Friday, January 23, 2009

It's my son's birthday today. It's his first. My ninth, overseeing as "Dad." He's sick today, however. He was up most of the night vomiting what little he had in his tiny belly. Lucky he doesn't know that today is supposed to be any different from the day before or after.

I paused, this morning, from the routine of preparing myself for the day to observe him. I picked him up and sang a quiet happy birthday to him. He just pulled at my lips, the way he does when he's trying to get something out of my mouth.

And I left him there to go to work.

I hate that these kids grow up without me. I'm scared to death that Julian might take his first steps while I'm at work. He is my third to arrive here; having pushed through his baby-ness, and taking whole milk in his bottle. He's the third to grow out of the car seat and to finally have a need for shoes. All of these landmarks that brought me to tears with my oldest are happening to him every day while I sit at a desk and draw pictures.

We moved this summer into the neighborhood where Jayne grew up, just around the corner from her parents' house. I drive past that house every afternoon on my way home and some days I still flush at the sight of it. I can still sense the flutter of what stirred in me every time I entered that back door. And now I am family, and I walk in without knocking, and I borrow eggs and milk in dishes with Jayne's name written on them. Her name ends with mine, and it looks good in fading sharpie.

And when I come in my own home, my daughter wraps herself around my knees. She's somehow so tall. And Parley, who has been given preternaturally to that familiar masculine detachment since his birth, does not call out, but his eyes glow with anticipation that I might tackle and wrestle and punch his thinning torso. And Jayne is tired. She's tidying the kitchen or changing a diaper, but she seems glad to see me. I know she likes to have me around, but more often than not, I know she's glad to have an extra pair of hands in the house. Sometimes we exchange a brief kiss or we pause to embrace and sometimes I remember how my limbs used to ache with a need to be near her and I kept track of every affectionate transaction between us.

It occurs to me that of my son's (approximately) 12 daily waking hours, I am home for 2.5-3 of them, 5 days a week. And my hours alone with Jayne are even fewer. Am I the only one who feels there is a monstrous debt somewhere that is owed to me for this? One day someone will mail me a check for X amount of hours. Not money in exchange for hours-- I don't want the money. I want that time. I want those hours. And I have a mind to spend them all in one place.

We can't sit for ten minutes in church any more without someone mentioning the decline of the family in modern society. And the war is ongoing, with attacks from every side. It's easy to blame pornography and promiscuity and gay marriage and bla bla bla... but a friend of mine once opined that society's first attack on the family was in taking the father out of the home for 8 hours a day. Something about that made sense to me today as I thought of the relatively small role I played in the first year of my son's life.

But what a sweet creature he is. And I do relish every minute I have with him. Even the ugly ones, when he's mad at me or when I'm wiping something horrible from between his chubby thighs. At least he knows who I am. It's ok if he chooses Mom-- I do too. But at least he knows who I am.


  1. These are good thoughts, thanks as always for sharing.

  2. what are we going to do about that?

    I swear I'm feeling like Kate Winslet and you're Leonardo DiCaprio wanting to fight against the grain and then sinking to our deaths (or just yours I guess)--am I mixing movies?

    I believe it more than ever, dads are so important to their children. So important.

  3. As another one of those dads that doesn't see his children as much as he (or his wife) would like, I loved the post, and I think that it's the lot of the father to sacrifice to try and allow children to be raised by their mother. Everyone needs a great dad, but I think that being at home with a great mother is even more important - especially in those first 5 years before they start school.

  4. amen, sorro. i'd never take anything away from the importance of having mom there. i know, in my case anyway, that's the only thing that's going to save those little ones. SHE'S the only thing, i should say.

  5. Fantastic, as usual. There is something appealing about the old cottage industries that allow you to work around your family. I don't know if we'll ever go back that way as a society.

  6. That was one wonderful thing about being in grad school. Kara worked 2.5 days a week, so I was at home on those days. She is definitely better at that job than I was. I never did any cleaning or meal preparation. It was pretty overwheling being alone with a 2-18 month old and a 2.5-4 year old and I was unable(/unwilling?) to do any non child related chores in addition to taking care of the kids, but we sure had fun together. I took them all over that San Francisco peninsula. We'd go hike in Muir Woods, go to the children's museum in sausalito, get avacado icecream at Mitchell's, spend hours at various parks (I knew every park within 15 miles. There weren't as many as in Provo.), and If I was feeling extra energized, we'd even go to the beach. Thank goodness for Baby Bjorn! Certainly hard work, but so many wonderful memories spending time with those kids.

    Nowdays... I'm with you, Jed. Summers off are pretty sweet, though.

  7. Is that Jayne I hear saying, in a faint little, whispering voice, "Cumb back, cumb back", at about noon each day? I think it is!
    You are two great parents, I must say. You did remind me of Leo and Kate on the Titanic when you were dating years ago. :)I remember sending Leo home to his own bunk on some very late nights/early mornings in those days.
    What a lovely post for your cute little Julian and pretty Jayne.

    Love,One of Julian's grandmothers.

  8. Gil here. Fantastic post Jed. Its so hard to justify joining a bowling team or some other activity when its so hard to get time with the kids. And I can't believe you have been a father for so long. It helps me see how quickly this phase passes by us. You will have alone time with the wife before most of us.