First Day in a New Class
"Daddy, I don't want to be in Ms. Marjan's class today."
I looked down at Jason. "What? You like Ms. Marjan. And all your friends have already moved up to her class. You're going to have so much fun being in the same class with them again."
"No, I'm not," he insisted sullenly.
I adjusted my grip on Eva's carseat/baby carrier--it was her second day at daycare, but my first day bringing her--and looked down at Jason, trying to be sympathetic but firm. "I'm sorry, buddy," I said, "But it's time for you to be in her class now. You've been getting all ready for this, and now it's time."
He didn't respond, just held my hand as we kept walking.
We were running a bit late this morning, so by the time we got to his new classroom--separated from his old "room" by just a short partition running across the space--the rest of the kids were already sitting down in their circle and the teacher was handing out little cards to each of them. We hurried to get his blanket, stuffed animal, and sweater into his cubby and then I led him over to the group.
"OK, buddy, can I have a hug?" I asked, kneeling beside him. He didn't say anything, just wrapped his little arms around my neck and buried his face into my shoulder. He didn't wail or cry out, the way he usually does when he's upset. He just hugged me tightly and sniffled a little.
I pulled away from him gently. "Look at me buddy." He lifted his teary eyes to meet mine, and I could see that he was trying to hold it together. "Jay, you're going to have a really good day. All your friends are here to play with you, and it's going to be lots of fun. You're a big boy, and you can do this."
His face screwed all up and his voice broke as he threw his arms around me again. "Daddy, I don't want you to go."
I looked down to my side where Eva was sleeping in her carrier. Jason has been a wonderful big brother, and I can see that he genuinely loves his sister. But it's hard on him, too, dealing with change over the past few months. Just last night he got out of bed an hour after I tucked him in, saying that he didn't like being all by himself in his room. I know it's because Eva sleeps in a cradle by our bed, and try as we might to explain that she needs to be in our room because she's a baby, and that she'll be moving into her own room soon, he can't grasp yet that different people have different needs. He just knows that everyone--even the dog--sleeps in Mommy and Daddy's room, except him.
All of that flashed through my mind as I knelt there holding him, and my heart just about broke. I want so much to show him that I love him just as much as I always have, and just as much as his sister. I take time to play with him, and give him as much affection as he'll let me. But right at that moment it didn't feel like I'd done enough.
A few moments passed, then the teacher called Jason over to help her. He wiped his eyes with the back of his hand and went over, and she shooed me away, mouthing "Have a nice day!" behind his head.
As it happened, Juliette stayed home sick today, so I was the one to pick the kids up after work. When I arrived, he was out in the yard, running around and playing happily with his little friends. He ran over as soon as he saw me, smiling.
I crouched down to look him in the eyes and smiled. "Jay Jay, can I tell you something?" I asked.
"I love you very much, and I missed you a lot today," I said. "I thought about you all day."
He hugged me. "Me too, Daddy."
An Audience of None
At stoplights, I like to look around at the other cars around me and see what the other drivers are doing. Usually they're just sitting and staring at the light, and these days it's pretty common to see them texting. Once in a while I'll see some guy picking his nose or some woman fixing her makeup. But my absolute favorite is when I see someone singing.
I've always been a car singer. When I was little, in the back seat of my mom's car, the chest strap of my seat belt would become a guitar and I would rock out to her Billy Ocean tape. Nowadays, I might sing to Jason about taking him on a magic carpet ride during our drive to pre-school. Sometimes I sing to my steering wheel about being a pair of underwater pearls or imploring it to bring it's sweet loving on home to me. Sometimes I sing softly, sometimes I get carried away. I have, on occasion, drawn smirks from other drivers.
But, you know, even though I look every day, I rarely see anyone else singing, or even so much as bopping their heads or drumming a finger on the steering wheel. Every once in a while, though, I'll look over and see someone, head thrown back, shoulders bouncing, belting one out with abandon. And on the best days, they happen to notice me noticing them while we both sing, and we share a little smile. Neither of us knows what tune is on the other's stereo, but there's still a recognition, a tiny bond. It only lasts a second or two before it's time to move again, but while it lasts it's wonderful.
Backwards and Forwards
This is the time of year for retrospectives and resolutions, both of which always strike me as simultaneously necessary and kind of ridiculous. There's always so much navel-gazing and hand-wringing, and then there's all the subsequent navel-gazing and hand-wringing about the navel-gazing and hand-wringing. And yet, reflection is good for the soul, goals give you something to reach for, and, well, if I weren't the type to do my introspection in such a public manner, you wouldn't be reading this, would you?
2011 was a year of discovery and redefinition for me. I found out that I am a good enough photographer that people will pay me to take their pictures. I got the first inklings of what it's like to be the father of a daughter. I learned that I can write on a schedule, but not when I'm also trying to support a photo business, a day job, two kids, a wife, a dog, and a social life.
I started out the year thinking of myself as a father, a husband, a writer, an engineer, and lots of other things. Now? Still a father and husband, of course, but with my daughter's birth and my son continuing to grow and change, those mean something different now. (I suppose that will always be true.) Am I still a writer? I suppose, since I still write, but I'm not really trying to be a writer anymore, being so caught up with being a photographer.
And what's the plan for 2012? What will I do differently? What will I start and what will I stop?
One thing I will stop is promoting this blog the way I used to. I've spent a lot of time over the past few years thinking and planning and trying to figure out how to get more readers, more pageviews. At one time I wanted to be the next Heather Armstrong, but I think we can all agree that the blogger-turned-Internet-celebrity ship has sailed. And that's just fine. I'm gratified (and a little amazed) that there are a few people out there who enjoy reading this site, but it's time for me to stop trying so hard to be popular and just write because it's what I like to do.
The rest? Maybe I'll lose weight, write more, take more pictures, get to bed earlier. It's not looking so great for that last one, so far, but who knows?
I'm looking forward to finding out.