Yesterday was my son Andy’s 5th birthday! This was an event that leaves me with some fairly paradoxical feelings. I can’t believe that it has already been 5 years since he was born as the time does seem to fly quickly. On the other hand, he has become such an integrated and vital part of our family that the time before he was there now feels a lot like a part of a different life.
Becoming a parent is unquestionably the best thing that I have ever done, with only the decision to marry my wonderful wife even coming close. I’m well aware that I run the risk of becoming potentially intolerably sappy and sentimental in this post, but I simply don’t know how to accurately express my feelings towards my family without sounding that way. For any readers of this blog that are turned off by an excess of sentiment, I’ll try to post a review of the new James Bond movie in the next day or two. 🙂
After 5 years, a bit of reflection pretty much comes automatically. One thing that I’ve often heard repeated, both before and after becoming a father, is that parenthood involves a lot of sacrifice. While I definitely understand the meaning behind such statements, I’m not so inclined to agree that “sacrifice” is really the right word. Unquestionably, there are a lot of things that my wife and I did before Andy’s arrival that are much less common, if they still occur at all. Reductions range from such small-scale activities as TV and movie viewing or nights out with friends, all the way up to substantial changes in vacation planning, major purchases and pretty much every other major life decision.
I tend to look at these as trade-offs rather than sacrifices, though, as the pleasures and benefits of being a father push way into the background any significant thoughts about what I might be missing. While such activities as visiting a theme park or going to the movies have become more complicated (and in some ways restrictive), and often more tiring, I also find them to be rewarding in a whole new way. Andy is mostly in a constant state of discovery and I find it tremendously rewarding to share with him many of the things that have brought a lot of joy to my own life.
The day to day routine is also full of moments that I treasure. I absolutely love hearing Andy tell me about his day when I get home from work. When I ask him about what he did at school, his answer always starts excitedly with "I played!", but it doesn’t usually take too much effort to coax longer and more detailed stories out of him. His stories can be rather hard to follow and don’t always make a lot of sense, but they are told with a compellingly breathless enthusiasm that is usually a delight.
Andy has a tremendous imagination, so his stories of the days activities are often filled with rather colorful stories about pretending games involving such favorite things as cars, airplanes, fire trucks, and hotels. Like many kids his age, he has an imaginary friend, but in his case that friend is an airplane who goes on all kinds of interesting adventures, although a lot of them seem to be more focused on the hotels where it stays rather than on the actual exotic (or not so exotic) destinations.
Another favorite pretending game of Andy’s is bringing people imaginary food items. During phone calls with his grandparents (via speakerphone), he likes to occasionally run off and then come back and announce that he is delivering some food item to them. They get a big kick out of that. He was similarly providing imaginary appetizers to our friends while we were waiting at a restaurant for our table during a dinner party a few weeks ago. After finishing his cake at his birthday party last night, he also had to go around and serve other pretend food to many of the party-goers.
As I just mentioned, we did have a big birthday party yesterday afternoon. We have been taking Andy to a class at the local Gymboree facility for a couple years. For his party yesterday, we rented the facility for a couple hours and had a party for Andy and 19 other kids from his pre-school and Gymboree classes. We were fortunate enough to be able to arrange for his usual Gymboree teacher to host and run the event, which ended up being a huge success. The teacher did an outstanding job of providing a pretty much perfect mix of organized activities and free play time and really kept the kids all highly entertained for two hours. It was a lot of fun and an event that I think will be pretty memorable both for Andy and for us.
Yesterday’s party brings me full circle back to the trade-offs that come from being a parent, but my hesitance to call them sacrifices. Yesterday, many of our long time friends (most are not parents) spent what sounds like an exceptionally fun day at Disneyland. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading the various reports from and about their day. Six years ago, I’m pretty sure my wife and I would have been there as well and it sounds like we would have had a great time. Andy’s birthday party is absolutely where I wanted to be yesterday, though.