When my son was born, he was five pounds and twelve ounces. I could basically hold him in one hand. Delivery was quick and relatively painless. I’d heard so many horror stories of birthing women screaming at the man that they would punctuate the delivery by ripping his balls off. Jenni breathed calmly and pushed calmly and spoke soft “I love you”s to me with a gentle smile. No. I’m not making this up. He didn’t need to be smacked to start breathing. It seemed like as soon as his head cleared, he took a deep breath and lit into a mighty cry that belied his diminutive size.
That night, I slept in the recliner in Jenni‘s
hotel hospital room. The nurses swaddled the baby and laid him in the recliner with me. I got no more than ten minutes of sleep that night, and none of it was in more than ten consecutive seconds. I was so scared. Specifically that night, I was scared that I might stir in my sleep and smother the tiny miracle. On a grander scale, I was twenty years old, just married, just bought a house, and never had a decent job. I was terrified of the responsibility that was so impossibly huge, and in negative correlation to the exiguous size of the brand new child. That’s when my hair started thinning. It was that first, sleepless night of being a father – with the two most important people in the world in the same room with me. And I had to stop being a kid and start to be a man.
That tiny baby is now thirteen years old. His hair hangs down to his broadening shoulders, like mine did when I was a teen. He lacks about four inches to overtake my height. His hands and feet are as long as mine, and his knuckles are taking on a similar knobbiness to mine. He’s no longer the little kid you see in the header images of this blog. His voice is creeping down into a low baritone like mine. When I roughhouse with him, it’s no longer like playing with a boy, it’s far more like sparring with a man. He often stinks. He has not yet learned the habit of applying deodorant consistently, or learned how much of it to use. His jaw line is squaring out. He complains of aches. I remember this phase of life being excruciating, the bones stretching and reformatting of their own volition. I could practically hear the growth in the quiet of the night. Of course he aches.
He still plays with toys, but is rapidly losing interest in them. He is still very naive about sexuality. He has always liked girls, but he doesn’t seem to see them as viable mates just yet. He gets upset seemingly at random. He’ll make statements through tears of irrational anger that contradict assertions he made just last week. When I call him on his inconsistency he’ll shout out something like, “I WAS OVERREACTING!!!” and then I lose it. I don’t actually laugh in his face, but I do tell him that his ability to acknowledge such things is a sign of maturity. Then I write about it on my blog and laugh at his misfortune behind his back. Because it’s funny. But, that’s only because I can now see it from both sides.
I remember gaining the better part of a foot over a summer break. My voice dropped three octaves in the same time period. I vividly remember laying in bed with every inch of my body throbbing angry aches as bones crackled and twisted and stretched the flesh attached to them. Curled up in a ball, I croaked out breathy sobs of misery, bereft of voice as I had no midrange between the shrinking soprano head voice I’d always known, and the incoming baritone voice that started below natural speaking range. And it’s not just that I hurt or that my voice was broken. My new body stunk. Even to me. And it leaked stuff. It was gross and I hated it. I remember wondering why we couldn’t do this stuff in a cocoon like bugs do. It seemed to be no less a transformation than that of a caterpillar metamorphosing into a butterfly. And then, just as quickly, it wasn’t so bad anymore. Once I got used to how it worked, the new voice mostly worked despite an awkward crack every once in a while. As the growth spurt slowed, the pain subsided. I learned which cleansers and products to use to mitigate the stuff leaking out. I was strong, and that felt good. And, I was taller than my peers. It seems that I was an early bloomer and I returned to school several inches taller than most, and with this fabulous manly voice that made the other children’s eyes wide. The boys were jealous and the girls swooned. Then, the other boys caught their wind and I was short again. But, this isn’t about me.
Indeed, I can laugh at Teen Bot, but it’s only because it seems like I was just there. I know it sucks. In retrospect, it’s actually quite comical, and he will discover this as well. He’s honestly got a great sense of humor about it already. When his voice cracks, he’s the first to laugh and make fun of himself. We bought him used shoes last week and made sure to get them several sizes too big. His feet have filled up most of the difference in the meantime. I kid you not. This is why we bought used. There’s no sense in spending a lot of money on shoes he’s literally not going to be able to wear in three weeks. I’ll buy him nice footwear when his feet stabilize a little in sizing. In the meantime, I’m keeping an eye on my boots! I plan to let you know when he surpasses my height. At the rate he’s going, that won’t be long. I’m thinking well before the start of school.
He’s getting tall and strong and handsome. He’s a wicked shot with a rifle and he’s smart enough to do anything he cares to. Still trying to help him find his scholastic motivation… He cares about people and animals, and he has a good heart. In a lot of ways I feel like I might just about have this parenting thing figured out. In many other ways, I’m still that terrified twenty year old kid in the recliner in the hospital. That baby was such an incredibly heavy five pounds, twelve ounces, and that was the easiest it would ever be. Every phase of his development has been even harder than the last, but far more fun and rewarding. After over thirteen years, I still worry that I’m not doing it right. He’s turning into a man – I can’t stop that. But, is he turning into the right man because of the influence of his elders? God, I sure hope so. Only time will tell.