The kids woke us up at an unreasonable hour this morning. It pained my wife as she’s been waking and sleeping in fits and starts for eight hours to the point that she just got up. It pained me because I’d gone to bed just some 4 hours before, being the night owl that I am, have always been.
“I keep telling you,” my wife said, “if you just try to go to bed earlier, it won’t be as bad.”
“Yeah, and then I’ll wake up and be–” I began grumbling before my wife cut in.
“I know, I know, you’re always saying, ‘I’m not wired that way…‘ ” she turned her voice into an odd mockery of mine. “It takes time. You have to transition into it, you have to at least try!”
Letting the red clear from the edges of my vision, I grumbled into my cup as I brewed coffee and went about my morning.
I stewed on her words, not so much because she is correct, I can go to bed earlier, or that I can make the transition. I stewed because I’m set in some ways. And I abhor transitions. Especially when they fundamentally change who I am and how I define myself.
Right now, for all intents and purposes, I’m a stay at home dad; and while my wife lauds my performance as our hausfrau, this is all new, scary, and overwhelming.
The morning hadn’t started off the best. We had only been back from our schedule shattering road trip for a day and a half, and both the kids were revved up in the mornings. The little one was going off on the early morning trip to daycare, and the big kid and I had errands to run.
He was dragging his feet. Being purposely (to me) obtuse or contrary. He wiggled. Capricious. Arbitrary. Fickle. He was being a six year old.
I yelled. Daddy yelled, filling the cabin of the car. Just a mundane question like “YES OR NO, PLEASE PICK ONE?!?!” but it was loud, and horrifying in that way that only a parent can be to a child in what would otherwise be a playful moment.
There were tears, and comforting words, and sobs, and sighs and silence for a few minutes.
“Hey,” I began when we got home. “I know you don’t want to talk to me right now, but, how would you feel about taking off your training wheels and we get you riding your bike like a big kid?”
He turned his eyes up to me, nodded vigorously to the affirmative and sniffled. “Yes.”
“Would you like that?”
“Yes, Dad, I would.”
So we went in back, I got my meager but workable set of tools and got his bike. Together we took off the training wheels, dusted off the cobwebs (it was literally covered in them) put his helmet on and gave it a go.
The little one sings now. He sings in that little, sweet toddler voice “Daddy finger daddy finger where ARE you? Here I go Here I go, HOW DO you do?” and “There’s a farm has dog and Bingo name who I-N-G-O! and Farmer Bingo!”
He hits the syllables all wrong, and misses the words, but it’s sweet, it’s recognizable and he’s learning. He’s making who he is as we watch, listen, hear.
He has friends at school (when he gets to go), he’s learning shapes and numbers, and loves to say the names of trucks and the color orange “ORANGE EXCUH VADER DADDY!!!”
Potty training moves slowly.
Every once in a while, he looks at me and with the sweetest look on his face, he headbutts me; and while I stand stock still, in a daze, he runs off giggling.
I dropped the big kid off at school yesterday for the first day of second grade. It was seamless, simultaneously a new start to a new school year, and familiar and well learned–like so much muscle memory.
He kissed his baby brother, and wandered over to his class bench without so much as a wave, a look, or a “love you dad.” Just started his day and the new year like it was a normal day.
Last year this time, it was an event filled with tears and too long hugs and good lucks and sudden excitement and resolve.
I turned to his friend’s parents and said “Was it just me, or did you not get a goodbye?”
“Nope, our kid just went to class without so much as a nod.”
“Mine, too!” chimed another dad.
We stood around the parking lot for a moment, looking bewildered.
After a shaky, but successful start on his bike, I piled L’il D, his bike and a bunch of water into the car and headed for the bigger park. Noon on a Thursday afternoon even in the summer would leave the park wide open and to us.
I set him on the bike path, helped him figure out the pedals again and without much help from me, got him off and rolling.
He peddled off into the distance, a little rough at first, but getting stronger with each push of the pedal; he rode without fear and with growing resolve. A beginner, no doubt but becoming more…becoming more with each yard gained.
A dragonfly floated into my field of vision, right in front of where L’il D was racing into the distance, and for a moment, a brief moment, its wings were superimposed on my son’s helmet–both the insect and his helmet a bright red. Wings in flight for my child flying off into…
My eyes grew watery, and in the back of my head I heard a refrain that I’d forgotten:
Too scared to break the spell too small to take a fall
I blinked the growing tears away and looked at my son, remembered that he still needed me and I shouted for the second time that day.
“SON!!! TURN AROUND! COME BACK!”
He put on the breaks, wobbled, toppled over and then quickly waved at me, yelling as he stood “I’M OK DAD!”
He turned his bike around and peddled hard, racing for me, smiling in the confidence that he can do this thing, this glorious, difficult wonderful thing. You could read it in the joy on his face that he knew, knew, knew who and where and what he was at.
It was getting easier.
He rode towards me, and then past, and I found myself running, struggling to keep up.