Five years ago today, I couldn’t quite find the words to express how I was feeling.
Since then, I have managed to find words. Lots of ’em, in fact. About fatherhood. About learning. About teaching. About fun. About exhaustion. About growing up and getting older (which are not the same thing…people can get older without ever really growing up).
And all of them, in some way, about raising this kid.
When I think back to that February night five years ago, I remember so much. Leaving our apartment, knowing that it would be the last time we were there alone with each other. Arriving at the hospital. Going out with my brother for lunch at Viva Chicken after being told by the doctor that it would likely be at least four hours before Jaclyn went into labor, then rushing back to the hospital when it turned out to be more like 30 minutes. Running out to grab Jaclyn a second dinner (a Bojangler sandwich, a seasonal delight that we ate again today in honor of the milestone) after her first meal post-childbirth didn’t manage to fill her up.
And, of course, most of all I remember the birth itself and seeing Miles for the first time. Cutting the umbilical cord. Forgetting all of my carefully planned placenta jokes once Miles had arrived and was placed on Jaclyn’s chest (“HE’S SO BEAUTIFUL!” she sobbed). In that moment my life changed completely, although it didn’t really feel like it. I knew there was a time before Miles, but I didn’t remember how to live that way anymore. Sort of like the reverse of learning to ride a bike. Miles was here now, and somehow it was all I knew. Maybe that’s part of the reason it feels like Miles has been with us so much longer than five years.
The number at the top of this post is more than just the number of days Miles has existed; it’s also the number of times I’ve shared an anecdote, a photo, something I’ve learned, or a more general observation about parenthood. It’s been a lot to keep up with all for the sake of providing my mom with daily updates (thanks for reading, Mom!), and as I alluded to last year, this feels like a good place to leave things. I say this not just because of how time consuming it can get for me, but even more so because of where Miles is in his life.
In just the last year, song lyrics have become more than gibberish, he’s started dressing himself, he’s taken an interest in preparing his own food, he’s created his own games and stories, and he’s become a fervent self-advocate (frequently to the point of belligerence). He’s also hopping into bed with us less often; virtually gone are the mornings I wake up and find him nestled between us. More than once recently he’s stormed upstairs to his room with an emphatic, “Leave me ALONE!”
This isn’t to say I think interesting things are done happening in Miles’s life — far from it. There’s so much more ahead of all of us, and I can’t wait to see all of it. I do think, however, that Miles’s story is very much becoming his story and less my story. Miles is always learning new things, true, but he’s also very clearly developed the power of memory, hindsight, and the spark of wisdom of his own.
I’ve written previously about Miles’s tendency towards pining for his own brief past. Sure, he still acts like a baby now and then, but he’s articulated to us — more than once — that he wishes he could go back to being a baby. Just yesterday, on the eve of his birthday, he insisted he would not be turning five, but was instead going to be three again.
Nostalgia — an awareness of the past and the regret that we can’t go back, but nevertheless feeling warmth at a stray memory triggered by a place, a song, a smell — is what makes us human. Memories are the most valuable commodity humans can collect; the only proof we have that anything has mattered. And what is life without things worth missing?
To this end, I hope this blog serves some nostalgic purpose not only for those who have stuck with it over the last five years (again, thanks Mom), but especially, one day, for Miles. I hope somewhere down the road he’ll read through these posts and maybe they’ll jog a feeling. Or a memory. Probably some resentment. But I do hope most of the memories are good ones.
Yes, that does mean the blog isn’t going anywhere for now. And while I’m taking a break from daily posts, I may pop back on from time to time when something particularly noteworthy happens. I also feel that Miles is old enough to have a degree of agency in this endeavor. Who am I, at this point, to be the one telling you how he feels or what he’s experiencing? It might be better to let him do that himself. Stay tuned for whatever that ends up looking like.
I am amazed by how clever, caring, infuriating, and vulnerable Miles is. Watching him discover the world is the single greatest privilege of my life. I’m certainly not one for “parenting absolutes,” but I believe that if you don’t view your child in that light then your approach to parenthood is deeply flawed. There is simply nothing in my life as rewarding as fatherhood. I love hearing him talk. I love teaching him (or attempting to, anyway). I love telling stories together. More than anything, I love laughing with him.
All of it, the good and the bad, I take it the same way. This won’t last forever. And I’ll experience as much as I can for as long as I can.