First Steps

I went looking for something to re-post. The way TV shows schedule re-runs when the crew and the host go on vacation. Perfectly valid. My mind has been on vacation in Southern California where the Yankees are playing the Angels in the ALCS. It has taken me an incredibly long time to write this brief intro in-between innings because the mind can only focus on one thing at a time.

I found a few pieces I had written about a year and a half ago for a blog I never published. The working title was New Dad at FiftyDocumenting Fatherhood After the Big 5-0. I won’t go into why I never pulled the trigger. It’s not important. But I am glad I found the material so that I can share it tonight.

First Steps

“You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.”  –Kahlil Gibran

Nicolas has begun walking across the living room. His first steps are unsure, lacking in direction most times and surprisingly enthusiastic always. His walking style, so far, is a mixture of Chaplin’s The Tramp, Peter Boyle’s Frankenstein with a touch of Foster Brooks.

Today, for the first time, Nicolas stood up by straightening himself up off the middle of the colorful rubber square mats that cover our floor without using any of the furniture as an aid, then he took a few steps towards me. This, we were told, will mark the beginning of an accelerated race towards ambulatory mastery. I did what I do most times, regardless of the duration of his walk or of his success at defying gravity, I applauded, hooted and hollered. Nicky joined me in the celebration–as he often does–applauding his own success. I then called his Mom to tell her about the new development.

Nicolas continued walking about, smiling to himself. I joining him in the smiling. He tried making it to his easy chair on one of his tours, but he miscalculated the distance remaining. Even if the momentum carried him the last few steps, he did not nail the landing: he went over the edge, scrapping his forehead and ending the merriment for both baby and Dad.

My son Nicolas cried with the same gusto that he had shown in his walking. I held him and told him that I understood. I had gone through the same thing once, even if I didn’t remember. Heck, I still fall down sometimes these days, I said.

When the crying was done, Nicky was ready for more walking. He couldn’t wait to get back to his new pastime. So I let him down, summoning encouragement to go at it. I celebrate again as he aimed towards the center of the room and held my breath. To let him go, knowing that he will certainly fall again is one of the most difficult things asked of a dad. But how else is he going to learn? Yet, the desire to protect the Little Boo is very strong. To find the balance between protecting my son and gifting him the space and the encouragement to try and fail and then applaud his courage to pick himself up and try again is one of the bigger challenges I have found so far on this partnership. And so far, as is Nicolas in his toddling, I occasionally find the balance.

Written Saturday, May 10th, 2008