Part of the reason Kelly and I returned to the Midwest is so that we could afford to have her stay home with Ian. It’s an arrangement that comes with more blessings than curses, but, glass-half-empty guy that I am, I tend to focus on the darker side of life.
[Bear in mind, I spent Ian’s first few months at home with Kelly, so I’m well aware of how much work it takes to keep up with him. (Especially now that he sits up, rolls over, kneels, crawls, twists, turns, stands and falls. He’s a greased pig in cargo pants.) I’m also very much aware that, in addition to the greased pig, Kelly also has to deal with our finances, laundry on Thursdays, choir, her side jobs, sewer back-ups, dinner, doctor appointments, travel planning, cleaning, and a husband who keeps forgetting to vacuum even though he really likes doing it and she HATES doing it and she has so much else to do and she bore him a child.]
Kelly gets to sleep in. Well, she doesn’t, really. But it sure looks that way as I stumble out of bed. Each morning I bring Ian to our bed, and sometimes after my shower he and Kelly are both fast asleep. She’s huddled against the edge of the bed, and he’s obliviously splayed over the rest of the bed – just like daddy.
Once in a while, Ian’s just pretending. I creep into the room to get dressed, and I hear something stir, mid-pants. I turn around, and find Ian beaming at me. I put my finger to my mouth, and he makes his happy noise. “Hhhhhnnnnnnggg!” I finish dressing, kiss Ian goodbye, and he doesn’t make a peep. He just follows me with his eyes, smiling, as I wave goodbye and leave.
Usually, though, Kelly’s trying to sleep and Ian would rather discuss either the merits of Sartre or why he likes green. It’s hard to tell – he’s passionate about both.
Kelly gets to take Ian for morning walks, or to the St. Louis Bread Co. for a
cinnimoncinnamon-crunch bagel, or to lunch with her parents. I get a message from Kelly at work, telling me how her dad called to see if she wanted to go for lunch, and that they went for Chinese and that Ian loved his fortune cookie. (“Your chubby cheeks and crystal-blue eyes make you the center of attention. Your diaper makes you smell.”)
Kelly gets to visit the zoo. On Wednesdays during the summer, Kelly and her mother, Ila, head to the zoo for a morning walk with Ian. The zoo is free, but on Wednesday mornings things like the Insectarium and Petting Zoo are also free. This week was spring break for Ila and they went to the newly-restored Forest park where Ian had a picnic by the amazing remodeled pond in front of the art museum. It feels like Paris. After work, Ila told me all about how Ian walked and walked and walked and loved every minute of it.
All that’s stopping Ian from walking by himself is a little balance problem, so we bought him a walker. It looks like a scooter with the baseboard split to either side. The first day with the walker, he grabbed on and took off, preening at his accomplishment; then he forgot what he was doing, and shifted into reverse with his parking break set. He fell down, and everyone had a good laugh. Apparently. I wasn’t there.
That’s been the story of my life, lately. I’m not there. As much as I’d like to sleep in, I’d much rather have seen Ian walk by himself for the first time. I love the zoo, and I love free stuff, but I love Ian more than anything.
The other day after work, Ian and I were playing clap-ball together. (This is a deceivingly cute game where Ian and I roll a ball back and forth between us, each move punctuated by enthusiastic clapping. It’s cute for the first twenty minutes.) This time the game changed, and Ian started grabbing the ball and handing it to me. “Daddy, here. This is a ball.” I’d roll the ball back, and he’d hand it back to me. “Oh, thank you! What a polite little guy! Thank you so much!”
I was so excited. I ran into the kitchen, still thinking of the tiny hand carefully handing me the ball, making sure that I knew it was meant for me. “Kelly…!”
“I know,” she says.
She knows he can pull himself up on the bathtub. She knows that he lurches toward the front door every day at 5:15 when she says, “Daddy’s coming home!” She knows he’s started crawling. She knows…everything. She’s my wife – I should be used to her knowing everything. But with Ian, it’s different. At first, she and I were learning everything together. We shared every gurgle, every smile, every erp. Now, I feel like I’m falling behind.
Really, I know parenting isn’t a contest. I know I can’t be there for every milestone, and that I shouldn’t be there for every step forward in Ian’s life. And I’m forever thankful that at least one of us is there to witness Ian’s transformations. But sometimes I wish he’d save a little something for me. Blowing kisses. That’d be a cool one to see for the first time. Or running. Maybe even petting a cat for the first time, instead of grabbing fistfulls of fur. (Poor Neville.)
A few weeks ago, we went to St. Charles with Kelly’s folks, and my mom and sister. The ladies stopped in an art gallery, while Daddy and Grandpa took Ian down the block to a coffee house. While Grandpa was inside, getting his fix of espresso, Ian and I sat outside. Father and son, enjoying a beautiful spring day. I had a strawberry ice cream cone, and Ian saw that I had a strawberry ice cream cone. I looked left. I looked right. I looked behind me, just to be safe.
First strawberry ice cream cone. Check.