Tonight my wife was charged with putting the toddler to bed whilst I took the older one to bed. She was only in his room for a few minutes when his bedroom door flung open and she stood there with him in her arms.
“He only wants Daddy to put him to bed tonight…” she said.
The older one was “handed” over to her to be put to bed and I took the toddler back into his room to get him to sleep. We’ve been teaching him to sleep on his own, and egged on by the some of the ladies behind the scenes at Toddler Hints and Tips, I made sure that while my wife was overseas I put him to bed awake and then I dealt with his crying for 15 minutes before he fell asleep. But this week he has shown signs of getting his cold back seeing that one day in Sydney it is 37.3°C (that’s 99°F for my USA and old-school Canadian readers) and the next it is 12.9°C (55°F) with a wind chill factor that is making it feel like a blizzard is on the way. So instead of listening to a dying child call out for me, I sat there stroking his head as he lay in my arms.
And it got me thinking once again as I have been over the past few weeks; once both of the boys have grown a little older, once they no longer need us to to pander to their infantile needs, there are going to be things that I miss about when they were newborns through to whatever age it will be when it happens.
1. Stroking their heads to sleep
It doesn’t feel like a chore when I am sitting (sometimes for up to 90 minutes) in the rocking chair, or laying on the bed beside one of the boys stroking their head, or caressing their brow in that way that makes them relaxed and want to fall asleep. My mum used to sit next to me in bed right up until my final few years at primary school. Sometimes I just wanted to have someone watch over me as I fell to sleep, so I can understand that the boys have got this from me.
Sure it will be easier when we simply say “right boys, clean your teeth then off to bed” and that’s the last we hear from them that night, but I will miss being the last thing they look at before heading to the land of nod.
2. Being strong enough to pick them both up
Maybe because I feel like I am strong. Maybe it is because I give the impression, especially to the older one that I am macho and athletic with the strength of Mr Incredible. I don’t know what it is exactly, but when the older one asks, as I am getting them both out of the bath “can you pick us both up and carry us together to my room?” I generally say “Yes.”
Maybe it is because one day they will be too big, I will be too old and too weak. Maybe it is because mentally I am too weak now and I give in too easy. Maybe I should just let him walk that whole five metres from the bath to him bedroom. But I do enjoy it. I truly do… Except when I have a sore back already…
3. Explaining things with white-lies and getting away with it.
I remember when I was a young boy myself I was inquisitive. I remember one night coming home from dinner at a restaurant or family friend’s house, I saw the moon riding high in the sky and following us. I remember asking my father “why does it look like the moon is following us?” and getting the response “because it is.” That always stuck with me. Maybe it was at that point (keep in mind I may have been as young as six, possibly a little older) that I was shaped into the man that I have become, and a man who always wanted his own kids so that I could tell those lies.
Our older boy asks me the most random questions. I am lucky; with my smart-phone in hand almost 24/7 I can answer any question that is put to me where I don’t already know the answer. But sometimes, when the answer is not my subject of expertise, or when I don’t feel like getting onto Google, I do what my father did to me. I lie. I make something up. Don’t get me wrong. When the question is something to do with his personal growth or general well-being, I don’t lie. And it’s not really a lie, more a funny alternative to what the real answer might be. But maybe the boys can pass this onto their own kids in the future. And maybe I might be the sort of grandpa who will be asked the curly ones by my grand-kids. I hope so. I have plenty more stretches of the truth to tell them.
4. Watching them discover new things
From discovering their hand in front of their face for the first time, to realising that the hand belongs to them, and then realising the hand can pick things up, exciting things and wave them in front of their face, there are plenty of moments that I just love sitting back and watching them discover the answers to why, what or how.
Sure there’s the self-discovery that is going on with the boys that freaks my wife out. But they are just exploring (okay, maybe the hands down the pants 24/7 is a bit too much and I find myself telling the older one to stop it), but they are just growing boys, and boys like to explore.
Our youngest seems more technically minded and he loves to work out how things work. He needs to know why A goes into B, or why X swings to Z and passes by Y. i hope this converts to attention being paid in school, but it might be that his head is too far in the clouds. Still, for now, I love watching them discover new things.
The toddler is still find his words. It is cute watching him sound things out. The older one used to practice what he had to say before he said it but the younger one seem to dive right in, learning from his mistakes with words as he goes. And he makes plenty of them as he tries to keep up with Mum, Dad and his older brother talking at a million miles an hour.
Maybe this one will go on a lot longer than I imagine. Maybe I will be there sitting next to one of them at their computer while they crack a code, learn to hack, or develop a new way to do something that no one else is doing. Maybe I will be able to watch them discover new things. But once they are older there will be less cute incidents when they are on the discovery trail.
5. The last of the firsts.
It will happen one day. Sooner or later the last milestone that can be considered a milestone in the development of a child will be reached. No more first footsteps, first times they feed themselves, or first time they use the television’s remote in a greater detail than their mother.
There will be the first girlfriends, first driving lessons and first day at work, but none of these will be as exciting as those first footsteps or first word.
6. Wardrobe by Mum and Dad
Every toddler or young child goes through that stage where they don’t want to wear the first outfit that you choose to dress them in that day. It happened to me just yesterday. The toddler rejected four tops before settling on the one he wanted and rejected three pairs of shorts before he was satisfied with his complete ensemble. But every single top, every single set of pants, all the socks and the shoes were picked by my wife or I, and for the most part, each item matches to some extent.
But soon they will not only start to pick every outfit (well they won’t pick the school uniform, but it WILL pick them each school day), but they will want to pick their own clothes at the shops. Soon there are going to be bouts of “you’re not wearing that” from us with “I can wear whatever I want” replies from them. I just hope they are snappy dressers. I hope they can match their outfits. I hope they do Dad proud.
7. I will miss them being little boys
It’s the old cliché; they grow up so fast. But it’s true. And as THEY get older, obviously, so do I. But it’s not just that. There have been moments in time since becoming a father that I have wanted to freeze the world and stay in that moment forever. And I am sure there will be many more, but when I look at them, when I think how they have their lives ahead of them, when everything is new, and fresh, and waiting for them to do something big, I get scared. I worry. I don’t want them to go off and leave us. I am happy for them to discover what the retraction button on the top of the vacuum cleaner does, but I am worried about them discovering what life is like 1000 miles away from home.
Right now they are where we want them to be. As I write this both boys are asleep in their beds, and that is fine with me. They are not out at night clubs. They are no at the pub. They are no out picking a fight, or getting pulled unwittingly into one. I know I can’t protect them forever, and I know that we have the whole first day of school, first day of high school, and living with a couple of teenage boys well ahead of us; there’s at least another 12 years before that age that is worse than the terrible twos is upon us.
And when that time comes, I will think back to when one of them had a tantrum that took nothing more than a hug or a lollipop to fix, or when one of them kept me awake crying because he was teething. Those moments that felt like hardship will be nothing in comparison to the blow-up of a teenager who will threaten to run away from home, or one who stays out all night and keeps me awake with worry.
I will miss them being little boys. I really will.
What will you, or do you miss from when your children were little?