The morning is a very busy time for me. I get up early to ride my bike so I can be back home in time to shower and get dressed before my twin 19 month-olds wake up. The morning provides some of the few moments I get with my children during the week – and it gives my wife a few precious extra minutes of sleep since she spends all day with them by herself.
But of course once they’re up I am still trying to eat my breakfast, get their milk and all the other things I need to do to get out of the house on time. So while it is special time, it can also be stressful time. Even after my wife wakes up, it is still pretty hectic because when she comes into the playroom, I usually rush off to take my vitamins and brush my teeth. After a minute or so I can usually see the face of my little boy looking up at me – he wants to watch Daddy.
I’m embarrassed to say my initial reaction to this was annoyance. I’m in a rush and am doing everything I can to get out of the house on time to catch my train and his presence impedes that process. You lose time and also lose what little privacy remains when you have two toddlers. If I just did what I had to do, I would find myself constantly trying to avoid tripping over him. If I picked him up and brought him to his mother, he would show up outside the bathroom door a minute later – depending on how long it took him to wriggle out of Mommy’s arms. That’s when it hit me. He’s not trying to be annoying; he’s trying to learn how to be just like Daddy, just like me.
So after kicking myself for being an idiot, I began to realize the potential. Here was my little boy, looking to me, fascinated with the things I did because he wants to be just like Daddy. I was overwhelmed by a combination of terror and joy. Elijah has no idea the mistakes I make every day, that I’m just an average guy making my way through life. And he doesn’t care whether I feel worthy enough to be his role model – it’s too late. I already am.
Now my morning routine is changing. When I take my vitamins, he wants to take his, too. After I finish brushing my teeth and rinse my mouth, I help him to rinse his mouth and wipe it with my towel. He absolutely loves it. After I brush my hair, he wants to do the same and walks around carrying this brush the size of his head trying to brush it. Utterly adorable. Not surprisingly, my relationship with Elijah has never felt stronger than it does now and it is in no small part because of the realization of what he was really doing.
I still wonder… does he understand on some level that I’m male and he is too, and that’s why he watches me so intently while my daughter doesn’t? What does he think about while he watches? Am I doing enough for him, enabling him to feel the same strong connection I now feel with him? I certainly hope so. I have learned, though, that there are times when it is better to ask fewer questions than more when it comes to being a parent. What I do know is, when I leave the room to brush my teeth, I look for him, waiting to hear the little patter of his feet, waiting to see his beautiful brown eyes staring up, hoping he will be right behind me.
Photo credit: István Turcsik
Originally published October 2007