I complain, mostly for comic effect, but occasionally sincerely, about the extremities of emotions displayed by my boys, who are 4 and 2. It can be overwhelming and exhausting at times trying to keep up. But lately the older one’s been starting to show shading. Middling not just between feelings but mixing them with thoughts and presumptions. Calculation and calibration. He’s developing nuance and forethought. His communication can be veiled by strategy. He’s different. He’s becoming a bit more independent in thought, developing an inner life. He’s becoming a little boy and revealing the nascent aspects of his character. The character he will be judged by independent of us.
All in all I’m sure it’s not a very big deal. We are all separate people. It’s a transition we feel lucky to be able to watch. We will be afforded endless opportunities to warn against danger, to praise the many wonderful examples we will surely see of his kind heart. We will be there to fight him when he thinks he’s right and we know he’s wrong. Hell, there’s even a far horizon, one perhaps not as far as I imagine, when we will be there to fight him when he knows he’s right and we think he’s wrong. That will be another transition. For all of us.
But for a second I’m going to take a breath and be thankful. Stop to acknowledge how lucky we were before moving on to how lucky we are in a new, future present. Be thankful for the time when we were his everything. It’s going to dawn on him soon that we’re not infallible, but rather flawed. It’s been nice for us to be his sun and him to be ours, all circling one another. Providing each other with all the power and light needed for an entire universe that existed in the spaces between us. Before he grew and his light couldn’t be contained in our galaxy any longer.
There’s still time. He’s a very very big boy and often people think him much older than he is. Hell, sometimes we hold him to account like a kid twice his age. But he isn’t twice his age. He’s still a few months away from five years old. He may be the size of an eight year old but he’s still naturally inclined to climb up onto my lap and tell me he loves me. He knows what it does to me now. Knows how happy it makes me. There’s certainly something lost in the exchange now that he’s aware of how his words effect me, but there’s a ton more gained. His spontaneous proclamations of love were wonderful and pure. But the thought that he sees me and knows how happy I am made by him saying, ‘I love you, Daddy’ and he does so not only because it is true but also because he wants to exercise this newly discovered power of his to make me happy, that packs a pretty powerful punch as well.
We’re going to do our duty bound best to foster his independence and we’re going to try to teach him what we find to be most important; that he think about others and how to be a kind and thoughtful person. But for as long as we can, in the bubble that was once a universe, we’re going to try our hardest to pay attention to the times when he isn’t ready to be a small boy in a big world. When he wants to pretend like he’s still a big man in a small universe. After all for all his eagerness to venture out he still needs to know that whenever he wants to come home and pretend to be the big kid in a two kid world he’s always welcome. Besides, he’ll quickly learn that doing that will make his Mommy and Daddy very, very happy.