Saturday, June 11, 2016

On the Homefront: Trying to Remember the Moments

These past two weeks since I last shared my thoughts with you, the readers of this website, have seen some crazy headlines. And each one carried with it even crazier online "takes" by people seemingly too happy to offer their unsolicited two cents. Whether that opinion was about how a zoo should handle wildlife, or where a sitting US president should visit and when, or how despicable certain crimes and ensuing sentences are, it seemed everyone had something to say.

After the dust settled on the initial outburst, as it does in most cases that don't involve political or religious beliefs, a few common sense posts and articles began to dot the landscape. The only problem was you had to look really, really hard to find them.

In the meantime, you know what happened to me and my family sometime in the past two weeks? My two-year-old daughter evidently decided she was too big to sit in her booster seat at the table anymore.

I can't pinpoint the day, time, or for which meal. But it happened.

All children are different, and my three are proving to be vastly different just among themselves.
Perhaps it is the difference in ages between my two daughters, but with the youngest one growing an ever-increasing sense of independence, I find myself watching with more wonder than worry. The latter feeling filled every sense of my being as a parent with my son and older daughter. But then again, I was a new parent.

When I watched my son become more and more independent by walking and then feeding himself with utensils, I was proud. My wife and I were both excited to see our little guy figuring things out. But there was always a worry, such as what if something happens? What something, you ask? I don't remember. But there was a worry. Every new parent has it.

When we watched our first daughter go through the same progression we felt the same sense of pride and joy. We also felt that same sense of worry, although not nearly as drastic.

Fast forward to today, where our son is just over two months shy of 10 years old and our first daughter is 7. Their sister - our youngest - is 2.

For the life of me, I cannot remember when we put our older two children in a regular seat at the table. I am positive we did, and I am positive we were excited and nervous for them both as it happened.

Our youngest, sometime in the past two weeks, took it upon herself to climb onto a seat at the kitchen table and refused to budge until fed. And that pride and joy and excitement and nervousness I felt for her older siblings? I didn't feel that. Not this time.

I suppose you could say I felt a sense of relief.

I was relieved that the booster seat can now likely be unstrapped from the chair on which it currently sits, and can be cleaned. I was relieved that that chair can be cleaned. I was relieved - and excited - that my youngest seems to like the concept of a placemat, which means cleanup time after a meal can be cut in half.

I also felt a bit annoyed. Yeah, not the best feeling in the world for a parent to feel about a child. Oh well.

I was annoyed that when I sat down for lunch earlier this week, unbeknownst to me I sat down in a chair that my daughter had evidently claimed as her own. She had already eaten, but since I was in HER chair, oh the, uh, music I listened to while I ate.

I was annoyed. It seems my wife and I have a little girl who lives by the credo, "get an inch, take a mile." Our fearless daughter not only has taken to sitting on the chairs, but she will also occasionally stand up and act like our cats. By that, I mean she will for no apparent reason shove stuff off the table. (It's my own fault - I should really keep the table cleaner than I do. I've taken a break from that to write this.)

So, in the past five years, I somehow have become either jaded or experienced. Or tired. I don't really know. I just know that the overwhelming pride my wife and I felt with our first two children hitting this sort of milestone was accompanied by these other emotions this time around.

If I feel this way about my daughter simply using a fork, you'll pardon the pun, but I can barely fathom the sense of relief I'll feel once I no longer have to change her diaper!

Howard Balaban is a stay-at-home dad. These are his adventures.