And, when that happens, I will still call him “my little guy.”
That’s the weird thing about being a parent. These kids eternally stay little in my brain and, even as I am looking at them, I see toddlers. Mentally, my daughter is still the waddling little princess watching Wiggles and my son is still miniature enough for me to throw in the air and catch like a two-sided coin. I don’t just imagine that. I actually see that – with my eyes. They’re tiny people. They always have been. They are right now.
Then, something will happen. Whether it’s an action, word, or just the way the sun hits them, I’ll witness reality suddenly kick in. My mind goes, “Yo. Pssst. They’re big.” It takes next to nothing to rock my world off its axis.
My twelve-year-old toddler got her haircut this week and came home with a brand new look. It was stark. She said she loved it and I told her I did too, which I do. It did, however, create a prolonged sense of “Pssst. The kids are big.” It blew my mind and I instantly flashed back to the days when she would stack those carboard brick blocks in the living room because she was “makin’ windows.” I remembered when I’d go to get her from her crib after naptime and make her tiny Elmo doll talk to her as soon as she opened her eyes.
My favorite retro recall still remains the day that she and I were watching The Cosby Show while playing with a combination of Barbie Dolls and wrestling figures. It was the one where Denise brought her new husband home without first giving her parents an introduction. I turned to my three-year-old and said that “If you ever get married, I have to meet him first.” To this, she replied, “OK. But I meet him second.” I laughed for an hour. She did too, although she didn’t know why. It was a classic and, in my head, that happened yesterday.
That is sort of the issue with being a parent. Your kids grow up and, because of it, you have to adjust your parenting accordingly. However, you don’t really see the time progression happening in real time because you’re doing it too. Just as I don’t know exactly when I started making that sigh noise when I lean down to pick stuff up, I also don’t know when these kids started growing like those toys you leave in water overnight. This disconnection between time and reality can have you making parenting decisions for a teenager that are more fitting for the tot you envision in your head. As a father, I feel like I am constantly playing a game of catch-up in that respect.
My son may be non-verbal, but that makes his growing pains even more difficult to keep in mind. Lucas is a creature of habit and, through the years, he has retained certain forms of entertainment on his go-to list. Shows he watched at two, he watches now at nine. Same Laurie Berkner videos. Same Raffi concerts. Same everything. Occasionally, I sneak something new in, but they don’t compare to the classics. The “Music Magic” episode of Sesame Street where Elmo steals Abby’s wand and curses the entire cast to sing will forever beat out anything I can try to introduce t the mix.
Between that and the parental curse of eternal-youth vision, he’s forever my little guy and always will be. As his body veers towards spheres, he’s getting harder to pick up, but I still do it. Without thinking, I still reach over and maneuver his body in attempt to help him get comfortable in bed before realizing that he’s less of a Cabbage Patch doll and more like a Cabbage Patch farm, rolled up, and put into a weighted sack. To quote Bill Murray in Scrooged, it’s like boating a marlin.
Despite his special needs, I realize I have to let go of some things with my little guy too. Even with the amount of care he requires, he’s growing up too and that fact needs to be respected. Soon the razors will come out and we’ll be focusing on man stuff. I’m easing into it daily. Just this year, I have started regularly adding gel to his hair and spraying him with Axe bodyspray. At first, I did it here and there. Now I try to do it every day. My little guy is cool as hell.
That’s the hardest part with Lucas. If I wanted to, I could dress him in overalls and a bowtie every day and he would wear overalls and a bowtie every day. No complaints. He will go along with anything I decide, which makes it so much more important that my decisions are rooted in chronological reality. As he gets older, I try to respect that. The better his communication, the more choices he gets to make. I hardly ever serve him a meal without either having him request it with his talker device or calling him over to tap whichever food he wants me to make. Babies don’t get to do that. Big kids do. And he’s not a baby.
…but he’s totally my baby.
Just like his sister, he always will be. Still, I have to look past the Daddy filter every now and then to get a the clear view. If not, we’d all be wearing overalls, rocking bowties, and watching The Cosby Show. I have to make that sacrifice and look into the lens of reality so I can do what’s right as a father. My babies deserve it.