A few months after the boys were born, I wrote a piece about fatherhood from my perspective that the awesome site for awesome dads, dads.co, was kind enough to share. At the time, I was still coming to terms with the changes that were happening in my own life and hashing out how I felt with regards to the two new lives that I was responsible for.
Now, looking back from their first birthday, it’s amazing how much I’ve changed since not just since the boys were born, but even since I wrote that post.
Yes, I’ve decided to make their first birthday all about me.
I don’t want to talk about the past several months by yammering on about growth and the triumph of the human spirit or whatever. To that end, I am going to sum up my feelings with three pictures and two pairs of pants.
Babies are babies. Our babies are like your babies are like their babies. For a large part of their first few months they are basically dazed-looking, crying balls of human excretion, resembling a Play-Doh playset filled with swamp mud. Babies are, by and large, loud, gross and dumb. Get mad if you want to; you know it’s true.
Our babies certainly fell into this generalization, and the farther we get from their birth, the louder, wrinklier, spewier, sleeplessier, and generally ickier we remember them having been. I’m not trying to insult the lights of our lives, but I guess I have to call a poopy spade a poopy spade; they were mostly cranky and squirty, regardless of how much love and adoration we had for them.
This notion of the boys was mercifully retired one day when the boys were a hair over a month old and I took a few pictures as they lay next to each other in a Twin Z pillow. There was nothing extraordinary about it; just some more baby pictures among the thousands I’m sure I’d taken by then, but this picture really impacted me.
Partly this pic had such an affect on me because of the look C is giving his brother, and to the fact that they’re holding hands. I know, I know, at their age in this picture, it takes a bit of anthropomorphizing to read much into this. The hand-holding was coincidental, and C was glancing all around him with that same look; he could have been staring at a teddy bear or potted cactus for all it mattered. No thoughts in those heads but the entrance and egress of food.
Yes, the boys are adorable here, but what really struck me was the juxtaposition of these two kids. M is mellow, sleeping, peaceful. C is wide-eyed, alert, awake, and anxious-looking. Before they were born and continuing to today, that has been more or less their respective “personalities”; M is the more calm, relaxed, thoughtful of the two, while C is more the go-go-go, alert, excitable, and “look before he leaps” type.
That said, it was in this picture that I first saw our sons as people; real, honest-to-God, fleshed out people. It’s hard to explain, but there was something in me that switched from viewing these babies as just babies, or as screaming crap dispensers, or as the reasons sleep was becoming a distant memory. Suddenly I saw them as “people”, as my boys, as individuals who didn’t just need to be taken care of, but that needed to be nurtured and raised to be good men.
If the boys’ personalities hit me in that photo, they clobbered me in this one:
There was no epiphany this time, it’s just…look at those smiles! I had never in my life seen (or at least noticed) any person look as overflowing with pure, unadulterated joy. I fell in love with these guys all over again. There’s a difference between seeing a person as a human and seeing a person as a person. Smiling and laughing because their old man was acting the fool behind their mommy while she took so many pictures the camera’s memory card was praying for Judgement Day, I saw these guys as full-blown little boys, and reveled in what was (and is as of this writing) the only example of anyone ever laughing at me when I was trying to be funny.
Because chronological order can go screw, this last picture is from the very early days after we brought the babies home.
Kat and I have known each other since 1997. We’ve moved in together, gotten married, been on adventures, overcome struggles, and gotten pregnant, but this, THIS, is the happiest I’ve ever seen her. She’s not grinning ear-to-ear or holding her sides from guffawing, but trust me, she is at the maximum threshold of human happiness. After our ordeals with infertility, miscarriage, and the deterioration of my emotional and physical health during her pregnancy, here she stands, holding her new babies and old husband. Her smile in this picture is beautiful and sweet and.it totally says “Screw every single other thing in the world. Screw all the struggles and problems, screw worries about the future, this is all I’ve ever wanted.”
Winding back the clock even further, while Kat was pregnant I was having some health issues, and they made it hard to know exactly how to feel about – or at least how to deal with – the pregnancy and impending role as a dad. When I found myself in an REI one day, I looked at children’s stuff and came across little convertible (zip-off lower legs) hiking pants. They were tagged as being for six-month-olds, they were more money than I should have spent at the time, and hiking pants are basically useless for babies. But we love hiking and I wear convertible pants when we do, so against all logic I bought two pairs:
The boys are a year old now, yet those pants still fit in what is apparently a sort of “five-small-barley-loaves-and-two-fishes” deal. On paper, I shouldn’t have bought them, but they stand as one of the only “wrong” decisions I made during that time that ended up being OK. The boys have been wearing them double the stated age, and, like their old man, they look awesome in hiking pants. I bought these pants in a sincere if ill-advised moment of impulse shopping, but they wound up being a great purchase from a practical standpoint and one of the few “silver linings” that came out of an otherwise pretty terrible time.
It’s such an oversimplification to try and sum up this past year with a few photos; we’ve had so many ups and downs, we’ve watched the milestones come and go, we’ve been humbled, we’ve been empowered, and we’ve both been given purpose in some different ways. Our boys won’t remember this year, but we’ll never forget*.
*Except actually we’ve forgotten big swaths of the first few months.