Things My Son Taught Me... Seven Month Edition

media-2.jpg

Prior Post(s) in this series:

  • Things I've Learned Since Becoming A Father

Ask any parent what it is like to have a child and you will probably hear some variation of "it's such an amazing experience; I don't know how to describe it," or "I've never experienced such love and joy." There is a large amount of truth in each of those answers and their assorted variations, but every parent leaves a lot of things unsaid. There truly, and I mean that with all sincerity, just are not proper combinations of words in any language that can convey what it is like to have your own little spawn creating a whirlwind of... not terror... umm... well... crap. We'll come back to that thought. Maybe providing some lessons I've learned first will provide enough background for us to come up with the ending of that statement together.

Lesson One: "If I can reach it, I can try to eat it."

I knew a kid was prone to putting anything into their mouth and at least trying to bite it a few times. That hasn't surprised me. What has surprised me, however, is that pillows are the greatest thing ever invented for trying to eat. Consistently. To the point where my son's excitement to see the pillow and lunge for it, jaws agape, like a little vampire diving onto a plump, chunky human after weeks of fasting seems to be normal behavior to us now.

And hard plastic? You would think that would be tossed aside quickly in favor of any number of hundreds of other items we now possess, but a hard plastic toy seems to be the second best option. Lesson learned. The more logical the thought of something being a highly sought after chew toy, the less likely my son will choose to chew on it.

Lesson Two: "I will show you the true power of the digestive system."

Chemical warfare. There is no other phrase that even possibly encapsulates the odors a child can produce. I have smelled many, many things in my lifetime that were unpleasant, and even borderline unbearable. There are times when my son will turn, look me dead in the eye, and then let rip the most unholy of odors while laughing maniacally (ok, in fairness, he just smiles and giggles slightly, but I interpret that as the infant equivalent of the Joker's hysterical laughter in this situation).

Not even a group of adult males binging on Taco Bell and Krystal after a night of liberal consumption of libations can compare to the destructive power of an infant's normally functioning and fully operational digestive system. Lesson learned. Invest in gas masks, febreeze, lysol, and powerful vortex fans to push airflow throughout the home...

Lesson Three: "I can still be ridiculously cute, and you will still fall for it."

I'm pretty sure every parent has the same basic idea bout their own child. Genetics should require such behavior. Seriously, if my son was not as cute/handsome/adorable as he is, I can see how ignoring him could be an option. Or donating him. Or trying to return him to the hospital. Being adorable has to be the baby equivalent of a genetic defense mechanism, ensuring parental attachment and continued survival into adolescence, when parental investment is too great to scrap the project and start over.

Seriously, how could you not fall for this face? Lesson learned. Your child possesses innate kryptonite to keep you from trying to pawn him/her off.

media-3.jpg

Lesson Four: The joy of watching a child grow, and the happiness they bring, really cannot be explained.

Think of the following string of descriptors: excitement, apprehension, confusion, joy, fear, frustration, exhaustion, love. Yeah... children are an emotional train wreck slamming into a psychological roller coaster at the apex of the first hill. Every milestone is a combination of excitement that the minion achieved something new and apprehension at how this new skill translates into getting into something you haven't thought of yet. The classic example is learning to crawl, because as a parent you become ecstatic for a fleeting moment that your child figured out movement (a complex concept), followed by the immediate realization that your child is now capable of getting into things that you used to place safely out of reach (and the dread that comes with realizing your child can now stalk you). Lesson learned. Kids are wonderful, you just have to learn to focus on the positive moments.

Lesson Five: There is a different kind of love a parent possesses for their child, and it should not be in any type of competition with the love each parent holds for their significant other.

This is one of those things that tends to be overlooked, and yet is absolutely an important distinction to make. The love I feel for my son cannot be explained. I didn't choose to love him, I just did. I didn't find him attractive and court him, he just showed up and I was smitten. I can't choose not to love him (well, ok, technically I could...). On the other hand, I did seek out my wife. I found her attractive and courted her, wanting to spend the rest of my life with her by my side. These are both manifestations of love, but they are absolutely a different kind of love from one another. Neither is stronger than the other. While this isn't necessarily a lesson my son taught me, and I'm taking a break from the humorous aspect for this point, it's something that has become that much clearer having a child. Just keep this one in mind and make sure you focus on both relationships properly, ok?

Lesson Six: Fear is a strong emotion. It will test you.

Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering...Come on, did you really thing I wouldn't work that quote in when I decided to add a point about fear to the list? Children will test your ability to overcome fear. How close do I let him crawl at light speed toward the edge of the couch before I stop him from diving head first onto the hardwood floor? How big a bite do I let him keep of that teething wafer, or whatever solid food we're trying today? Am I putting the fracking car seat in correctly or does it just look and feel like it is correct, lulling me into a false sense of security?

I'm suddenly an overprotective father. How? I've never been overprotective that I'm aware of. It is a constant line I have to remind myself to be mindful of, and force myself to accept some things as part of the learning process. It isn't always easy. Lesson learned. Having a child will make you suddenly question the safety of everything you are doing, even though you know full well you did plenty of stupid stuff as a kid that should have killed you.

