Clinging to my shoulders and arms, standing upright, as he’s wont to do these days, my nine-month-old son has taken to treating me like his very own Daddy jungle gym.
Cooing, and usually with drool dripping from the corner of his mouth and chin, the boy tests his limits. I’ll scoop him onto my lap and hold him upright. He grabs at my shirt to maintain his balance and bends his knees, bouncing and wobbling every which way.
Other, more advanced obstacles grab his attention. No longer content to climb about Dad’s lap, “OB,” as his friends have taken to calling him, seems to have set his sights recently on the top of the couch, and higher still, a nearby lampshade.
He reaches for the couch’s arm, steadying himself with both hands and the look in his eye signals that he wants to conquer this couch and mount the lampshade, which mocks him from its lofty perch atop the lamp, resting on a side table next to our sofa.
I’ll never tell him he can’t accomplish something to which he sets his mind, and that may well be the only lesson I’ve learned in this nine-month foray into parenting.
That, and, to stand to one side during diaper changes.
Instead, I think I consider it my job to watch from a close distance, intervening only if/when necessary.
As OB further hones his motor skills and attempts to tackle greater challenges relating to matters climbing, it’s not up to his parents to tell him a distance is too great to climb. Rather, our task is to keep him from imminent danger, and comfort him when he falls.
This thought arrived as a bizarre epiphany when I realized just how much I told him he couldn’t do this or that.
“No buddy, you can’t do that,” I’d tell him. “That’s too big for you yet.”
He’d look at me; his face told his thoughts: “So says you.”
As the end of the year draws nigh, it is customary to reflect on all those things for which we are grateful.
Topping the list this year for me and my wife is the continued health and development of our son. Sleepless nights suddenly aren’t quite as exhausting upon the sound of the boy’s chuckle or as he rattles off a string of consonants and clicks recognizable only to him.
We’re also grateful for the mostly trial-and-error lessons we’ve learned along the way, such as not limiting OB’s potential by telling him he’s too little to do something.
Just as I start to wrap my brain around the concept of empowering our son, my wife dropped another bombshell on me: We’re expecting another child this summer.
A Christmas miracle, indeed.
Nate Smith is an Examiner Staff Writer who can’t wait to watch his son this Christmas crinkle and tear at wrapping paper and try to climb accompanying cardboard boxes. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.