22 December 2009

Happy Birthday, Desmond James

(Warning: corny, yet touching video at the end of this entry!)

Yesterday (12/21) was Desmond's 2nd birthday. I was warned that as a parent time would just fly by, but it does seem like it has been two years. He's been around long enough that I struggle sometimes to remember what life was like before him. It was certainly much less active, and much less interesting.

I had been around enough children before he was born to form an idea of what parenthood would most probably be like. For the most part, it has been as I thought, with the exception of sleep. Kristen and I spent the better part of Desmond's first year in major sleep deprivation, and although we are not "in demand" at night as much as we used to be, neither of us has adjusted back to pre-parenting sleeping habits. She's had it rougher than I have, no doubt, but we would also both say that the change has been worth it.

Obviously, Desmond has changed a lot in two years. He looked exactly like me when he was born, and now he looks exactly like his mother. He used to fit into the crook of my arm like a sack of potatoes. Now I can barely lift his 35-pound body without feeling it everywhere. I miss the baby Desmond with all of my heart, but the little-boy Desmond is amazing, and I can't believe that I get to spend every day with this kid.

Desmond's personality exploded about two months ago. He hugs, he kisses, he gets excited whenever and wherever he sees his mother, and he expresses his individuality hundreds of times per day. It has been astonishing seeing the transition from a baby who relied on us for everything to a toddler who feels more confident about his place in the world with every passing day. Our life is not without obstacles; Des can be stubborn and resistant, and he has definitely discovered the emotion of anger recently, but it is all part of learning to live--I wouldn't trade the moments of impatience for anything--and we have to remember that a lot of life is facing challenges.

I still find it hard to believe at times that I am a parent, and I know that it is because I never thought about it growing up. Later, when I was an adult and living on my own, it just seemed like something that wasn't for me. Up until I met my wife in the spring of 2003 (when I was 36) I still didn't think I would ever get married, much less ever be a father.

Obviously, I am grateful to have been wrong about that.

I guess I would say that being a parent is hard, simply because at times the knowledge of being responsible for another life can be a little overwhelming. I've never regretted doing this, and I never will, yet I think of some of the challenges being a parent will bring in the future--normal things that will occur "down the road"--and I don't look forward to dealing with them.

Right now, Desmond thinks that I am the second-coolest person on Earth, but I'm willing to bet that in about ten years or so, his opinion might change. One day, maybe he'll think I'm too old to understand what it is like to be him. When I was a teenager, I didn't understand that the adage "with age, comes wisdom" was about the truest thing that has ever been said.

I'm a realist. Life isn't fair. People suffer, some through no fault of their own. You cannot create a world without angst. I want the best for my children, but know that there are forces at work that may keep it from them.

Right now? All I want for Desmond is to be healthy and happy, and to learn about the world around him. I want him to explore to his limit and develop a desire to learn, so that when he goes to school he really gets into it. I want him to create and imagine, and most of all, I want him to stay innocent.

Down the road, I want him to develop strategies for dealing with "the world." I'd love to be able to tell him that he will always be happy, that the sun will always shine, but life isn't like that, and I feel that I'd be doing him a tremendous disservice by not acknowledging it.

A good friend said to me recently that a parent "prepares the child for the path, not the path for the child." I agree wholeheartedly. Right now, I can control somewhat what life has in store for Desmond, but those days are waning fast.

I check on Desmond every night before I go to bed. Last night, I went upstairs after one, so it was already his birthday. He sleeps with a few of his blankets, and I noticed yesterday that he had wrapped two of them around his face. I moved them, and in his sleep, he tugged them back, wrapping them again around his face. After I moved the blankets for the third time, he woke up and gave me a look that said "What in God's name are you doing?" And then he smiled that smile, the one that says "Oh yeah, I recognize you. You're my Dad, and I love you." He reached out to me, and I thought, what the heck, it's his birthday, so I picked him up and we sat in the rocking chair in his room for twenty minutes.

Times where Desmond will sit still with me are few now, so I cherish any chance I get. He was half-asleep, and while sitting with me he rotated between yawns, rubbing his eyes, and smiling, the entire time holding on to my right index finger with his right hand.

Right after Desmond was born, I stood by him in the room while the nurses washed him and checked his signs. It lasted about ten minutes, and the entire time, he held onto one of my fingers just like he did last night. I remember feeling his grip then and thinking "I am in, for life. When you want to let go, let go. But it will always be there for you."

And I thought the same thing last night.

I love my son in such a way that I cannot describe, so I won't even bother. I feel like I was destined to be here at this time. Life has never had a greater purpose, and I've never understood it more. I only hope that it stays like this forever.

To my son: I love you unconditionally. I will do my best to prepare you for this world, but at times you will hurt, you feel anger, you will feel disappointment. It's normal. Hopefully those times are far outweighed by the joy that life can bring. Whatever path you find yourself on, I will always be there for you.


Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

Wonderful entry, I to remember that hospital finger holding. They do grow, and they do live life. May your preparations be good :o)

Beth said...

Very nice, Jim. And happy birthday to Des! I wish you all good things in the coming year.