So, how do we finish that statement I couldn't figure out how to finish earlier? Well, I'm not so sure we need to. After all, we've made it this far without the proper combinations of words to describe the ups and downs, the joys and frustrations, the sheer excitement and mind-freeing angst of raising a child. What's another few hundred years before trying to come up with another way to describe it to someone else?

Feelings

Sunlight fades as I stand, alone again, watching from afar. Emotions rage, clawing and tearing the very fabric of my heart and soul. My mind races, thoughts swirling and overlapping much like an angry sea. Solemnly I watch as the last ray of light disappears, leaving me in complete darkness once again.

Sleep will not come easily tonight, for I have been thrust back into the bowels of the beast from whence I thought I was finally free. Fear has taken hold, for no matter what path I choose today I will surely not escape unscathed. Will I lose a friend, or will I gain a companion? Certainly only those two options are left.

Despair flows over me, biting into me as easily as the chill wind. Lowering my head I turn and finally start to walk further into the shadows, and I open my mind and heart up to the raging storm that is trying to destroy me. My only option is to face the fears, the doubts, the thoughts... to attempt to fully understand what has taken hold over me.

Midnight. I finally fall into a restless slumber. My reprieve is rather short-lived however, as I find myself awake again at three.

I tried so desperately to avoid the thoughts running through my mind now, hoping instead I could focus on our friendship alone. Confused, scared... I get up and try to exhaust myself again. My arms ache, and I can barely hold myself up any longer, yet I still cannot clear my head.

I am afraid I know what must be done. For the first time in my life I hope I have the courage to break my own word, and pursue the only path that makes sense. The loss of a friend, the decision for me to turn and walk away, troubles me greatly. How I long for some other option, though I know in my heart the only alternative is for us to pursue that which we fear.

Seven o’clock, and I still cannot sleep. It is time to face the day, and to find out the choice you have made.

Aingeal

Eyes, shining brighter than stars, glistening with hope, happiness. I yearn to share that world, to become a part of such a joyful life. My heart aches to see the slightest hint of pain, frustration, fear... my soul reaches out, its intangible arms struggling to make you feel contentment, security...

There are moments in life when one must pause, taking the time to truly appreciate the beauty of that which is before them. Oft times one should also refrain from making any statement, any observation, for fear of causing more harm by the sharing of a thought than good.

I want to reach out, to hold you close and comfort you, to shield you from anything other than the wonderful aspects of life you deserve. There are so many things I want to tell you, to finally free myself of the weight of unspoken words.

In these times people normally falter. The desire to help, to attempt to fix whatever the ailment in question, and especially the difficulty associated with watching a person one cares immensely about in an unhappy state, normally prevails.

From afar I watch, the turmoil surrounding you calms much like the sea after a storm.

Moments such as these are made much more difficult by the emotions people face, the conflict between the desire to see the situation resolved and the desire to be the solution. Perhaps the greatest measure of love, the strongest bonds of friendship, the lesson to life itself, is simply the willingness to sacrifice anything for the happiness of another.

Words still unspoken, I smile. Your eyes sparkle once more, and the warmth of your smile allots some comfort that perhaps I made the right choice yet again. I close my eyes, knowing that the next moment in life, when the sun rises once more, the storm will hit me again. My reprieve is over... for a moment I could feel that which I yearn so strongly for, the lull in the raging sea of emotion and thought allowing a few brief hours of clarity.

Choices one makes through life’s struggles bare open the heart and soul of a person to those observant enough to notice. Actions may give more insight to a person’s character than any words could ever begin to describe, but the choice not to act is often overlooked as an inadequacy, an inability, or even a lack of courage.

The world begins to pale once more, the angelic glow you cast moving further away. For a moment I contemplate a final reaction, my brain immediately wanting to try any desperate attempt at salvation. My heart pounds in my ears... I struggle to remain in control, and as the light fades away I am able to breathe slowly once more. My choice has been made, whether for better or worse in the long run only God can answer, but the knowledge of your current happiness helps ease the pain.

Lessons in life can be learned many times over, but the greatest of those lessons is always a hard one to accept. The greatest love the world has ever known has always come from the sacrifice of another, so why should any aspect of life be different?

Níl gach uile fhánaí caillte (Not all who wander are lost.)

Thoughts pervade our lives, whether consciously or subconsciously, and oftentimes we spend countless hours in an introverted state of reflection. Some of us let our minds drift, riding the currents of thought as though we are in a vessel upon the sea. Others are content to steer through their thoughts, focusing intently on what caused them to think of something in the first place.

Physically, emotionally, spiritually... the same can be said in varying degrees about all aspects of our lives. Perhaps we even blend the styles to some degree, wandering in our thoughts but so focused on our actions physically that there is no room for spontaneity. Perhaps the same person is somewhere on the middle of the fence in the other categories, or a combination of extremes. Whatever the case, this is the foundation for what I decided to write about today.

Níl gach uile fhánaí caillte.

