There, on the floor, humming a little song to himself, was our son, now two and in full-on toddler mode, playing. Just playing. With a combination of toy animals, Fisher Price Little People and equally little Sesame Street characters, they were being placed in and out of a barn, a hay loft, or into a tractor, all against the carefree humming of a song I’ll never know, but makes me so glad to hear.
A plastic crate of apples (from the Little People farm stand set he got for his birthday), was placed inside his Little People plane.
“Who’s going on the plane, buddy?”
“Where are they going?”
“Where’s home for the apples?”
Little Ernie, in a construction worker outfit, was bounced along the roof of the barn along with a Little Boy Farmer toy. Were they hitting each other, I wondered, as he pushed them together.
“What are they doing, buddy?”
“They’re hugging, dada! Hugging!”
I couldn’t but help but smile at the delight and laughter that followed. His toys knew the power of a hug, because he does. It made me feel wonderful.
This time goes by quick. I realize I’ve been lax in keeping up to date on the standard childhood milestone – something you’d think I would be better at as a fatherhood blogger. A lot’s happened in recent months and I’ve sort of glossed over it in terms of chronicling.
We consider ourselves very very lucky that he’s shown an interest in the potty since he got one for Christmas back in December. He’s fortunately kept that interest and while still in diapers, he lets us know (most of the time, but admittedly not all) when he has to go, with a pat to his bottom and a “Dada! Mama! Potty!” giving us the cue that it’s time to take action and get him onto the pot!
Letters and numbers started cropping up on a regular basis in the winter and spring and once we noticed it, have tried to keep it up every day in some form or another. He took it upon himself to take letter magnets off the fridge and tell us which letters were in his hand. Within months, it’s only gotten better, and we sing our ABCs together as a family, and sometimes stop to let him fill in a gap and try his hand at what letter comes next. When we heard him mumbling in the winter as he’d go up and down the stairs, we weren’t quite sure what he was saying – until we listened closer and realized he was counting the steps as he went. Now, we count everything and anything. Sometimes we go straight through, and sometimes there’s a 7-8-9-10-9-7 based on his mood at the time.
Regardless, he’s interested. He’s curious. He wants to know and I love it.
He climbs into his car seat on his own now, which only in this past week, I turned around to face the same way I do when I drive him to and from each morning. We talk about what we see out the window.
He’s not a baby anymore. He’s a little boy.
As all these things were going on, I wasn’t writing them down because I now realize I was far too busy enjoying every single minute of it as it was happening.
How could I not?
He just turned two this summer. It’s flown by, and if I don’t savor every moment I can (taking a few moments here and there for reflection), well, I’ll let an old favorite of mine, Ferris Bueller sum it up:
“No!” he said to me, his brow furrowed.
“What is it, buddy?” I ask.
“What do you mean, move?”
“Move, dada!” he said, fiercely, waiting for me to move several steps behind him as opposed to the usual ‘right behind him to spot him’ we’ve done since he started walking up those stairs on his own.
“You don’t want me behind you, buddy?”
I obliged and went three steps back. And wouldn’t you know it, every few steps, he would stop and turn around to make sure I was giving him that space.
And up-up-up he went.
How quickly the urge to declare one’s independence comes.
My wife has decided to jump back into theatre. She’s missed it for quite some time, as it was a very large part of her life for so long (and how we met), but we both felt when she was pregnant that it was best to step away from the stage and take some time to just be a family.
Sooner or later, that itch is hard to resist and now that the little guy is in that stage between 1 1/2 and 2 years old, I think she was really starting to feel the pull of the performing arts once again.
A side note: I think it was also spurred on by an incident in the Fall when we got a call from a theatre director who lost a cast member two weeks before open and asked me if I would jump in to help out. I did, but it wasn’t out of a great love to go back; it was merely to help someone out who helped me in the past. That was only a few weeks, and usually when I’d get home, he would be fast asleep and Meg would be enjoying a nice cup of tea.
We sort of thought that’s how it would go this time around for her.
In many ways, it’s been a wonderful experience, and an educational one at that. She’s been off to rehearsals by the time he and I get home, so on an average night, I’m feeding him his dinner (which she’s been nice enough and helpful enough to leave behind, making life easier), we have some playtime, he gets a bath, we do some story time, etc., but solo.
It has allowed for some incredible bonding between me and our little monkey, I will say. Just thinking of how anxious I would be of giving baths prior to the past few months, I realize how much this time has helped. Previously, Meg tended to give him baths. I would occasionally, but she did it on a regular basis. So, now that it’s been in my hands, it has somehow gone from the ‘ugh, how are we gonna do this?’ or ‘what am i doing?’ to ‘you do this, buddy, while I get the bath ready’ and it has turned into a very seamless (and fun) process.
We have fun, we splash, we talk and sing, and the whole thing just goes like any other motion I go through like putting him in the car or reading him a story. It’s helped me evolve as a dad, honestly. And I like it.
