Charlie is a little over a year old now and there’s nothing I can do to stop it. It’s funny, even when you welcome a new baby into your life, a baby who you know darn right well will be your last, you still don’t spend much time thinking about the end of babydom. Things are too hectic, too chaotic and sublime. When Charlie arrived in our house, literally rising up out of the water of the birthing pool set up in our living room like that baby on the great Nirvana album cover, all I could think about was the fact that he was finally here now. I’d been through the births of our other two kids already, and I knew that there was so much baby about to drop into my world.
But now it’s time to let go.
He’s still our youngest, still our third child and the littlest brother and all that, but with each passing day now I realize that he’s no longer a baby. And with that comes the realization that I will never pass this way again, you know? I will never be daddy to a baby again.
Yesterday, his mom and I spent a bunch of hours just hanging out down on the floor, helping our son stand up on his teetering legs. There’s a lot of stuff you can find to do on a quiet early spring Sunday morning, when the weather is still too cold to head outside and you don’t really feel like being all that active anyway. But just lounging around down on the carpet and watching your own child finally learn to stand on his own, to begin to take those first uncertain steps toward the rest of his life, and the rest of yours too — that’s probably about as good an activity as anything.
We sat there in the living room, just mom and dad at first, pointing our boy at each other and egging him on with our squeals of delight each time he managed to keep himself up in that standing position that humans learn around his age. Soon, he’ll be standing and then walking for real — it’s only a matter of weeks now, I’d think. But as soon as that happens, we tend to just move on, huh? We never think about the wonders of upright mobility or anything like that. We take it for granted. It’s just the way things go. Babies lay there for a while, then they crawl across the floor. Then one day, they get up off of their knees and waver there like some tree swaying in the stiff autumn breeze.
Suddenly, they’re just not really a baby anymore. Not your baby, not anyone’s. They’re a kid. And even that will be gone before you know it.
I dunno. I suppose so much of life is bittersweet if you really want to break it down. We’re constantly passing milestones and crossing lines in the sand that we will never pass by or cross again. I know that. We all do. Yet with babies it’s sort of different somehow and that’s tough to explain. I’m so excited to see my youngest son start standing on his own. I’m pretty darn thrilled to watch him follow in his older sister and brother’s footsteps. I’m proud as hell to be able to watch him.
“Look at that Charlie Boy!” I holler out to no one in particular and to everyone in the world. Look at him, I say to myself, as he begins to weeble-wobble in these final days leading up that magic moment when he finally just walks straight out of my loving arms, conquers that long three or four-foot stretch of living room, and staggers right into his mama’s arms at long last.
It’ll be a happy day, of course. It’ll be a day worth smiling about when that happens and that isn’t lost on me. But somewhere back behind my ribs, my heart will will be a little sad, too. Because that’s going to be the end of all this baby stuff for me. All I can do now is look straight into the eyes of all the fathers-to-be I will run into from here on out.
Just look straight into their eager, uncertain eyes and tell them the straight up honest truth.
“Try and soak in every moment that you can, buddy,” I’ll tell ’em. “Because you’ll say goodbye to babydom soon enough. And you’re gonna miss it more than you’ll ever know.”