How to Be a Dad

How to Be a Dad

Room with a View

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When I was 14, I read a passage by Homer (not the Simpson variety) and the words clung to my consciousness until, as last, they were forgotten. But I recall them now as if I’d authored them myself:

This is Finn’s wish tree. At Avara’s baby shower, everyone wrote their wishes for him.

“Everything is more beautiful
because we’re doomed.
You will never be lovelier than you are now.
We will never be here again.”

We’re dismantling my son’s room. It’s no longer a nursery. Furniture reoriented, the subtraction of relics from his infancy, and a new coat of paint tomorrow, we usher in a new era with lodgings for a non-baby boy. I’m at the end of a road, looking at another unraveling beyond me. Sure, the sunset is far off but the distance reminds me the sun has a destination to return to. My son is growing up.

I’m sitting here pounding on these keys as loudly as I would a typewriter hoping maybe it’ll make my words truer. I feel the blanket of exhaustion drag over my shoulders while old broadcasts of my father on his radio show play in the background. I want to tell you what I’m feeling in this moment, not the one before it.

Some items are going to be stored away, some given away to those who need them most. The possessions aren’t what I’m clutching most tightly, though. It’s my own childhood.

A big man in a big chair in a big world.

Like a past life regression, I’m encountering myself, guiding my child through my own childhood in his time with me. Disassembling the pieces of his infant life in the form of changing tables and stuffed animals tucked away, I remember each time my room was built and unmocked. I’m drunk on time ingested.

But as the quote reminds me, this is the beauty of it.

The splendor of human experience is its ever-changing movement. Some parts move too fast. Some parts move at their own pace. Time is just one of those things manipulated or manipulating us by of our point of view. The road looks longer when we consider that we are small. Time slips by through the death of our attention.

So, let’s consider this time with our kids, though it may be long, much shorter so we can have ample clock-ticks to stand at the side of the road skipping rocks together.

Or, if you just need a break from parenting, remember the immortal words of the other great Homer:

“Kids are great. You can teach them to hate the things you hate and they practically raise themselves now-a-days, you know, with the internet and all.”

43 Comments

43 Responses to “Room with a View”

  1. Chris says:

    I remember when we switched my son’s room from baby to big kid. He was so excited for his new race car bedroom design. I’m not sure how I got from that moment to his first year of school being almost over but it has definitely flown by. I’m glad I started writing about it because even looking back through posts this year, there are things I would have certainly forgotten about.

  2. Matt says:

    I am experiencing some of this with my son who turns 11 this year. We are actually finally nearing an end of his Little League career. Really brings back a flood of these moments.

  3. Carter says:

    I like the image of the younger you guiding your son through development. I think it’s a little different for us. Sometimes, it’s like my sons are guiding a time-warp younger me, trying to help that “me” avoid the screw-ups and other messes I went through. I think if I can help these two little knuckleheads get it right, maybe that’ll somehow put me on the right track, too? I don’t know. The only Homer I can quote is a balding, jaundiced nuclear power plant safety monitor.

  4. Beautifully written piece Charlie. Love the Homerisms. We recently big-boy’d our son’s room. I’m happy my kids are growing and developing and becoming more independent but sad that it is happening so fast.

  5. Marilyn says:

    Our oldest is almost seventeen–17!!!!!–and I’m thinking, no, I’m not ready for this! He’s almost an adult! He can’t look out for himself! (Especially since I’m only 29; the joy of step-kids!) He was born when his dad was 20, and now I’m thinking, I could be a GRANDMA in three years??????? This can’t be happening!

  6. I’m arriving at the same reminiscent headspace with my own daughter, Bella. She turned 3 this past December and has since grown into her own “big girl bed”. She also relinquished the comfort of her soother to the Soother Fairy deeming that “princesses don’t have soothers. Only babies have soothers.” Of course she’s right. She’s not a baby anymore. She’s growing up, with alarming speed, right before our disbelieving eyes.

    My wife and I half-heartedly lament these changes but we know she’s just doing her job. She’s learning to make her own decisions, often in spite of our own better judgements as is the case with her dressing herself for daycare. Sure she still sneaks into bed for the last hour of sleep in the mornings but even that ritual is drawing to a close. In the past week she’s even stopped wetting her diaper in the night which really signifies the end of this first monumental stage in our lives as parents where she really needs us. Next she’ll be pouring her own cereal, spilling milk all over the counters and taking herself to “big girl school” before we know it.

    I’m prone to heavy bouts of sentimentality but watching this transition has really started to hit me like a tonne of bricks. Like many other parents, I’m excited for what’s yet to come but I cannot help but yearn for more time with my “little girl”.

