After nearly a year of fatherhood, I’ve reached a strange season in the eyes of others. When any conversation leads me to reveal the age of our little guy it brings about a universal response.
“Oh, that’s such a great age….”
This declaration brings me to one of two possibilities; the person speaking either has no recollection of a child this age, or they are being factious.
Imagine for a moment you have a long-term houseguest. They don’t speak a word of English, so your communication consists of guesswork based on their emotional responses. Laughing? They like what’s happening. Shrieking? Try something different. This may seem black and white on first glance, but if an activity has many variables then you’re left to guess which one is the offending party with only these on-off / happy-sad responses to lead you. This is the vocabulary of a one-year old.
Many well meaning people attempt to mask the fact that there is no telling what’s wrong with your screaming child by informing you that they are either a) tired, or b) hungry. Except when you look at the life of these one-year-olds you’ll find that 14 hours of the day is spent sleeping and two or so is spent eating. For you math prodigies out there, that leaves eight hours when the only think they definitely don’t need is a nap or something to eat!
But it’s a great age.
Honestly, I wonder how the human race has survived this long. My dog was born knowing how to walk, eat and even designate a place to crap all by herself. Yet, little humans are born only knowing how to wail and sleep. Even the laughing comes later. And while animals understand grooming without reading fashion magazines or looking in a mirror, my son lets snot roll down his face in pencil thick lines and then freaks out when anyone attempts to wipe them clean.
I am no better. I have an early memory of my mom saying to me “Don’t you feel the snot when it rolls out of your nose?” Apparently I didn’t, because this happened more than once. Obviously I was older than one at the time, since she knew I understood and was expecting an answer.
You wanna know a great age? Twenty-five. Or how about Thirty! We can walk, talk, eat, crap and drive all by ourselves. Theoretically we can carry on intelligent conversations, deal in complex problem solving, and maybe even keep the snot off our faces.
I realize people think fondly of the infant phase because of little shoes, little hugs, and little laughter. But those in no way counter-act little productivity, little quiet, and little sleep.
My wife recently heard the first two years of a kid’s life described as the “Dead Zone”. That’s the first real description I’ve heard, as it encapsulates the walking-dead, what-day-is-it, cloud of early parenting. Of course… this will be followed by the terrible twos, which obviously won’t get grouped into the “great age” camp any time soon.
In fact, the mid-thirties is a great age… except my wife and I have jumped right past it into some time a decade from now. We had seemed frozen in time for much of our marriage, only looking fractionally older than the day we married. Yet, parenthood has brought the time machine along with it and overshot us past our real age to something needing black arm bands and over-the-hill joke balloons.
I’d like to think things will settle out at some point, but by then our little guy will probably be packing for college. At least he’ll be able to tell us what’s going on in his head by then, and hopefully he’ll keep the snot off his face.
For now, though… we’re in the dead zone. And when the next person tells me it’s a great age I may sit down suddenly, cry inexplicably, and blow snot bubbles. Meanwhile, my dog just borrowed the car keys.