When I originally thought about taking one of my last two weeks of parental leave, I envisioned a full seven days of complete relaxation. Time off. That’s what leave is for right? Wrong. Before I sent the e-mail to my work, I was adequately informed about my upcoming staycation. My mother-in-law was being relieved of her normal two-day baby-sitting routine and my wife was picking up an extra shift. This added up to five days of my seven off being with my five and half month old son, Cash.
Now, I love my son. Let’s get that straight. However, I also love bike rides along the riverbed, recliner seats at the movie theaters and Swisher Sweets burning down to my fingertips after a transplant of the contents. My excitement plummeted upon being informed of this, what could only be described as, tragic news.
It’s unfortunate to feel this way because I know there are numerous parents who are dying for quality time with their children. And, like I said before, I do love my son. It’s just that, along with loving him comes: diapers full of what looks like melted green Snicker bars, bottles of formula on constant rotation, fussiness which turns into an unsolvable case and attempted assassinations of my selfishness.
But as the week began and my son and I started our bonding time, I realized I had a lot to learn. And learn I did. I learned how to flip through a comic book with one hand holding a bottle to my son’s sucking lips and another bending pages. I learned how to watch Netflix with a pile of blankets blocking his view so he doesn’t get the ADD. I learned how to write on the floor during naps and tummy time. But these lessons are not what I’m talking about, I also learned about my son.
At five months old he is extremely curious about the world. I took him on a couple of walks, a trip to the grocery store and we visited the comic shop. His eyes were full of wonder as he watched cars zip by and his head followed along with, or tried to at least. He stared up at the leaves and branches of trees protecting us from the sun’s rays which hurt his retinas. He marveled at the colorful covers of caped crusaders. It was a moment of relation for us, I know that face of intrigue and discovery. I still wear it when seeing new sights and going to new countries myself. It’s a small similarity but revealed our shared humanity. I realized I found joy in watching him explore and process the world around him.
Another thing I learned about my son is he loves to laugh and have fun. Who can complain about that? Probably me, but I won’t here. We softly wrestled and rolled around on the bed while he giggled and his face lit up. I flew him around like a plane until his face turned red from laughing so hard. I even found his ticklish spot, right above his hips he loses all control and expels into uncontrollable laughter. I laughed alongside him as we shared joy together. Even in times of frustration or irritation, he finds a way to calm me down and warm me up to him again.
My son also developed a close relationship with his security blanket my friend Garrett got him. It’s a soft blanket with silky edges and a sloth head on top. We had been in the living room all day and we went to lay in the bed where Slothy (the blanket’s name) was. Upon spotting Slothy, Cash grabbed him and hugged him close, emanating a cheerful chuckle and moans of comfort. He had a friend! And a memory! And a comfort! To me, this was amazing. I couldn’t believe it. It was so shocking to see his brain had developed a connection to Slothy and his emotions followed.
Lastly, even though he can’t crawl just yet, he tries his hardest. He’ll slam his face into the bed and push with his chubby legs, grunting and longing to crawl. He doesn’t give up either. He wants to learn, he wants to grow and he wants to do it now! I admire the spirit and can’t wait to see where it takes him, or us.
I love my son dearly and before, sometimes it felt like just words. But now, after bonding over the past week, I see much of myself and my wife in him. I also see his own self blossoming. Saturday came and work was calling. I wanted more time with him, or more likely I just didn’t want to go to work. Either way, I wasn’t only saying I loved my son now, I knew it. Not just theoretically but experientially. I had an unexpected fantastic week with my son and I regret that it came as a surprise. In one week’s time I feel that our bond has grown immensely and our connection is even stronger. I still have one week left of leave and now I know what a time it will be. Perhaps next time I won’t be so upset about spending time with my son and instead will be desperate for the opportunity to grow even closer. Here’s to hoping.