The evolution of the relationship with my son.

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DinoBoy and myself enjoying popcorn and goofing with the camera. This is the picture that choked me up.

The other night I cried.

It was a personal moment.  The rest of my family was peacefully sleeping. I was browsing through hundreds of old pictures; searching for that perfect one for a profile picture for an upcoming interview. There were endless pictures of just my son and I. Some were selfies where we were goofing around making silly faces. Others were of just him, enjoying life; unhindered with no agenda. They were all taken while my wife was at work and we were on mini-adventures; whether at home or while out.

These were moments just the two of us shared; a still frame from a life still being lived. I pause at one picture. It is slightly blurry and not well shot. It’s fuzzy, much like my memory of the moment in time it captures. This photo is both flawed and perfect. It represents more than just the image it contains. It holds the power to conjure memories. Those of my son and I dancing in the living room, gazing upon the moon in wonderment, sneaking in a bowl of popcorn after my wife went to bed, our hikes through nature during the brisk fall in the Midwest. Moments when we could just stop and have a cuddle on the couch while indulging in cartoon.

It was then that it dawned on me. This chapter that I am recalling is complete. Written and concluded. That these free, unbridled moments when it was just two of us are now over. The world we used to enjoy as a duo has quickly evolved into a trio. Those quiet, intimate moments no longer exists with the same frequency. My attention is now divided between two children who need me equally, but in different capacities.

In that moment, the realization of how much I truly missed the closeness, that special bond and the undivided attention I had with my son became too much. The emotions flooding me culminated into a lump in my throat that could not be swallowed. Only tears alleviated them. It felt as if I was mourning the loss of a relationship. A relationship that is evolving so fast I failed to see it. A child growing so quickly I did not want to admit it.

The relationship with my son has not been lost. It is not  fizzling. Rather it has matured. He understands. He is quickly becoming more independent. It was that independence that I mistook as a lack of connection. Our bond is still strong; still intact. The neediness is gone. The clinginess is fading. In its place is a new being. One that is needy. One that is clingy. One that needs that constant touch, love and holding. He sees this. He understands. He is not mourning this evolving relationship. He is embracing it. At times we both fumble in the moment, but he knows.

After the emotions run their course and I feel better for having them; I now know. I understand.  It is now time for me to embrace it.

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“Are you leaving me?”

On the mornings I take my son to daycare (2-3 times a week) I always take our things to the truck first and then come back in to collect TheBoy (2 yrs). He was playing with some toys in the living room while I gathered up our daily haul. After I made my coffee and had everything in hand I turned to see him standing in the doorway, his Woody doll held against his chest, looking deeply concerned and saddened. “Are you leaving me?” he asked somberly. Instantly a new emotion I can’t explain took over and my heart struggled to react.

We’ve done this morning routine since before he’s capable of remembering. Why on this particular morning he thought I was leaving him I have no idea; but this was very real to him. In that moment the fear of abandonment dominated his emotions.

Me: dropping everything and kneeling next to him. “Aww, buddy. Do you think I’m leaving you?” I manage to say with tears forming as I read his expression, the sincerity in his eyes and understanding the depth of his emotion.
TB: shaking his head yes and accepting my open arms as I pulled him in close and sat him on my lap.
Me: rubbing his back, “I can see you are upset and sad. I could never, ever leave you TB. I love you so incredibly much the very thought of leaving you makes me very, very sad. I will always be right next to you forever. Come here TB, let’s have a hug.”

And we sat on the kitchen floor, hugging. Me sniffling and him refilling on confidence. After our embrace we stood up, TB wearing a smile and excited to see his friends at daycare, and went about our day. I could have brushed off the notion of me leaving and how it was affecting him. But I chose to acknowledge it, accept it, and work through it with him and in the meantime expose my emotions to him as well. I think in that moment that made all the difference in the world for both of us.