Two. I love the way you say it as you rattle off numbers from one to ten. The number itself does not mean anything to you yet, just as your birthday carries no special significance in your mind. For us though, the passing of another year of your life is a cause for celebration. Your birthday is inordinately more important to us than ours. Grant us this: we need the bright balloons, sugary cakes, and silly, conical hats more than you do.
As I reflect over the last year, memories surface indiscriminately. It has been a momentous year, indeed! Now, you can build with blocks and paint with fingers. You have precise expressions including vocabularies of refined gestures and words. You recognize symbols including letters and numbers. You have developed tastes for certain kinds of food and preferences for specific activities. And then there are the myriad puzzles and games!
We have found onions in the washing machine and crayons in the sofa cushions. I used to find peanuts in my shoes, until one day you decided you needed to wear them more than I did. With my hat covering your eyes and my gloves on your hands, you looked like a hard-boiled private-eye from a Raymond Chandler novel. After that moment nothing was quite noir anymore.
We ignored the smudges on the television or the trail of Cheerios on the just -cleaned carpet. One day I asked your mother, “Why is one of my CDs in the bathtub?” She looked at you. You looked at the teddy bear. The bear had no alibi. Was there was a miscarriage of justice that day? I cannot say that the thought weighs very heavily on my conscience.
Early on, you used to say “hi” into the remote-control. We thought that it was cute. Not anymore. You know what all the important buttons do (and even I don’t know what some of the buttons do… set off a nuclear device, perhaps?) We had to hide the remotes until we could no longer find them ourselves. Now we just watch whatever is on the last-known-channel.
A few months ago, I had to enable a passcode on all my mobile devices. It wasn’t because of thieves, it was because of you. It was fine as long as you were sending out blank calls and tweets on my behalf. One time, you nearly emailed my boss. I shrugged. What can a little boy do, after all? But I had to draw the line when you deleted an app with high-scores I had been working for months to get. No fair, buddy.
Forget the app. I confess that it is been a losing campaign to baby-proof the world (or rather to adult-proof yours). You mastered the skill of opening doors and chocolate wrappers. Of tiptoeing to pinch items off progressively higher shelves. Of staging an impromptu sit-in the middle of the toys-section of a shopping mall.
Speaking of toys, I was very excited when we got you Lego building blocks, model miniature cars, and comic-book action figures. Excited for you, of course. I put that out there, in case you doubt my parental gravitas.
We’ve had our share of adventures this past year. We have visited Mayan ruins in Mexico and Jain ruins in India. We have gazed at waterfalls and loafed on beaches. We have waved at strangers and have slid down chutes. We collected acorns and ran through piles of raked leaves. We read books together. We laughed at dinosaur replicas in museums and then ran in horror from the vacuum cleaner at home.
I have to ask. My child, what do you think of when you smile in your sleep? Licking rocks? Petting trees? Wiggling toes in water? Unrolling toilet paper?
We graduated from peek-a-boo to hide-and-seek. You would hide behind a row of trousers in the closet. “Where are you? I can’t see you,” I would say with a serious expression on my face. You would emerge with a triumphant smile from behind aforementioned trousers. Although we kept playing the game, despite my competitive streak, you always beat me. I never got any smarter.
Every morning I have noticed your urgency in trying to prevent me from leaving for work despite the flabbergasting 2/7 chance of success. There are many concepts besides work that I have been unable to explain to you this year – business-travel, private property, illness. On the other hand, there is much that I have learned this last year. Not just about you, but about myself and about your mother. (Here’s a secret you don’t have to tell your mother and she’s not going to read this: be grateful that she is your mother). In trying to teach you patience, over the last year, I have tested, crossed, and expanded the limits of my own, and taught myself.
So much changes in a few years. You were born only two years ago. One year ago you walked. Now you can run. As you’ve grown over the last year, you’ve started to develop a mind of your own. As a parent I’ve had to wrestle simultaneously with two contradictory observations: you’re growing up too fast, and you’re not growing up fast enough. It is humbling to think that the balance will one day shift overwhelmingly in the direction of the first.
That is the way of the world. Children grow up. As Tagore has said so eloquently- “the river runs swift with a song, breaking through all barriers. But the mountain stays and remembers, and follows her with his love.”
Stay well, my son. When you wake up from your nap, we will all have some cake.