The fragile seven pound burrito that we brought home from Paoli Hospital is now more than 12 pounds and measures at 23 inches–that’s almost a two-foot sub with all the fixings. But nearly doubling his birth weight is not what’s made me nostalgic in his first nine weeks of life; instead, his emerging personality has caught me by surprise. He’s growing so quickly now.
Before Brooks was born, many couples told my wife and I that babies pretty much eat, sleep, poop, and cry for the first six months. Knowing that, I was excited that Brooks and I would be able to share so many common interests. However, I have been caught off guard by what our pediatrician described as milestones: his smile, his ability to track us with his eyes like a Jurassic Park velociraptor, his way of communicating his most basic needs, his attempts to reach for us and even latch on with his small yet strong fingers, and so many more developments that seem to unravel every few days. Still, there is no denying that he loves to eat, sleep, poop, and cry–but we’ve been blessed in so far as his demeanor. He doesn’t cry a great deal, though there are times when his mother is the only person to console him.
Yesterday, I was hanging with my homeboy (Brooks) on his play mat. He was kicking Fisher Price piano keys and flailing at objects in the near distance, and when I wasn’t doing the same thing, I found a great deal of joy in watching him take in the world. It’s funny how big your surroundings can feel when you lay on the floor like a baby and simply look around. Our dogs appeared to be mythical creatures of Narnia, and the ceiling fans, which Brooks constantly admires, were intoxicating. No wonder he can’t stop looking at them; they are so different and far more inspiring than the bland ceiling, and when in motion they are spellbinding. Yes, I am 31 years old. Yes, I often present as a toddler.
Bath time is special, too. Lasagna (Brooks–he’s graduated from the size and rank of a burrito to a larger entree of sorts) loves to soak in his tub and watch his mom and dad take care of him. At times, he likes to pee while we clean him, and luckily Tara has received the brunt of this act so far! It’s amazing to watch him grow from week to week, and bath time might display this best. His belly is beginning to take on the pot shape that babies famously flaunt (I am sporting the pot belly too–you know, to support my boy and his self-image…). He is also learning to kick and move around more freely, and soon I’m sure he’ll be splashing and giggling. I can’t help but watch him and think back to the moment he was born, the days following, and the moments leading to each new day.
Nostalgia is like that–it hits you after the fact and allows you to relive moments that you wish you could have back. I will never again be able to hold Brooks just moments after he was born. He will never again have a first bath. Every smile from this point forward will be another, though we will have so many more milestones and firsts. I guess I am just trying to be present and in the moment–even when sleep, free time, personal space, and life as it had previously been defined seems elusive. Because that’s what having a kid is all about–our boy only came into our lives to make them better, more meaningful, and more joyous. He came into our lives so that we could care for him, love him, and guide him to a state of independence, one that will someday drive him to share himself with a larger community and less controlled environment.
Yet despite our efforts to build him in a way that prepares him for the world and a life of his own, I am encouraged to believe that what we teach our boy will ready him to give back to the world, come back home to us frequently, and love us in a way that might compare to the love we have for him. Still, I know that I could not fully appreciate my parents’ love until Brooks was born–an experience that prompted a primitive desire to protect him at all costs. I just don’t know that a child can understand how much they are loved until they become a parent, no matter their upbringing. But until and after the day that Brooks is ready to take on the world with a little less help from his mom and dad, I hope I will regularly reflect on the moments we share, smile when we have them, and learn to replicate the environments and opportunities where bonding and love occur.
My boy has already shown me so much. He’s already given me more purpose, meaning, and drive than I could have imagined. I want to make sure he sees that in me every day that he wakes up and welcomes the next challenge.