Wednesday, July 16, 2014

My son, the cat (sort of)

The kid sleeping in my lap right now turned nine months old last week. That’s not especially significant, except to realize he’s been outside about as long as he was inside, and life certainly is more interesting in its current state.

In the past few days I’ve come to realize the baby is quite similar to a slow-moving cat. To wit:
  • He responds to his name (and nickname) only at his discretion.
  • He cannot communicate with words, though clearly he is very particular about his likes and dislikes.
  • He crawls over and whines when he wants to be picked up or fed. He will attempt to climb up a human leg in pursuit of these goals.
  • He will not be held against his will.
  • His needs are paramount to those of the people in his life.
  • He disseminates bodily fluids in unfortunate places throughout the house.
  • He is intrigued by nothing so much as running water.
  • His diet includes what appears to be mush from tiny containers.
  • He prefers my bed to his.
  • He rather enjoys looking out the window, and also shiny or dangly things he can slap.
  • He scratches flesh with reckless abandon.
  • His waste is in a container in the bathroom, and the smell is distinct.
  • He likes to eat stuff he finds outside. (This includes sand.)
  • He retains a slight desire to be at least partially nocturnal.
  • He makes a beeline for the things he is supposed to leave alone, including computer cables and potted (fake) plants.
  • He will not pose for photographs.
  • He only wants to be left alone when everyone else wants to play with him and demands the most attention when important things need to be done.
  • He delights in shredding paper, especially toilet and facial tissue.
  • He appears to be aware of his cuteness and is attempting to use it as a defense mechanism.
Sure, it’s not a direct comparison (I’ve yet to hear him purr or hiss, and thankfully he doesn’t shed), but as a former cat owner there are frequent reminders of when I used to share the house with felines. And eventually he’ll grow out of a lot of these tendencies, which in many ways just plain makes me sad, because he is indisputably our last baby.

When I briefly entertained the notion of lobbying for a fifth child (which I’d never verbalize on account of me not being the one to actually grow the human), I realized it was the pinnacle of my penchant for procrastination. If we had another baby, then I could just stay in this part of life. It seems odd, but I’m rather used to dealing with diapers and getting up in the middle of the night to pop my thumb in a kid’s mouth. I have always resisted change, and each new kid allows me to comfortably wear the “father of a baby” mantle, which has served me well for the better part of a decade.

Yet we could add a baby each year and it wouldn’t keep our older kids from growing up. And since eventually I’m going to have to teach the big boys how to drive and navigate the murky social waters of junior high and high school, I suppose it would be helpful if I could count on a few decent nights of sleep somewhere along the line.

Also four boys is a lot. We have filled our house and, to a greater extent, our minivan. I’m incredibly grateful for the gift of each son and hope like heck I’m up to the awesome responsibility of being their dad.

Life is pretty good. I only wish I could respond with sufficient gratitude.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A common thread

I glanced to my right at the dinner table the other night and saw our oldest engrossed in a book. This is not a new occurrence, but it’s increased of late in connection with a forced reduction in screen time and an incentive-based summer reading program at the local library.

It wasn’t anything high minded, but it was one of my favorites from childhood — “The Calvin and Hobbes Lazy Sunday Book,” a collection of Sunday strips of the beloved comic from the early years of its live run in American newspapers.

If he loves Calvin and Hobbes, I must be doing something right.
I’ve lost track of how many times he’s leafed through the pages of one of my Calivn and Hobbes books. Something about the characters or the humor appeals to him in a way a few Far Side books never have. He doesn’t quite laugh out loud when he reads them the way he does when he goes over the new comics each Sunday, but if he didn’t like these strips at all he darn sure wouldn’t be reading them for pleasure.

As I saw him read this particular book on that night, I remembered how it came into my possession. It was a Christmas present from my wonderful Aunt Beth. After he put the book down, I leafed through the opening pages to find the inscription, which surely would have the year marked.

While the age I was when I got the book as a present was my main curiosity, what I actually learned was much better. There was an inscription all right — it said , in very familiar handwriting, “Happy Reading & Merry Christmas 1989. To Scott from Grandpa & Grandma.”

So I got this book the year I turned 10 — the same age my oldest is now. But more importantly I remembered the gift came not just from my Aunt Beth, but a few days earlier when celebrating with my dad’s side of the family. I think we might have returned the one form Beth, probably because she actually didn’t leave an inscription, and also because the other copy probably came with me on the plane to Florida and was no longer in mint condition.

And while it means nothing of significance, it warmed my sentimental heart to think of myself as a 10-year-old, when two relatives got me such a perfect Christmas gift (probably with help from my thoughtful mother), and how 25 years later another 10-year-old boy in the same family is still enjoying that generous offering.

I’ve been trying to tell him lately how much I have in common, but of course he’s 10 so everything that happens to him has never happened to anyone else in recorded history, least of all his dad, and even if maybe something similar could have occurred certainly it affected him far more profoundly. The very notion I could begin to understand what life is like in his skin could not be more absurd if it were a tap-dancing platypus.

Such is life. I love that he’s like me, except for when I hate it. Still, I wouldn’t give him up for anything, and I like to think eventually he might say the same about me.

A prayer for July 1:

Lord, thank you for my wife and kids. I don’t say thank you enough, but I hope it’s clear to you and them how much it means for me to be able to share life with them. Help me continue to live out the gratitude in my heart and to make sure everyone is able to see in me a life changed by your love. Amen.