Though Jack has been attending day care for a couple of weeks now, I still have been wondering what it would be like when he would be exposed to another little boy about his age and size, in a different environment. I had these preconceived ideas that it might be difficult for them to get along, fighting over toys. I envisioned myself cringing, just waiting for the moment when one of them would smack the other in the forehead with a wooden block or a Matchbox car.
I guess I forgot that infant boys don’t have that much testosterone, yet. Fortunately, Jack’s first encounter with a buddy wasn’t at all as I bleakly imagined it. While in Sacramento last week, we visited Jill’s childhood friend, Paula; she and her husband had their first child just a few months before Jack was born.
It was funny to observe Jack and Evan (Paula’s son) playing next to each other from the same toy box. Several times they reached for the same toy, then they would both simultaneously back off from it, as if to say, “No, it’s cool. You go ahead. You saw it first.”
If only we lived in a world with “baby subtitles,” where we adults could translate what our children are saying to us and each other.
For most of the visit, I imagined in my head what their conversations were like as they were playmates:
“So, you’re Evan? Yeah, my mom has talked a lot about you. Actually, I’ve seen a lot of your pictures on Facebook. There’s this one where you’re wearing one of those taxi cab driver hats. My mom got me one of those but I kept taking it off because I can’t stand having stuff on my head. It makes me itch.”
“Yep, I’ve heard of you too. I wonder why our moms are laughing at us right now. I’m hungry. Let’s eat. Wahhhhh!!! Waahhhh! Ehhhhh…”.
Being that Jill and Paula grew up together and remain friends despite the long distance and that they still see each other at least once a year when we fly out to California in the summer, I think it’s safe to say that Jack and Evan will grow up knowing each other too. Even if that means just one actual play date a year and in the meantime their Mommies pointing to a Facebook picture, saying, “Look, here’s your buddy.”
The reset button has been pressed and the screen has faded to white. Today my family began life back on the magical island (a reference to Lost) of Nashville where we have been destined to live. It was a big day for all three of us: I returned back to the same office where I used to work; my wife started a new job back at Vanderbilt University where she worked previous to our move; and Jack went to daycare for the first time, or ”baby boarding school” as I like to think of it. (I will inevitably be writing an entire post about my feelings about him going to daycare, in the near future.)
For me, starting back over in Nashville today felt like waking up from a long stretch of amnesia, where I remember dreaming of a strange parallel universe I had been living in for eight months; only it wasn’t a dream. It was real life. It’s like suddenly having a flash drive in the USB port of my brain which contains the acquired data to help me best function in this “redo” of my life.
As I rode my mountain bike from my office to Jack’s daycare to briefly visit him during my lunch break, I noticed several businesses and restaurants that have been replaced by new ones; while others are surprisingly still around. And in my office most of the same people were still there to welcome me back, though I saw several unfamiliar, and therefore strange, new people who were walking around the place as if they knew what they were doing.
But it was me who wasn’t there all along, for I was receiving my necessary life education lessons back in Alabama. As of last night, we have officially unpacked our bags. Though we still have a lot of our stuff still in storage, there already is the undeniable sense of “home” for us here. Because despite what we thought was right for us a year ago, we belong here, in Nashville.
I loved being back at my old office today. And my wife is really excited about her new job. As for Jack, I will just have to assume he’s having a good time in daycare; hanging out with other babies who are the same age, yet a lot smaller than he is. I know he’s in good hands, but it’s just tough that they are not our hands.
The time has come for all three of us to grow up and move forward; together as a family of three.
Photos courtesy of Moments in Time Photography in Fort Payne, Alabama:
3 months out of the womb + 9 months in the womb = 12 months
I had always heard that in certain Asian countries, you are considered a year old as soon as you are born. Then I went to South Korea in 2004 to work with some high school boys at a “Learn Conversational English” camp. Sure enough, they all told me there were 17 years old, but when I compared their birthdays to the age they claimed to be, I realized that South Koreans do indeed hold the belief that you born a year old. The boys were only 16 years old; the way we Americans see it.
