A father talks of love and life with his son By Ben TanzerPhoto coutesy of Ben Tanzer Ben Tanzer loves Myles "like nothing else I have even encountered."
He is a rock star. And a gift. He is beautiful. He has curly brown hair. And eight little teeth that dance every time he smiles. His skin is unblemished and delicious. Like fresh fruit. When he sleeps at night he smells like the morning dew. And it's intoxicating. His name is Myles and he is my first child. He is 1--year old. And I love him like nothing else I have ever encountered.
When Myles was born, he was a vision, all sleek and red--faced, a crazy mop of spiky hair dominating his little head. Then the crying started. And it wasn't just crying, but piercing inhuman wails we could not decipher. And there were no breaks from it. Or naps. Just screaming, all day and into the night. It's colic, they said, and it will pass. But it didn't, not at first.
And nothing worked. Nothing. Not the bouncy seat. Not the vacuum cleaner. Not even the swing with the uterine swoosh. And I hated him. I hated him for making me feel so powerless. And I hated him for making me feel so angry. I also hated him for making me wonder if all my fears had been true.
I had wondered at times whether I even wanted to have a child. Whether I wanted to give up my time. And take care of something so fragile. And now here I was, trapped and desperate and worried that all this was a terrible mistake.
Then, as inexplicably as it started, the crying stopped. Gone. And everything changed.
The first year Myles at 1 is always on the move. He can cruise anywhere if he has something to hold onto. He is not much for walking yet, but at times he will let go of things for a moment and stand there, fearlessly and breathlessly, a young master of the universe. Some times he even takes a few unsupported steps, but then realizing what he's done, he grabs at whatever is closest so he can steady himself.
Of course, being on the move all the time means running into obstacles all the time as well. That doesn't bother Myles, though. He will wedge himself around anything standing in his way if it means getting to the other side. Myles is very tough and seemingly scared of nothing. He endlessly falls down and bangs his head, but pretty much always gets up smiling. Myles wants to explore a world he still knows so little about. I hope he never loses his desire to do so. He doesn't know it yet, but I plan to hike across the Grand Canyon with him some day.
When Myles flies with us he never hesitates to wander into the airport terminal to see who and what he might find. It is wonderful watching him as he navigates the crowds and visits with complete strangers. It's a good thing. I want him to be independent. And I want him to be confident as he goes out in the world. And he will be.
The thing is, as I watch him I am reminded that someday he will really leave us. I know that's a good thing, too. It's just that right now I cannot bare the idea that there will be a time when he is not here.
The bloody truth The other day I inadvertently clipped the top of Myles' index finger as I tried to trim a raggedy little nail of his that had been scratching him when he slept. There was a lot of blood. And tears. I felt just sick.
For the rest of the day I couldn't shake the image of his bloody little finger and tear--streaked little face. A friend of mine said, "Well if something like this makes you feel this bad, what are you going to do the day he walks in the door with a broken arm?" I told him I know Myles will some day come home with a broken arm. However, that will never be as bad as something like this. For one, I won't have witnessed it. And two, I won't have caused it.
I know Myles will feel pain. He will need stitches and he will break bones. And girls, or maybe even boys, will break his heart. He will feel disappointment. And loss. And yes, I will do things that hurt him, some times physical things, some times emotional. I know this, but I cannot accept it. Not yet anyway. He's only 1.
Lately, Myles likes to sit by himself and read books. And catalogues. Even the newspaper. He's not picky. He doesn't even seem to mind when they aren't right side up. When he was little he would rub his eyes when he was tired or pull on his ears. These days he just lays his head down on the nearest object. Last week it was the big drum in music class.
The worrying I worry at times that Myles might still end up with autism. Or that he'll get leukemia like my dad. I also worry that some kid at school will shoot him some day. Or that at some point in college and for some unexplained reason he will have a breakdown. These are irrational fears and I know this. And while I do my best to keep them at arms' length, I can never quite forget about them either.
Then again, I cannot wait for him to start talking. And dating. And going to the movies. Nor can I wait for the day when we will shoot pool together, go running, and hike out to Machu Pichu. I mean, these are all amazing things, aren't they? Sure they are. And yet, here's the thing. These are my dreams, not his. They may not be things he will want to do. And at some point Myles may decide that he no longer wants to hang out with me. Who can say what he, and we, will do? And who can say what will and will not happen to him.
Myles is only 1 and so anything, and everything, is still possible.
Ben Tanzer is a social worker and writer who lives in Chicago with his wife and son, Myles, 1