I'm teaching Isaac the beginnings of swimming. He likes for me to stand in the pool, close to the edge where he is crouching, his arms outstretched toward mine, hands twisting, beckoning me closer Daddy, closer, and then he jumps and I catch him, letting his head dip beneath the surface before I pop him back up into the sunshine and my arms. Then we "swim" back to the steps, my hands on his hips while he splashes and kicks. When I first told him to swim like a doggy, he kicked his legs and went Woof! Woof! Woof! until I explained how doggies swim.
Once he slipped off the bottom step while I was helping Eli swim, and for a second he was suspended in the water, only his hair above the surface, his feet stretching and not finding the bottom. Then I had him in my arms, and he was sputtering and crying. He knows what "deep" means now. He jumps toward my arms every time, knowing that it's deep water he's hurling himself into. It's stunning, if you contemplate it, how they trust us so completely. It's stunning as well how many of us set about betraying that trust with our neglect, or anger, or perhaps a seemingly innocent desire to see them fulfill our dreams.
And yet this little boy still jumps, when I hold out my arms. I hope I never fall short. I like that "sin" means "falling short of the mark." It suggests an immorality in what I see among too many parents, and often myself the falling short. They set out meaning well, and hoping good things, but in the daily grind they we, I fall short of the mark. Our children jump, and we aren't there to catch them. So they jump less and less, and then not at all, and their eyes take on that look of sadness or resignation you'll find on an abundance of faces in any high school, so much so that many parents tell themselves that's just how teenagers are.
It always fills me with a deeply peaceful feeling to be around our friends whose teenagers are happy and sociable, who don't have that look of being set against the world as a consequence of having come to believe the world is set against them. It's good to know parents who have stayed the course. It makes me hopeful. Are you staying the course?
What people don't tell you before your first baby is that you don't always feel lovey-dovey towards him when he arrives. So you feel guilty for a few days, until one day you look at him and are overwhelmed with a Mama or Papa Bear feeling, because at the center of every cell in your body you feel rooted to this squirming little thing that clings to your fingers and burrows into your skin looking for a breast.
The Wife was in love with him the moment I put him in her arms, and now he's starting to grow on me as well. I'm not sure he likes me yet, however; I sit with him bundled in my arms, and he gazes up at me with a suspicious expression, as if he is thinking: "You are not the Mama." Once he gets past the need to eat every two hours maybe he'll find me more interesting.
I've tried to spend more time with the boys these past few days, to remind them we still love them. They've all taken to baby brother, though until he can wrestle he's of limited use to them. For the most part they pet him the way they pet our kitten, or they take his head in their hands and say Hello, baby Isaiah, and give a pretend squeeze, because by now they've heard Mom or Dad tell them to be gentle, for God's sake, about a million times. He likes to watch them, maybe because they are smaller, and closer to his scale, or perhaps because something in his genes is already called out to do little-boy things, only his muscles won't yet respond. So he watches them with a slightly less suspicious look (because they, too, at the end of the day, are also not the Mama).
Another piece has been added to our puzzle; this is how it feels, as if all along we were waiting for this boy to arrive and make us more complete. This is why we are parents, the Wife and me, and many of you reading, why we endure the terror and heartache and deprivation, because we are not completely us otherwise. We trade a world of black and white for a world of color, and become more fully ourselves and more fully something better at the same time. This is what they do for us even as they drive us crazy. But it's a good crazy.