I just rocked you for the last time as a one-year-old.
I closed the door, having placed your now 30-pound, thick, always-sweaty body into your crib like I always do (optimistic with a healthy dose of skepticism that you'll stay asleep, not unlike a bomb defuser hopes the red wire is the right one).
In that sense, it's just like most any night here, but I think I can be honest as your dad and say it hasn't been the same lately. The 4.5 pound sister we brought home from the hospital recently – one of two! The other one comes home soon – has changed things, shall we say, a bit. Mommy and Daddy constantly leaving you with other people so they can go to the hospital at all hours isn't the same, either.
It's all changing quicker than a diaper change on a public bathroom floor.
You already look so much older that I feel like you're closer to going to kindergarten than being born, even if you just learned to walk within the past year. You look like a little boy, not a baby. When did that happen? I didn't authorize it.
You're turning 2 today. That doesn't even make sense to me.
I think it's my duty as a dad to take a moment and be really honest with you before you grow up and I missed my moment to capture what I was thinking about your first years. After all, the reason I started this entire website was because I love you so much and enjoy doing things with you and for you so much that I wanted to make sure other dads could feel the same way about their babies.
Time to be honest with you, son.
- A few nights ago, we were doing our bedtime routine, and you probably noticed dad was different. Well, I realized I was rocking you for essentially the last time with you being the only kid in the house. That made me sob. Not get misty-eyed. Not shed a solitary tear. Sob. I was singing "Our Love Is Here to Stay," which I've sung to you for as long as you've been alive. And I was just so overcome with thinking about how much you've grown and how life is basically that freaking "Love You Forever" book and how I'll never get to hold you as a tiny baby again and you're already too big, really, to hold on my lap when you used to fit on a quarter of my chest. And I sobbed. I don't remember the last time that happened.
- It's OK for men to cry. And maybe it's OK if they are sobbing over how quickly their babies are growing.
- In the past two years, I've dropped you a few times, but never from a far distance, so if you tell your teacher one day you failed a test because your daddy dropped you on your head, you are exaggerating. Also, one time we were co-sleeping in the guest room - we've done that a ton because you don't sleep well if mommy is around (you instead get really excited) plus it's safer without extra pillows and dogs - and you somehow found the crack between the bed and the wall and started to go down headfirst when I caught you by the leg. I've since readjusted that bed position. Sorry about that.
- I waited too long to realize that you were picking up on what you were watching, specifically on TV. I figured this out because one time in the wee hours, you were so awake I took you to the den to watch TV and decided while you played I'd finally watch "12 Years a Slave." And then, during the gripping scene when one of the slave girls is being viciously whipped for leaving the property, you started laughing hysterically. I took it for happenstance until the whip cracked and you laughed again. We'll mark it down as you thinking the whip made a funny noise and not some kind of strange racist infantile moment. Since then, I've stuck to "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood."
- I'm sorry for all the times I've yelled at you when it wasn't your fault. That means every time because it's not your fault.
- I think it's incredible all the things you learn without anyone really telling you how to do it. I can't wait to see what you'll learn next. But I wasn't as pumped when you learned how to lock the doors from the inside.
- I'm sorry that I had to iron out a lot of "first-time dad" stuff with you that your sisters won't have to deal with.
- You're 2. But when you're 22 and can understand it, please thank your mother for all she's sacrificed to make you the happiest 2-year-old around. She completely changed her life because she loves you so much that she wanted to make sure you had everything you need and as much time with her as possible. It's one of the reasons daddy loves her a lot. It may not always seem like your dad is the same because he's always on a computer or his phone, but a lot of that is because that's how he makes his livelihood. And when it's not because of that, it's because he has bad habits. For any time you thought you just did something amazing and I missed it, you were right to get frustrated and mad. The honest part is that there's always a reason to be distracted and adults are good at being distracted even when we say it's the kids who can't focus.
- I have never forgotten you at a restaurant or left you in the car when I ran into a store because I forgot you were in the backseat. But I totally can understand how that happens when I see it on the news. I don't think I'll ever be as tired as "newborn dad" tired. You don't think straight. One time, I was so out of it that in the middle of the night I was convinced you were shoved underneath the cover at the foot of the bed when, in fact, I had put you in the bassinet hours before.
- I have slipped and fallen down while holding you a few times, even on the stairs. And each time, I've completely given up my body to protect you without even thinking of it (I've got the scrapes and bruises to prove it). The honesty part is that this isn't some virtuous, commendable thing. It's just something innate about protecting your kids, and I didn't even understand that until I had you. You're pretty cool for still trusting me to hold you.
- I have already planned several steps I'll take if I found out some kid is bullying you. But I've given no thought of what I'd do if it turns out you bullied some kid. Let's hope we don't have to deal with either.
- One time you had a poopy diaper and I didn't have any replacements on me while you and I were on the road, so I just scooped the poop out with a wipe, kinda wiped out the diaper, and slapped it back on you. You didn't die of anything immediately afterward, and I consider this an achievement.
- When you turned one, I was so proud of you because I thought you were the best one-year-old and I couldn't imagine how you'd get better. What an idiot I was for not believing you'd be even more amazing the following year. I already prefer being with you over just about anyone else, even when you knock over Gatorade at the grocery store, break the cap, and run away from the crime scene while I stand there in a pool of Arctic Freeze as employees stare at me.
- I don't ever regret being a dad. I do regret not having more time to do things that I used to so easily do all the time, like write. And I get frustrated by that from time to time, and I'm sure I've directed that at you. I'm sorry about that.
- I love you immensely and completely. That's as honest as I can be. Happy birthday dude.