I have a one-year-old. Well, I almost have a one-year-old. Jax will be 1-year-old in 5 days and sometimes I catch my breath at just how much he has grown. It doesn’t seem like a year ago he was born, it seems like just a few short months ago I was taking him from the nurses and holding him, looking at him, holding his tiny hand and talking to him for the first time.
The changes that have come with fatherhood haven’t been easy but haven’t been as hard as I would have expected. For the most part, I feel like I have rolled with things quite well considering what I have seen other new fathers go through. Maybe it’s due to my age. Maybe being in my mid 30’s instead of my early 20’s or god forbid teens has given me the ability to handle things in a calmer more rational way and with a cooler head. *Knock on wood*.
I cannot say I haven’t had my WTF moments, my occasional moments of panic and confusion though; Just that those have been rare.
A few weeks ago, we were on vacation at my dad’s cottage up at Silver Lake. Stacey, my dad, Jax and myself were heading across the lake to the sand dunes on my dad’s little aluminum fishing boat to meet the rest of my family. It was Jax’s first time on the dunes. At one point, I caught myself panicking that my dad was going too fast and I nearly told him to slow down. I did not though. I stopped myself because ultimately I realized everything was under control but briefly, I had a moment of…dad panic. And in that moment, I had visions of Jax bouncing from Stacey’s arms and out of the boat. Moments like that however have been few and far in-between this last year. It is something I never thought I would have, that irrational fear and protective parental instinct.
Last year at that same cottage, Stacey was very pregnant. I looked down the same cement path leading from the cottage to the water that I walked down as a young boy back in the 80’s. Last year I looked at her and said something along the lines of, “Next year our little boy will be walking down that path.” This year I witnessed the culmination of that prediction in a moment that I can only describe as surreal. My baby boy is growing up and sometimes it feels like it is happening too fast.
I’ve watched Jax go from just laying there googling and smiling, to standing, then crawling for a brief time before he started walking at about 8/9 months old. I have watched his personality and interests grow and change. I have seen him figure things out such as recently moving his toys to stand on in his playpen so he can reach toys and DVD’s better that are outside of it. It is an ever-changing adventure being his dad, being a dad. A few months ago I was rocking him to sleep singing Moonriver and All the Way over a bottle and now he’s putting himself to sleep for his naps and to sleep at night. I will not lie I miss that “our” time before he fell asleep as much as Stacey does.
I am used to a fair amount of stress and anxiety in my life. I have learned to keep this hidden now even more than what I used to so I can be strong for the ones I love who depend on me. I have questioned whether I am doing a good job as a dad, a strong enough fiancé and making the right choices for us and our futures.
I judge myself more harshly than anyone knows or could ever imagine. I often wonder if this little goal of mine, being a novelist, and the hope I might at least make a little money off of it someday is enough and worthy of my son. Do these late nights where I spend editing the new book and writing the next matter? Will they ever really matter? Will he look back and be proud of that and of me someday? When I started writing stories and books, Jax and Stacey did not exist in my life at all. Then, I was doing it just for me but now it has become for us, for all our futures, not just mine and I worry that it is not enough. I suppose I would worry less if books sales were better and more stable but “they” say that will come and I just need to keep writing.
Sometimes for as much I love my burgeoning career I question my own faith in it. Should I hack off this “dream” as others call it and take up a career I hate and despise like so many other fathers and mothers before me have chosen to do?
This little boy, that I love more than words can express has brought out the best in me. He has forced me to push myself, to stick to what I know to be right, to rely on my gut and strengths even when I question whether my gut and strengths are enough for us. He has made me have honest late night conversations when I am alone about what really matters, what is important and what goals of mine are worth it.
He makes me cry, laugh, groan, shake my head and smile. We laugh and growl at each other, make faces and I do my best to teach him as much as I can at this point in his young life but even then, I wonder what the hell I should do sometimes.
I look back on this past year with him and think about the next one and the one after that. I wonder how and in what ways he will change and how his life will change. In this year ahead, I wonder how Stacey and I will change, how we will adapt and grow to new changes and situations involving in and around our son. I have seen the mistakes other parents have made over the years or at least what I see or thought were mistakes and am determined not to make them myself. Then I wonder, what other mistakes I will make if I do not make those same ones I have seen because I know that I will. I notice everything that other parents do and do not with their kids now and wonder if they are right or wrong and if and how it is something, I can learn from whether good, bad, or both.
I look at Stacey and see the crazy amount of strength and understanding she has with him and with me. I look at her and realize how much I love her, how lucky I am for her to be the mother of my son and see there is so much she can teach me from this point on.
August 5th is my son’s first birthday, but it is more than that. It is the day I was made a new person, the day I became of all things I never expected to be…a father. It is a day that changed my life, my heart, and my mind forever and will for every August 5th that will ever come. Other children may come for Stacey and I. But Jax is the one who made me open that door that I stayed as far away from for as long as I could and I thank him for that.