trucks, us parents only a minor inconvenience sharing the same space while he went straight to the work of play. A quick kiss goodbye, some “I love yous”, and poof, we were gone. No tears, no hugging of legs, nothing. Anticlimactic to say the least. A walk home with no child in tow provided a very surreal feeling.

Kids have a way of surprising you in the most incredible of ways. Aside from some minor struggles from being hungry (not enough breakfast) and a little separation anxiety, he said he had fun! Played with cars and trucks, ate apples for a snack, and went outside with the group to play. We as parents didn’t do him any favors there by forgetting to leave his coat there so he had to borrow one from someone else (hey, we’re rookies at this too). All in all a great day and a huge sigh of relief from me.

I know my job is to prepare him as best I can for all the challenges he will face in the world so he can fearlessly knock them down head on. Even then, he’s doing the heavy lifting here and I am unfathomably proud of him for that. He’s been so brave and resilient for all the struggles of being here – from the 20-hour travel day here to the jet lag and 9-hour time difference to having to endure Daylight Savings Time twice in 3 weeks. This child has proven he is built to slay giants and the next one comes tomorrow.

Go get ’em, kid.

Three.

My Baby Boy,

You’re not much of a baby anymore. You’re not even really a toddler either. You’re blossoming into a pre-schooler, a boy all your own. Strong, fierce, independent, and fearless, you have boundless energy to explore the unknown with bright, wide eyes. It’s been utterly amazing to see you grow and develop into the person you are. Some of my favorite moments are our conversations, hugs, kisses, and cuddles. And every time you say “I love you Daddy” or “you’re my special friend”, my heart fills even larger with love. I really didn’t know my heart would keep growing this much this fast with love, but it is.

As much as you are changing and growing I feel myself growing right along with you. Pushing each other is how we learn. We try, we fall, and we get back up together. We may have our tough moments but know you are loved, you are safe, and I will always be there for you. I will lead the way if you need me to and follow when you ask. I will lift you up, break down walls for you, and be in your corner even when the entire world is against you.

This year will be full of fun and exciting things; I can feel it. A beacon of hope and light in the world – go forth and shine, bringing happiness and joy to all in your life.

Happy Birthday Baby Boy.

I love you.

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Explosia

It happened without warning, without even a hint of leading up to it. One morning, we’re in my son’s room, getting ready for the day. Diaper change, pick out clothes, put on clothes, business as usual. Right after slipping his shirt over his head and his arms sliding through the sleeves, he turns to my wife and says, “Trenton loves mommy,” and gives her a hug. Then he turns to me, gives me a hug, and for the first time says “Trenton loves Daddy.”

Time STOPS. The world shifts. My heart explodes into a million technicolor pieces. There isn’t enough time to think, cry, or even understand the implications of this. I’ve told him I loved him literally every day of his life and always wondered when this day would come. Sometimes I’ve desperately wanted him to say it, to know what he’s thinking and feeling, to see that he’s put it together. But nothing prepared me for it. Just like when he first said “Dada”, this is another memory forever etched into my heart and mind. All I could do is whisper back, “I love you too”.

It wasn’t a one-time random occurrence, either. Every so often he’ll say it, and lately it’s been even better – “I love you Daddy”.

Thanks baby boy, I love you too.

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Terrific Two

My Dearest Baby Boy,

Well, you’re no longer a baby anymore. You’re a 2-year-old boy who’s discovering the wide, wide world waiting for him. It’s been so wonderful watching you grow this past year. I see amazement, wonder, curiosity, passion, kindness, fearlessness, and an unstoppable desire to learn. I love watching you figure things out, never giving up but also never afraid to ask for help. I can already see signs of the impact you will have on the world, and I believe it will be big. You are a human like no other; I see so much in you that I wish everyone had.

I love every minute we spend together, from the mundane diaper changes to the tickles, raspberries, and songs we sing. Words cannot express how incredibly proud of you I am. You’re tackling this world head-on and mastering skills at a breakneck pace. Let’s keep it going, and know that I will be with you every step of the way.

I love you, no matter what. Happy Birthday.

11 Months – Amplification

My Beautiful Boy,

Eleven months. I’m really not sure how this much time has passed, but I can definitely say it’s been a lot of fun. This past month has been especially fun as you’ve blessed us with the gift of your extra happy personality. You’re charming, smiling, fearless, happy-go-lucky self is just incredible to watch. I live vicariously through you as you explore your world with reckless abandon. Even then, your gift is still wanting to share your discoveries with us. I will never get tired of hearing you talk, realizing there is no limit to the words and thoughts you can say. I will never tire of seeing your eyes light up when you recognize me from a distance, along with the mile-wide smile that comes with it. I will definitely never get tired of your curiosity and excitement for new foods, especially unique flavors like Indian food, salmon, and avocado.

We’ve spent a lot of time together this past month, and I can’t get over the fact that no matter how much I love you one day my heart has room for even more love the next. What I love even more is knowing how many exciting things are still to come. I’m ready; let’s turn it up past 11.

I love you.

Ten Months – Rapid Expansion

My Darling Boy,

Today you are 10 months old. Double digits! As per usual, it’s been another month too incredible for words. You’re crawling at full speed, standing every chance you get, playing and celebrating music with us, and you’ve got almost 8 teeth come through! What’s most astonishing to me is the continued strengthening of our bond as father and son. We play, we eat, we laugh, we “talk”, and we even go to sleep together now. I’ve honestly been terrified for quite some time that I would never be able to get you to sleep; that you would keep looking over your shoulder for mommy to come in the room. But we’ve found our own way to get to sleep, no fuss required. To feel you relax and fall asleep in my arms, to feel you nuzzle up close to me and hear that deep sigh of resignation, of exhaustion, of comfort and security, there isn’t much that tops that. It’s one of the few times I can actually live in the moment and I have you to thank for that. My heart, constantly filled to capacity with love for you, expands daily. All it takes is that smile, those eyes, a shimmy and screech of excitement, and I know I’m home. “Da da” will eventually mean me, which will eventually morph into “Daddy”. Even though I don’t want you to grow up just yet, I can’t wait.

I love you.