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.
When little hands won’t tug at my shirt to be picked up just for fun.
When a nose can be blown without assistance.
When scrapes and cuts can heal without magical kisses.
When little toes won’t tickle the small of my back throughout the night looking to get comfortable.
When I can walk past the front door without having to move tiny shoes that never find their way back to the shoe bin.
When I can open the fridge and not have to peer around a small, curious head for my next meal.
When an exhausted little person won’t rest his head sleepily on my shoulder, yawning contently in my ear.
When hugs become less frequent.
When my daily “welcome homes” won’t consist of unbridled laughter, ear to ear smiles and open armed embraces.
When dependency gives way to independence.
When I can sit in awkward silence and just be.
When there won’t be crayon markings needing cleaned off of walls from a budding artist.
When imaginary food won’t be fed to me.
When “Daddy” simply becomes “Dad”.
To the mother I saw at the Mall before I became a parent.
I was leaving a store and you were there. You had a kid in tow, maybe 3 years old. Your son, in the moment we crossed paths, was have a terrible time. Flailing about in your arms, he was struggling to cope with his emotions. He undoubtedly wanted something or wanted to go somewhere and you told him no.
His screaming did not deter you. A fist inadvertently hitting your head or shoulder did not cause your temper to flare. You stood there, in the entrance to the store we were leaving, patiently holding your child tightly. Letting him work through his moment.
Your love did not waver or become conditional should he keep in his struggle. You did not threaten or exert force to end his tantrum. You held him tight in your arms, showing him it was okay. Exhibiting a calmness during his storm. A lighthouse for him to find the shore.
To you I owe an apology. As our lives briefly intermingled, I gave you a look. It conveyed a message. Control your child it said. For that look, however fleeting, I’m sorry. My journey is now where yours was when we met.
Staying firm in your decision while still embracing love and a safe space for your sons emotions takes remarkable control and patience. You displayed that, even in the judgement of public eyes. For that, you are incredible.
I would like to not only apologize, but thank you as well. For setting an example that I so vividly remember over 2 years later. It’s these small, brief encounters that ripple through society and make all the difference. Thank you. For it is possible you might have subconsciously aided in my gentle parenting journey.
Part of the beach front Hotel property along with a good view of Lake Erie.
Every time I hear a goose or a seagull, I’m taken back to all our yearly trips to Cedar Point on its own little peninsula in Upper Sandusky in Lake Erie. The distinct aroma of the Great Lake, the lake front view (or the view of the parking and part of the park, depending), and the many miles walked in the course of our weekend getaways. We would always stay in the in-park hotel with access to the hotels private lake sand bar. The seagulls always present, cawing and buzzing overhead throughout the park and beach.
The multi-day visits would allow us to explore all the nooks and crannys of a Park that most don’t get to fully experience.Despite its “Most Coasters in One Park” notoriety, there’s much more to it than rides, although as a coaster enthusiast that’s the main reason for the trip. There’s a plethora of other entertainment to embark upon that could take up a weekend in itself. Some of the day is spent relaxing on the sand bar about 75 yards off the shoreline.
A little more of the park as we ride the big-ass Ferris wheel. I was yelled at for moving and causing our cart to sway.
It’s these moments that I can’t wait to share with my little man. The smaller, less significant moments like walking through their little historic row or sharing a mega icee-martini while watching brave souls get off the “Chaos” ride and not being able to walk upright. Or watching him struggle to fight common sense and let go on the Swinging Pirate Boat and enjoy weightlessness. Or joining him while his little fingers and feet sink further with the rise and fall of the lapsing shoreline; and having a shell rest occasionally by his buried hand.
In about 4 yrs. time he’ll be old enough to create new memories of our annual getaway. Richer memories of all his firsts. Of our firsts as a family. Our first road-trip with all his inquisitive questions of the world around him. His first major Coaster ride or watching Snoopy On Ice as a reprieve from the intensely humid Ohio summers. All of these I’m so anxiously waiting for. Although it’s funny that I know as soon as these memories are made, I’ll wish him little again so I can hold and cuddle him like I do now.