    Thanks for a great post.

  7. neal says:

    “Everything is more beautiful when we are doomed…”

    I like that. Also, I wonder if Homer stole that from Frou Frou, what with the “beauty in the breakdown” stuff.

    As I watched my kid sleep last night, I had a lot of the feelings that you’re describing.

  8. Asher says:

    Of all the things I expected of parenting, this is by far the most surprising and one of the most painful. My daughter turned 3 in December. She’s not a baby any more and she never will be again. And I am having a really hard time getting over it! I love who she is now, but it’s like I’m in mourning.
    Aine started pre-school Monday (she went from the infant/toddler school across the street to the “big kid school”), where they use regular cups. So at breakfast on Sunday I took the lid off of her cup and said “try to drink your milk with no lid, okay? But be gentle.” One handed, she drank it like a champ and I CRIED(over non-spilled milk). Seriously. I may cry again.

  9. Chris says:

    Y’all are making me sad! Mine son turned 5 in October, and we recently got a foster son, who is almost 2. My son has taken on the mantle of “Big Brudder” and now proclaims that “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse”, “Team Umizoomie” and all the other favorites of his (and admittidly, mine, (( HEY! They didnt have kids tv this cool when I was a kid))) are now “baby shows DAD!” and he wants to watch big kid shows. I can remember the first time he started responding to the shows that ask the kids to say stuff, and thinking, “Darn, my kid is smart!” now he speaks with reason behind what he says (not that it is logical reason, but he has a reason for everything he says LOL)and does a lot of stuff for himself. Makes me think that hes growing up faster than I am ready to deal with and that someday, he will be asking me for the car keys, and soon after that, will be asking my opinion on baby names (hopefully not too soon after though!)

    Thanks for the post, and love your site, really speaks a lot to what I feel about being a father!

    • Michael says:

      Dammit! I was doing so well, but I teared up at this comment. I’m at work, I can’t be crying!

      (My son is a few days shy of 12 weeks and it’s flying by at a breakneck speed! I’m not ready to see him picking out baby names!)

  10. Jack says:

    Very sweet. I remember doing all those things and that bitter sweet feeling.

    My baby girl is in third grade now and determined to close her eyes and wake up as a middle schooler so she can go to school with her big brother.

    What she doesn’t know is sometimes I close my eyes and wonder if I can turn back the clock. I love them at their current ages but it would be kind of cool to see them as babies again, for about a day.

    Don’t miss the diapers at all.

  11. Mitchell says:

    This is absolutely beautiful, Charlie. As much as I value some parenting blogs for sharing practical ideas and such, the stories that stick with me are the ones that inspire me to consider the abstract and sit with the beauty of this big thing that we are all doing here. Thank you for sharing.

  12. liz says:

    This a lovely post. I read a lot of the stuff on here, but this one moved me so much that I had to tell you – you are terrific writer. Well said.

    • charlie says:

      Wow, thank you very much. That means a great deal to me.

      • Michael says:

        Liz isn’t lying. I’m often impressed with your writing. You have a poetry of words. The humor isn’t the only thing that keeps bringing me back.

        • charlie says:

          It’s a dogpile of awesome. You guys are too nice. Seriously, be way meaner. That’s how the Internet is supposed to be, right?

          • Ashley says:

            I re-read the post then flipped through the comments. I started tearing up (again. yes. see my original comment) but then this one made coffee come out of my nose. Painful, but funny. I thank you, sir.

  13. Kristine says:

    I just finished my 2 1/2 year old boy’s “big boy” room and reading this brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for putting into words, so beautifully, the very thoughts that have been tugging at my heart in recent days.

  14. Jen says:

    So very nice. Ella tells me all the time that she wishes she was a baby again while at the same time singing “call me maybe” in the bath.

    I have really enjoyed blogging the past few month. It has really kept me present and aware of what is happening with my children and appreciating more my role as their mom and wanting to do an even better job.

    This is my post about Ella.
    http://oururbanplayground.com/?p=1098

  15. Rami says:

    Very well written and so touching, thank you for this amazing post!

  16. Jade says:

    “Time slips by through the death of our attention.” It’s so easy to get caught up in the internet, tv shows, and other things with what little free time we have, that it causes us to miss out on many of those precious, fleeting moments with our children. We’ve been working on limiting media in our household so we can soak up more of the fun, and the joy of our son’s childhood. To have great memories to look back on, we need to make them first. I’m shutting off the computer right now, and my baby and I are going to play…. Lovely post Charlie.

  17. Stephen says:

    Yet another great post. I have no children but still come back every day. Such is the powerful draw of your writing. Bravo!

