On Your First Birthday
Riding a bus with you is like riding a bus with a rock star.
You never “made strange”. You’re almost the opposite – you go out of your way to attract strangers’ attention. You wave, you make that awesome throat-clearing sound. You laugh a lot. You might be anxious and a little screamy at the start of a meal – I feel you, kid – but later on you’re trying out some new sounds, trying to make us laugh. You’re working on your material.
You seem to like music, and dancing. We danced a lot early on, when you needed a lot more calming down. I would hold you face down, my hand around your tiny head, bundled up in your swaddle. Your feet would just reach my elbow. Now, you need very little soothing. You suck your thumb when you need it.
I remember the first time you really made eye contact with me. I was changing you – maybe we shouldn’t do this, but we change you on the dining room table. It’s huge, your grandfather made it. You have his eyes now. You looked at me, held the gaze, and smiled. You are quite alert, which people often comment on. In the hospital, just after you were born, I carried you around the room. You didn’t cry – you just looked around.
You look around like that still, but you can now move about, and you do it with assurance. You grab things, you know what you want to do with them, and you do it. Admittedly, that’s mostly put in mouth or throw, but I admire your confidence.
Sometimes I try to separate the things that all parents must feel from those that I feel. Being a father for only a year so far, I keep on feeling new things, then realizing how utterly common those feelings are.
But it’s foolish to think like that, ultimately. It’s some kind of cool-kid reflex, an aversion to common things. That every parent feels them makes them more valuable, not less. By feeling them I am sharing in something huge, with strangers from all avenues of life, with my own parents, and their parents. I know the pride, the fear, the love. The pride at your accomplishments. At showing you off to others, at seeing you make strangers smile. The fear when you slipped and bashed your gums and blood flowed from you for the first time. The love that squeezed me from your first ultrasound, somehow, and has yet to let go. I pray it never does.