A few weeks ago your Dad broke out some old video footage of you around your first Christmas – well actually on your first Christmas you were fresh, new and only a day old; I’m talking about that year you were turning one with your shaggy brown hair and those big shining eyes just like your brother’s.
I’d never seen the video before and it took my breath away.
You were holding an ornament, weaving in and around the Christmas tree singing “REEEEE-COHHHH-LAAAA.” And your Dad and I looked at each other thinking the same thing. “I don’t remember this, do you?” Two feelings shot through me just then. First, a mild sense of shame at how much TV you must have been exposed to in order to be singing a cough drop jingle acapella and also how naive I must be to think I will remember it all.
So tonight on the eve of your fifth birthday, it seemed right that I record some of the things I want to remember. Things about you this past year that made me stop. Like your reason for wanting to become a policeman when you grow up – “because they can drive all by themselves.”
Or your loyalty which sometimes stirs in me some of the most complicated emotions I’ve ever experienced. Like last night while your Dad was out getting some last minute stuff for the party tomorrow, you explained to me that even though you loved me, I should understand that you love your Dad just as much. I searched back for a time I might have made you feel you should love me more than Dad but couldn’t find one. I hugged you and accepted the beginnings of an ache.
The ache of watching you grow independent of me.
This year at school you shed your shyness – transferred your big brothering skills to your classmates. On several occasions the parents of the junior kindergartners told me that their little boys claimed you were their best friend. I attributed this to your fierce love and caring for Naveen. After the Christmas concert in your class a few days ago I heard you introduce him to your friends exclaiming proudly “this is my brother Naveen and he can even talk!”
You are wise, loving and often condescending when it comes to your younger brother.
Yesterday I heard you say:
“Nav, listen, when you’re a bit older, I’m going to teach you how to use this stuff,” pointing to your new fireman’s hat, badge, axe and walkie-talkie. You’d just received them at the family Christmas party we’d attended and sharing so soon after taking ownership – well it didn’t strike you as fair. So instead of just flat out refusing to share, you explained that maybe a few years from now when he was mature enough, you’d give him a quick lesson in how to pretend to be a firefighter. Your intended generosity, the sense that you felt you were being magnanimous shone through and I could only shake my head and smile.
You gave me many parenting opportunities too.
I chose my words carefully when you told me that the new kid in your class was annoying and because of this you and your friends refused to let him play with you. I swallowed my panic and tread lightly. I asked you some questions in an attempt to uncover your empathy.
How would it feel to be the new guy and not have any friends? How is someone new supposed to make friends? Was it nice to not include him? Could his annoying behaviour be his way of trying to be friendly? How would you feel if you were left out?
I struggled because I could think of dozens of people in my adult life I’d steered clear of because of their irritating personalities.
I exhaled relief when I saw that you understood how running from the new kid when all he wanted was to be included was unkind. I was grateful for this red flag, the chance to put this lesson in the forefront so that from time to time I could ask you about Omar and remind you of the importance of being kind.
You gave me a few scares too; instances I’d rather forget but the lessons of which I hope you remember:
- Putting a bobby pin into a plugged-in extension cord (just because you wanted to see what would happen) will only get you electrocuted. So please, please don’t do it again!
- Letting your little brother turn on the ceiling fan while he is on the top bunk – well that’s the reason I didn’t want you playing up there unsupervised in the first place! Luckily his black eye went down before Dad took the Christmas card pictures.
- Burping in your teacher’s face (even if both you and she insist it was an accident) is rude. And I was beyond embarrassed.
But once again my sweetheart, I see for certain how lucky I am to have you in my life. I know these days are fleeting so I embrace them when I can, write them down here for you to read someday and whisper selfish little prayers of thanks that you still tell me, unwaveringly, that you plan never to leave me, even when you are a grown man.
After attending your friend Denver's birthday party last year you were set on the idea of having your party at McDonald's this year.
After we treated your electrocution burns from your bobby pin experiment, you were dead tired and slept for about 40 minutes mid Christmas party.
Your firefighting gear.
I hope you always keep us laughing the way you do now.