Sunday, November 6, 2011

Expanding the universe a bit

The coolest thing happened Saturday night. For the first time, our little boy reached out and grabbed an object, in this case his rattle. We've seen him lunging at things but not with a great deal of control. Most of it felt more like instinct. In this case I watched him almost will his arms to move toward the rattle, and as he approached it with open hands he slowly started to close his fingers in anticipation of grabbing on.

It's interesting to watch him change as he gets older. Six weeks ago we could barely get him to sleep four consecutive hour. Now we've gotten four nine-hour overnight stretches in a row. We saw our first smiles about six weeks ago, and now he goes through periods where he grins and laughs along with us.

A month ago he hated baths. I mean hated. Now he sits there in the tub and is borderline having a good time. Once he realizes he can kick-splash and make it more interesting, it'll go to another level.

He changes every day. More personality every day. My wife and I have been eating it up, marveling at how we used to take for granted the mundane tasks that he struggles to perform.

I'm reminded from watching him every day that the basic unit of life is struggle. Struggle to do new things, or things we once found easy. Struggle to get better in a world that expects so much more from us if we are to survive and grow. Struggle to turn the extraordinarily difficult into routine, and then struggle to tackle new big impossible challenges.

A downer mentality? Hardly. Struggle keeps us grounded and keeps us vital. I wonder how many of our problems we face today are because we forgot this, forgot the value of knowing struggle forces us to exercise our minds and muscles, to problem-solve and think critically. Sometimes doing your best isn't good enough, damn it. We've turned the word "failure" into something shameful rather than seeing it for what it is - a reason to get up, dust ourselves off, and try again until we get it right. Not every struggle or fight is worth the effort, but we have to have some of it. And how we deal with it is really where we start being able to define character.

So far the kid struggles on with grace and aplomb. If there's a word that sticks out about him it's that he's got spunk. He's a fighter. He fights us on diaper changes or even our desire to hold him still after feedings so he doesn't lose his lunch to spit-up issues. He's stronger than I thought he'd be, and he uses it to challenge us every step of the way. And I dig that about him.

Which leads me to tomorrow. He's going to his first day of daycare tomorrow morning (the plan is three days a week to ease him in, then full time next semester). I've already done the midnight calculations while I couldn't sleep - a third of his day spent with strangers, a third of his day sleeping overnight, and a third of us his day with us. And that third with us has most of it spent getting ready to go to and from school. Really we get 4 hours of fun time at most with him during the weekdays starting in January.

I don't want to drop him off. If I could keep driving and take him on a roadie to some amazing part of the country, I would.

Everything we know about Lehigh child care is it's amazing. Everyone we've talked to not only praises it but has glowing reports. So we know he's in good hands.

Still, I don't want to drop him off.

The more I think on it, the more I realize my reasons are selfish. I don't want someone else to experience those firsts and moments with him. I want him to learn from just us. I don't want to share. I want to keep him all to myself.

Who's the baby again?

While the feeling might be natural, I realize my instinct (if followed) will only harm him. I'm really talking about restraining him, trying to keep him just as he is, rather than growing. Day care will give him new experiences, new people, and allow him to expand his world in a way he can't do if that world is just our family of three. I know diversity and community are better for him in the long run. He'll learn a lot more and grow a lot more.

So it's for the best that we grow his world a little, three days a week this semester and five days next semester. I don't like it, but I realize that is the voice of my worst nature. I have too many hopes for this boy, too many dreams that he'll find something he's passionate about and apply the values of hard work, curiosity, and problem-solving to turn those passions into reality.

I want him to be a difference-maker. If that starts at daycare, so be it.

At least that's what I'm telling myself, even if I'll be a puddle of emotions tomorrow.

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