Today is my last official day of "parental leave," the last day that I'll be taking care of Solomon full time during the day. While I'm excited to get back to working more regular hours, I'm going to miss being a full-time dad.
Solomon's arrival was *much* anticipated (remember that ridiculous, never ending countdown?!). His birth was the single most powerful moment of my life. It was a moment in which I felt pure joy and an expansion in my capacity to love. Feelings that day were colored and intensified by the sudden and terrifying uncertainty that all was not well. Quickly, though, any fear we had was replaced, bit by bit, by gratitude towards everyone who walked with us through his short, miraculous recovery.
When we got him home, of course, everything had changed. Our waking time was not neatly divided up into "daytime" and "nighttime," and Shayla and I wondered for a good month or so whether we might never actually get more than 45 minutes of sleep at a time...
I watched coverage of the presidential election straight through the night, walking around with Solomon in my arms so he could sleep. Realizing, with a dread I'd only recently become acquainted with, that things are not as sturdy as we'd like, that order is imposed, that life is change and growth and death.
By the time we got back from Christmas in Minnesota, Shayla's maternity leave had run out and it was time for me to take over. I was somewhat unclear as to what, exactly, I was supposed to do. I mean, I got that I was "parenting," but how, exactly, does one "parent"?
I took Solomon to Mass every morning, since that seemed -- somehow -- like it's where we were supposed to be. The elderly parishioners behind me would coo at him distractedly throughout the service. I'd catch them batting their eyes at home when I turned for the sign of peace. He didn't cry or fuss, for the most part, with the exception of a few memorable incidents...
I also took him to story time at the library. Though the description said it was a "lapsit for infants from 0 - 3 years old," I think the organizers may have been counting on more common sense than I had. At 7 weeks old, Solomon couldn't hold his head up or see more than a couple feet in front of him, but I happily sat on the carpeting week after week and pointed out his head, shoulder, knees, and toes to him.
We went everywhere together: the grocery store and the mall, the library, mom's school.
We did so much. I've gotten used to the weight of him on my right arm. I'm sometimes confused when he's not within arm's reach. I've had to remember how to react to strangers I pass on the sidewalk, since they don't automatically break into huge smiles and start baby-talking when it's just me walking alone. I've also had to remember that baby-talking myself, in the absence of a baby, is literally just nonsense.
I've gained a new respect for full-time caregivers, stay-at-home moms (and dads), those who deal with extraordinary situations relating to their kids (or their future kids), kids themselves. It's a whole new world, children, and it's filled with silent, hardworking, unassuming heroes. The gratitude that I first felt on October, 28th of 2016 has not stopped growing. For me, the greatest grace of parenthood, has been an impossible increase in my love for all as God's children.
Gonna miss our days together little man. I'm so grateful to be your dad.