To an extent I am a wanderer. Portions of my life stay relatively constant, such as my moral and ethical belief structure, my spiritual beliefs, my sense of honour, even, for the most part, my physical habitat. Mentally I let the waves carry me, much the same way I let my emotions flow over and around me. Physically this is quite unapparent, for it is quite simple to allow a small section of the mind to focus on whatever the task at hand may be, yet it manifests itself in other ways that people may or may not notice. My obsession with always trying something new for instance, or learning about something seemingly completely unrelated to any other task I have set before myself.

The activities I am involved with demonstrate this quite readily as well. SCUBA diving, motorcycle riding, rock climbing, emergency response instruction, video production, photography, learning languages (I have a newfound desire to learn Irish Gaelic), computer networking and security, writing, music, hiking and camping... the list goes on. In a way many of these activities can be linked, but then others seem unlike any other activity I have chosen to pursue.

I label myself a wanderer for another reason... a reason which I have not shared with many people. I do not feel as though I have a home in many respects. I have a family, one that I love dearly, and would consider wherever they are to be home easily. I would consider my domicile to be my home also, and yet, in a sense of the word, neither are home. My heart and soul are restless, and have been for a long time. Were we in another time I would probably pack a few meager belongings and meander around the globe, much as the nomads of old.

This thought could be attributed to a good many things, ranging from the lack of a loved one waiting for me at home to the simple fact that I have never really felt as though I was in a place that truly could be identified with and “calls” me. It could be that I am simply the type of person that takes a long time to really settle down, or it could be that I am a reincarnation of the spirit and soul of another wanderer. Perhaps I am destined to always feel restless. Regardless, I am happy in my wandering nature, and I do not feel the depressive feelings associated with those who do not know the path they tread, the loneliness they fear, or the simple feeling of being lost at sea.

Personally, with past experiences showing me just how true the statement could be, I think I simply have not met the person that could really make me feel at home, to feel loved, to be content... Or perhaps I have met that person, and simply cannot pursue such a course for other reasons at the moment.

I wander, but it is a path I choose.

A Glimpse Inside...

Wandering through life, vivid colours fading to grey and back again. Stumbling, crawling, climbing... obstacles abound, and though I press onward the realization that the journey grows ever more difficult concerns me. Walls press inward, the desire to struggle waning as the days pass.

A ray of hope breaks through, fading quickly as yet another obstruction becomes visible. Colours fade once more, dull pastels remaining. Confidence ebbs as certainty and confusion collide yet again. My heart falters, my mind slips into a state of intense turmoil. This time I barely manage to emerge whole.

The cycle seems never-ending, and each instance feels many times more difficult than the last. My tenacity only carries me so far, and the strength to continue fighting eludes me. The conflict rages on, and somehow I push forward, though definitely not unscathed.

The colours become more vibrant once again, though not as brilliant as they once were. Beautiful as the sight may seem a bleakness continues to permeate my thoughts. I resolve myself to contentment, wondering if the happiness I so desperately seek really exists or is simply a figment of my imagination. I work to rebuild the battered defenses, hoping to at least slow the next assault enough to survive.

Crimson, a colour so rich and intense that it almost becomes painful to see. After a moment I realize it to be emanating from the wounds I sustained, flowing gently over me. My knees quiver. The ongoing assault taking its toll as the lack of rest catches up to me...

If ever I questioned the meaning of our lives I question it tenfold now, and yet something gives me hope even in my darkest hours. Perhaps it is the hopeless romantic that somehow manages to cling to the tiniest sliver of life, or the sheer stubbornness of a person who refuses to give up no matter the personal cost. Regardless of what the reason truly is, I continue to push forward. No matter how depressing things may seem, or how difficult life becomes, it only takes a moment to step back and see that one is not alone.

My struggles are my own to face, but if the time ever comes that I simply cannot continue the fight I know that those few people whom I trust, the people I know are truly friends, would not hesitate to pick me up and carry me through the interim. That knowledge could easily be the sliver of hope that keeps me going, because I know that there may be a time when they will need the same support from me.

I reminisce, there was a time when things were so much simpler. A time when the wounds I suffered were far less severe. Though I have grown stronger with the passage of time so have the forces that besiege my heart, mind, body, and soul. The challenge has become survival.

Bloodied... battered... scarred... I still stand.

Scars

It never fades.
Always present,
Memories pour over me as I trace the lines,
I close my eyes,
Everything crashes back into focus.
My heart races as thoughts subside,
I walk the line,
Trembling with every step,
Until I slip...


Back into the past,
The wound has healed,
The damage done,
My heart has bled,
You’re not the one.
The scar remains,
It will never fade,
A reminder so true,
The damage was done,
I’ll never forget,
You’re not the one.

The ground shakes beneath me,
The sky splits apart.
Trembling fingers, buckling knees,
My eyes snap open,
Ears ringing, heart beating...


Back into the past,
The wound has healed,
The damage done,
My heart has bled,
You’re not the one.
The scar remains,
It will never fade,
A reminder so true,
The damage was done,
I’ll never forget,
You’re not the one.


Wounds heal,
Times change,
Ideals never falter,
Scars never fade.

Minds clear,
Hearts bleed,
I’ll never lie,
Scars never fade.