  18. Renee says:

    We have a family bed, but I dread the day my little one says, “Momma, I want to sleep in my own bed.”

    I know that time will come quite soon as she is going to be going to preschool next year.

  19. Mama Mary says:

    Oh man, you should see the grapefruit size lump in my throat. It’s not pretty. We recently got rid of the recliner in my girls’ room, the one that I rocked them to sleep in every night when they were babies, and I just lost it when I saw the hole where it used to be. Now they have bunk beds instead of toddler beds, and all sorts of new fun furniture. The changing table is gone along with the basket of mobiles and Elmo stuffies that arent’ cool anymore. Every once in awhile I stop in my tracks to realize how quickly it’s all happening, but just like you said, that is the beauty of life. “The splendor of human experience is its ever-changing movement.” Such a beautiful post.

  20. Tani Spielberg says:

    Having a daughter moving from big kid to tween/teen is like that. It has gone SO FAST, but when she was little it seemed endless.

  21. Jennifer says:

    The baby I carried through my husband’s deployment, rocked to sleep while we waited on him to come home, held up so she could see him step off that bus, and held out to him when he was finally back home…. is a growing, learning, cuddling, laughing little girl. I had the thought to get rid of the rocking chair in her room, and replace it with a big girl chair she could read in.
    And I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. We still read in that chair, and that was my rationale for keeping it there. Not that I can not handle the thought of that rocking chair disappearing from her room.

  22. celia says:

    he’s your mini me. ugh, I’m in the baby- to-toddler phase right now. they grow up so fast. soon your little boy will be transitioning into young man. He’s well prepared with a father like you. :)

  23. Surabhi says:

    My son turned 3 in September last year. Just a couple of days after his bday we visited the mall. On the escalator he told me – leave my hand, I am a big boy!

    I was a surprised, happy, and an emotional mom that day. Didn’t realise when my lil baby came to know that he is big. Now he doesn’t like to be called small or baby! Just a big boy with big ideas!

    And yes, looking at his rattles and teethers is like a time travel…I just hope to be there for him throughout until its time that he takes charge! Of him n us :D

  24. Hey Charlie this really struck a chord with me and reminded me of a poem I wrote for my daughter around the time she turned 3, hope you don’t mind me sharing it :)

    Dog-eared, faded, finger-printed;
    ‘Holly, 1 week’
    A photograph flat with angles but sharp enough to send me searching, frantic –
    Scrabbling for the memory –
    Wanting to be there, wanting to be IN there
    Underwater, enveloped –

    Like trying to trace a picture with light,
    My cheek on her forehead – softer then –
    A fat little viola curve
    Between my chin and navel.
    Hours written on like carbonless copies,
    Grey smoke trails dodging my snatching hands, clawing –
    Opening to a fistful of air.
    Like a closing door; click.
    Back to the surface, back in the moment.

    Now – a lanky, laughing whirlwind
    Her own person
    (And then some).

    Watching her determined busyness
    Seeing now but thinking of then
    Leaving me all misty, penning tripe and staring wistfully into the middle distance.

    Then;

    *thuck*

    A tiny finger in my ear
    She pats my hand with a fat pink paw,
    And stares at me with honey-sad eyes.

  25. Moaz Ahmad says:

    My son is 2 years and 8 months so we’re starting to prepare for the eventual. Fortunately his room was never a nursery…he stayed with us until he was almost 2…so there isn’t much transition happening. No change table, the crib became a daybed etc.

    The funny thing is that, because his room was first a playroom, all he wants to do is play…and after we tuck him into bed at night he gets out of bed, walks over to the light switch, climbs onto his little chair, and turns the light back on so he can read/play some more.

  26. Sarah Kolybaba says:

    When we sold our first home in Calgary to re-locate to Halifax, Nova Scotia, my son was 17 months old.

    Leaving his nursery behind, and knowing full well the new owners would promptly take a paint roller to the image of the baby bunny riding on his parent’s back from the book “Guess How Much I Love You” that I, myself, had painstakingly hand-painted on his wall in great detail while my infant son napped here and there during his first two weeks of life and I should have been napping too….well, that just tore my heart out.

    I still “visit” that wall in my dreams just to rest my hand on those bunnies. My son turns 8 tomorrow.

    You write beautifully, Charlie, I thoroughly enjoy your posts! :-)

  27. Whitney says:

    Can someone please tell me how to get rid of the baby things?!?! I feel like I might be part horder…I just cannot part with the baby toys, cloths, blankets…we may never have another baby and out house is too small, but every time I try to take the stuff to goodwill or Once Upon a Child, I freeze! I want him to be a baby again! :)

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