The only hitch we have run into with this ‘guys night’ scenario is that the little guy can spend an entire day or evening with me and we’re just fine, up until storytime is over and it’s time for bed. He refuses to go to bed without mommy home. We read book after book after book, and I think ‘is this the one that’ll get him tired?’ and he does get pretty tired, but he fights it. He fights it with a longing and hope that mommy is going to walk through that door and put him to bed, proper, because daddy is just not what he wants at that moment.
I’ve tried a lot of different things – rocking him, singing to him, giving him a few minutes to calm down once he’s in the crib and yelling for mommy, but unlike when Meg does it, he doesn’t calm down. He only makes himself worse. Sometimes I’ll get lucky and if I lay him on our bed after that, he’ll be tired enough to fall asleep next to me or on my arm or something like that, where we tend to remain until Meg comes home and somehow, through mystical or magic powers, because there’s no other way I can comprehend, picks him up and places him in the crib without him blinking. It’s amazing.
I know it won’t be like this forever, and while I would LOVE for him to be able to fall asleep comfortably with me like he does with her, I wouldn’t change this past month or so. After almost three years (counting pregnancy), she finally has the chance to get out and have a life outside of being ‘mommy’ for a change. It’s something she not only deserves, but needs to have in her life, especially when it’s something she’s so passionate about, like theatre. I admit, I haven’t been the most communicative about her show by the time she gets home, not out of disinterest, but mostly just due to the combination of fatigue and irritability after a long fight to get him down. But I’m happy she’s getting back to something she loves and something she identifies with.
I also wouldn’t change a thing because, despite all that difficulty, all the fighting he may give me when it’s time to go to bed, those hours of the night beforehand, when it’s just the two of us, laughing, playing, putting blankets on our backs like capes, giving him a bath and singing songs along with the radio, or just reading story upon story with him curled up in my arms, makes any difficult part so trivial. This is my son, this is my little guy, and these are times that will only last for so long.
I want to enjoy them and learn from them as much as I can.
Up to his room I went and into the dresser to find something comfy enough for the night, but not so heavy that he’d be overheated. We’ve had some really fluctuating temperatures the past several weeks.
That’s when I suddenly stopped and took notice at the sight beside me. In the mirror on the wall next to his dresser, there was someone looking back at me. The light was a little dimmer than normal, as I had only turned on the small table lamp in his room, but along with that half-lit face, was tints of gray in the (i’m sad to admit) receding hair that sat atop his head. The light accentuated the bags and wear under the eyes and he looked…older.
I stood there for quite a few minutes. Not out of vanity, but out of reflection, and a hint of sadness.
How could this be? Was I not just bouncing around the halls of high school? Wait. No. That was 16-19 years ago. Surely, it was just a little while ago that I was pulling all-nighters to film low-budget movies while studying screenwriting in college, right? Wow. No, that was over ten years ago already. And that plucky young journalist transitioning from a newspaper to broadcasting, that wasn’t that far away, right? It was. It was eight years ago. The guy who leaned over the seats of the theatre and asked Meg out on our first date during a play rehearsal? More than five years ago.
I gazed onward at this figure in the mirror before me, wondering where he came from, what caused him to be. When did it all happen, I wondered, and why is it only in this moment that I’m noticing? I stand before the bathroom sink everyday without a flinch. But somehow, in this moment, in this room and in this light, it was like staring into time and having another version of yourself staring back.
A reminder, I suppose, that no matter how much your life may change, still do everything to make it the time of your life, because it will go by in a blink if you let it.
Suffice it to say, Santa brought the little guy a Baby Bjorn potty for Christmas and we’ve already started putting it to use.
While at first, he just wanted to carry it around the house and use it as a convenient chair when he wanted to sit down, we explained to him each time that it’s actually used for. (Sometimes using the term ‘poopies,’ ‘potty,’ or ‘uh-ohs,’ the phrase he has started using sometimes when he realizes he’s going to go to the bathroom.)
At one and a half, we honestly were not sure what he would understand or if any of it would make sense, but I think some of it has started to sink in. While I don’t see us ditching the diapers anytime soon, we have had a handful of incidents since Christmas (including one at grandma and grandpa’s) where he made it known that he wanted to use the potty. It sometimes involves carrying the potty out to grown-ups, going to it and pointing, or just grabbing his diaper. If we can act quick enough, off the diaper goes and we give it a try.
I know it sounds cliché, but it seems like it was only a week ago that we were in the hospital and I was changing those black-as-tar diaper messes of a newborn. Now, he’s letting me know when he has to go. The changes are coming and their coming fast.
And so this latest phase, the potty training, has begun in its own small way. While we’ve had a few successes so far, I don’t want to get overly optimistic. I’m certainly hopeful, though. It would be nice if we can keep it up and keep the momentum flowing. (Bad use of words?)