Friday, November 6, 2009

One Year

Nathaniel is one year old.

His birthday was yesterday, so it's official: Natty Lou has entered his second year of life.

We staged a mini-celebration with our little guy after I returned home from work, in what constituted an hour-long blizzard of phone calls from well wishers, a special dinner of cheese and Greek-style pizza, slices of kiwi and a kids-size Kit Kat and the opening of one gift (more on that later) before Nathaniel melted down and needed to be carted off to bed.

What an evening.

I've said this before, but I had long wrestled with conflicting, if not paradoxical emotions about Natty Lou. Often over the last months, I would look at him and wonder what my life had been before he arrived. It's as if that part of my life never existed. Then again, who is this little being that I'm looking at and is he really somebody who I helped create? How did that happen and what were we thinking?

For some reason, I don't have the "where did he come from" and "is he mine" mental thunderbolts too much anymore. But I sure do still have the "what was my life like before you arrived" thoughts constantly.

There's probably some psychological explanation for all this, all wrapped up in a neat jargonistic phrase that only other psychologists can decipher. But I'll just call it the syndrome of living in the here and now.

And I'm loving this syndrome. If it were a drug, I'd buy the whole supply. If it were beer, I'd but the brewery. If it were basketball, I'd buy the team. If it were ... you get the picture.

Point is, while I may have mentally glazed over the last four decades of my life BC (Before Child), I am thoroughly enjoying the AC (After Child) years. Yes, there are many times that suck. Time is not my own, for example. It has been wrested from me as if it were a bed sheet that's been ripped away while I was sleeping. I gripe about this regularly, by the way. But the truth is I'm so glad Natty Lou is a part of my life that I willingly (albeit grudgingly) sacrifice my time.

I'll also readily admit that the first 4-5 months of Nathaniel's life was hellish. This was not entirely his fault; he regularly had ear infections that made him miserable and dragged Michelle and I to the emotional brink. Michelle and I played "baby baton" in which she would work in the morning, hustle home and relieve me, and I'd hurry off to work the afternoon, half days each, so we could preserve our precious allotment of sick time. We were quite stressed.

And poor Natty. All he knew was that his damn ears hurt like hell. Anytime he got a sniffle, the bacteria would migrate to that pool of stagnant fluid behind his ears, and he'd be in for a hurtin'. Then he would begin wheezing, and we'd have him on the Nebulizer for weeks at a time.

In July came the tubes, and if that's not a Hallelujah moment, I don't know what is. Natty Lou's disposition, which, if it were a weather forecast, let's call it mostly cloudy, changed to mostly sunny practically overnight. His appetite (never a slouch there, really) got better, and he started almost immediately mouthing "Ma ma," "Da da" and most recently "Uh oh" and "Ooh eeh," which we think is a stand-in for our dog's nickname "Louie."

So many changes, physically and mentally, in the first year for Nathaniel. And so many changes for Michelle and I – how we live, what we do, what we want to teach and embody for our little role modelee. So much responsibility. So much pride.

So, so much love.

And that's just the first year.

Can't wait for the second.

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