There’s a lot of little boy in Char these days but his fading toddlerhood is grasping tightly and asserting itself. He’s resisting a change that is as inevitable as it is terrifying as it is exciting. With every transition like this parts of him pass to history and parts of us do as well. While the resistance can be annoying, we all get it. We understand more than he knows. We abhor the idea of him being independent in all the ways we are diligently training him to be. We’re at the ‘finishing school’ stage of toddlerdom. We are working to teach him courtesy, niceties, the expected behavior of polite society. As a conscientious objector to such responsibility he is reverting to earlier tools of resistance, such as crying, yelling, aggressively resisting direction, stamping feet and crying louder.
The kid is in an epic phase of melting down. He has the toddler equivalent of senioritis. He’s resisting the change that he wants. Now that it’s upon him he’s freaking out. When I think of it this way I’m able to have some more patience. He doesn’t want to be acting this way either. He just is discovering that big parts of life are not controlled by him and he doesn’t believe that the way life should be.
He’s taken to hurting us to test the limits of his powers. To explore the darker side of life. He is fond of telling me my status in his eyes upon seeing me. “I don’t like you, daddy.’ He’s even said he hates us. He’s four and we are the safe space to explore these things, so I tell him that that’s fine, but that I’m still the grown up and he has to obey me because I’m in charge. I tell him that mommy and I and his teachers are in charge because we know how to keep him safe. To which he says, having heard who the hell knows what, ‘but daddy, I don’t like you.’
But here’s the thing, Charlie. In the way that you mean it, that I’m doing something that makes you unhappy or uncomfortable, even though it’s what must be done, in that exact same way, I don’t like you right now. In fact, when I see you, changing into a boy, leaving behind most of your toddler ways, and for the final time putting down all of what was you as my precious little baby, I too don’t like you for doing it. Were I as in tune and in touch with my emotions as you are, and lacking all of the niceties of adulthood, I’d have an epic tear spewing meltdown too. I may not be thinking it when I’m pulling my hair out trying to convince you to take your medicine or brush your teeth, but you are beginning the long walk away from me. You’re simple need to grow up is chipping away at your need for me. And once you’ve had that feeling, the feeling I still have for you, feelings that are ever so slightly less necessary with every tiny milestone you cross, I am sad and wistful. Sometimes I yell and shout and try desperately to hold on to every inch of my influence and necessity, because, and this is where I’m with you my melting down boy, the second I was given that gift of being your daddy I’ve treasured every difficult, painful, joyful, hysterical, maddening and delightful aspect of it and I know that I’m never going to have any of it back. I’m going to grow, and our relationship will morph into other things, but I’m never going to rock you to sleep in a swaddle ever again. I’m not going to change another one of your diapers. I won’t be buying you stuffed animals at Thruway rest stops and delighting in catching you in the rear view mirror, snuggling your buddy until you fall asleep. More things will be added, but now begins the subtractions. You are growing up, and for that I’m mad at you. Don’t mistake me, I’m proud of you, thrilled for you, impressed by you and awed by you and everything you do, even the tough and challenging stuff. Its just that I’m also sad. And when I realize what that portends, I’m even a little mad.
Life is full of change and transitions and they often are as painful as they are exciting. This won’t be the last time you are made uncomfortable by change. That’s okay. The changes are okay and so is the discomfort. The discomfort and the resistance are signs that we continue to move through life, accepting challenges, some of our choosing and many that are thrust upon us. While it may not be pleasant all the time, change is the one constant. Everything changes all the time. Resisting the change, being uncomfortable and even angry at the change makes you human. Keep changing, keep resisting, keep fighting and keep crying. It’s the road to where you’re going. It’s a road with beautiful and tragic changes and sometimes it’s hard to know which is which until it’s over. But keep changing, stay curious, keep that fire that so infuriates the people that fear the changes as much as you do and don’t be afraid to be afraid. Without the changes and the fears and the failures you’ll never get to where you’re going. But once you get there, and for me that’s here, with you and your brother and mommy, you’ll appreciate every fall and every wrong turn that got you to precisely where you were meant to be.