In the few weeks following your first birthday I’ve been thinking about how bitter sweet this year has been. How I’ve never had a better or harder one. It’s amazing how in such a short time you’ve changed so many times. Over and over. Just when I feel like I really get you, you become a different little guy all over again. The one great lesson I’ve learned from you is to not hesitate to take that picture or get that video. Because whatever cute thing you’re doing now isn’t what you’ll be doing tomorrow. And those pictures and videos are invaluable to me. It’s my way of committing you to memory.
Because, I’ve spent this past year trying desperately to memorize every minute detail. And, memorizing you has been a war I’m losing. I can feel it. You are growing too fast. Already, you are slipping away. Your independence growing, your bravery growing. You feel too far away, even if you are hanging onto my legs this minute, reaching frantically for me to lift you “up.”
Trying to hold on to this past year has been like trying to keep water in shaky hands. It terrifies me. What if you change so fast that I can’t keep up with who you are? Because, I have to know you, thoroughly. It is dire that I know your face, your voice, you soul, your heart, your mind. As dire as if my life truly depends on it. And it does because you are my life.
You’ll never know the intense pride I feel every time you learn something new. The tears spring to my eyes, causing my nose to sting and my voice to crack as I say “Good job. I’m so proud of you.” And your eyes light up too, not with tears, but with excitement that you’ve made me proud. And you try again and again because my praise is the thing you need most in this world. For now.
You’ll also never know how my heart breaks a little every time we go through this ritual of ours. Because, even now, every discovery is preparing you for life without me. And so the tears that spring to my eyes, while mostly happy, carry a hidden sadness as well.
Right now, you are preparing to take your first steps. Steps that will start out shaky and unsure. Steps that you will only take with me at your side. Because you need my reassurance that you can do it. You need me to tell you that you’ll be okay. Soon those steps will become more sure and you’ll eventually let go of my hand and race across the room alone. But, you’ll stop from time to time to make sure I’m not too far away because you still need me. For now.
And, I want you to grow up. Helping you to do that is my most important job. I want you to learn and discover and become your own person. I want you to love yourself and be content in your own presence. I want you to be self reliant and choose your own path even if it’s not the one I had in mind for you. But I also want you to need me, just a little, for always.
But, before long you’ll go to college. Before long you’ll get married and start a family. And, you’re needs will shift. You’ll need them the way you used to need me. I know this from experience. Yet, I’m not prepared for it. I now know my mom and dad feel, seeing my needs shift. Because now that you’re here, never in my life have I needed anything the way I need you. Not air, not water, not food. For always.
And, in the days leading up to your own child’s first birthday you’ll likely be busy with party plans, cake smashes and whatever else is important at the time. Once the dust settles, it will hit you, what I’m saying now. And, you’ll finally know how I feel in this moment.
My greatest hope is that you think of me then. That you’ll ask me to take a walk with you. You’ll hold my hand and tell me all about what kind of man you are or what kind of man you want to be. What kind of father and husband you want to be. I’ll spend that time again, trying to memorize your voice, your face, who you are. And life will call you away, as it always does. You’ll let go of my hand and that’s okay. Just try to remember to look back and make sure I’m not too far away because, even if you don’t really need me anymore, I still need you. For always, my beautiful boy.
Now, I’m going to snuggle you and rock you and sing you a lullaby. And when you’re asleep, I’m going to go through all your pictures and videos, like I always do, because I already miss you even if you’re just upstairs. Then I’m going to call Gram and Papa and let them hear my voice, tell them about my day, and let them know that I still need them a little too. For always.
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*Some of the photos in this post were not taken by me. When you click on a photo it will give you the technical details. Any that were shot with a Nikon D5500 are mine. If you are curious, please feel free to ask.