But really, this makes much more sense to me than being “zero” the day you are born. Sure, we spend 9 months in our mother’s womb, not a full 12 months, but 9 months is definitely closer to a year than to zero months. So in that case, I’m already in my thirties! Baby Jack is officially three months old today, though he has been alive a full year now.
At three months, Jack officially “talks”, turns his head when he hears my voice (he wasn’t always able to hear my deep voice), grabs onto my hand when I hold him, and as of last night, can officially turn over to his stomach completely on his own. He has to wear clothes for 6 month olds now. And while I’m led to believe that he is indeed a big baby, I think he’s just starting out life with a bit of a growth spirt. His bulky forearms remind me of Popeye.
Whenever I see a baby boy, I usually think of a man between the ages of 45 and 65 years old, because while taking a child psychology class in college at Liberty University, I remember seeing side-by-side photographs in my textbook which compared a baby boy and a middle-aged man. The example showed how as a man grows older, he begins to look more like he did as a baby. (Baby girls don’t look like middle-aged women, though.)
Something that has become pretty apparent this week is that Jack (my son) and Jack (my dad) have a special connection. Baby Jack gravitates his attention towards my dad if he is in the room. Not only is he fascinated by hearing his voice, but he also will get the biggest smile anytime my dad looks his way. And as these YouTube clips below will show, a certain side of Jack’s behavior only opens up for my dad. Their relationship is unmatched even to my own relationship with my son, therefore convincing me there really is something to this “baby boy/middle-aged man” deal. I think it’s really cool to see the dynamics between Baby Jack and his Pappy.
On a less sentimental note, Jack reminds me of things other than just a middle-aged man. When my wife is holding him on her shoulder, he often reminds me of a Glow Worm. And when when gets confused, he looks like Mac the alien from the mostly forgotten movie Mac and Me. And when he’s passionate about eating, he makes this grunting sound that is so similar to Mr. Peepers from Saturday Night Live: “Bah-bah-bah-bah!”
Eventually, he will make me think more of a little boy. For right now, what I am seeing in him are his attempts at being human: like his attempts to walk, his attempts to talk, and even his attempts to show affection. Whatever he reminds me of at any certain point in the day, something I am aware of is how adorable he is. Whether he reminds me of a pet, an alien, or a stuffed animal from the Eighties, I just know I can’t imagine life without him.
Things that Baby Jack reminds me of right now:
Middle-aged men, like the magnificent Phil Collins
Mac the alien
Mr. Peepers (sounds like while eating, but doesn't look like)
Something I had always been acutely aware of is that when two people have a baby, there’s a good solid 6 weeks that go by where you stop seeing them in public. But shortly after that, the couple begins to dare to make random public appearances. Like last week, we attempted to take Jack with us to buy groceries. Really, there’s no need for me to paint the details of that story; if you can imagine it, that’s what happened. Therefore, today I went alone to buy groceries. It took just as long being that I’m a guy and we, the male species, don’t have instincts to tell us things like where to find vanilla extract or even at our own house where the cutting boards go in the kitchen.
But with me still not having a job yet and with the cold winter weather, the three of us have spent a lot of time indoors. Now I know what it’s like to be a 29 year-old retired millionaire who gets to stay at home all day in his pajamas and eat cereal for lunch. Minus the million dollars and plus the need to actually make a living. So after a month of constantly looking online for jobs and applying, and taking care of Jack, and watching random documentaries instantly on Netflix through the Wii, we decided we were brave enough to take Jack to church for the first time; out of the womb.
Of course, despite giving ourselves plenty of time to get there early, Jack decided he wanted one last snack of milk right as we were heading out the door. Then we had to change his diaper. So we arrived 10 minutes late and the only place left to sit was up in the balcony. This turned out to be a pretty good location though; since we were right next to the door for the moment he would inevitably start crying. He lasted 35 minutes before we had to dart for the door with him. We were impressed.