On Jan. 29, 2013, Lindsey and I had the privilege of welcoming our first child into the world — Caloway Jesse Miller. And today that little boy turns one. To mark this occasion, I wanted to write about the last 365 days and what they’ve meant to me as a parent, a father, a husband, a son.
Because I’ll probably be crying through most of this, I’m just going to share my experiences being a parent to this magnificent boy in bullet point / random fire.
So here goes:
- The Absolute Best Days of My Life -- Each and every day we’ve had Caloway in our lives has been a miracle. Every second, every minute, every hour, every day is a gift to me. Although there has been a lack of sleep, some hard times, I count every day as a blessing. There was a time in my life I conceded that the door to having kiddos had closed permanently and thought I’d never have the opportunity. Only when I met Lindsey and found a lover and lifetime partner did I see any hope of ever having a child. So each day, I’ve sought to hold him tight and kiss his cheeks because he’s my little miracle and the best gift anyone could ever give me. I often look over at Lindsey as he’s plowing through our house or banging something or just looks over at us and smiles and just say, “Thank you for the best gift in the universe.” Everything I had to do or went through to get here … was worth it 100,000 times over again. Priceless.
- The most joy I’ve ever experienced – Along with that, having a child has been everything my father and others billed it to me as — The most joy I’ve ever felt. Seeing your baby smile at you for the first time, or giggle, or roll over, then crawl, then stand up are precious moments I’ll forever savor. When I pick him up and he snuggles his little head into my chest at night or when he rambles ‘da-da-da-da-da-da,” he is joy incarnate.
- The most pain I’ve ever experienced – When your baby hurts, you are tortured. I’ve never felt so helpless when seeing my child hurt or feel so much pain in my life as when we saw him taken away from us, for his hip surgery. So many times, we’ve said we’d take his pain for him, gladly, just to not see him hurt. I’ve realized and experienced the unconditional love of a parent. I would eagerly give my life for him. Every day. And if I had my way he would experience as little pain in this world as possible. (See our post on We Signed Up For This.)
- He has THE best mother ever – I knew Lindsey was my perfect mate and life partner. I knew and felt her immense love before Callie came into our lives. But 365 days ago, her Mama Bear awoke in her. And her entire being, her eyes, her smile, her actions radiate this mama love like none other. And I feel all the warm reverb of it all. When she holds her child and gazes at him adoringly, I feel loved too by extension. When she sacrifices her own comfort for his, I feel the radiance of that love and sacrifice and commitment. No one else could come close to loving this child as she does. I believe mothers are superheroes. Her energy, focus, protection, love and care for him is superhuman. I don’t know how she does it. He has the best mother ever. She is our rock, our north star, our mama bear. His eyes light up when he sees her in the morning and he literally jumps with joy. (And me too seeing how she loves our child.) There is no one like our little Mama Bear. (By the way, this boy is a REAL mama’s boy!)
- Slowing down and savoring each moment – I have a tendency to live in the future. To rush through and not savor what’s here right in front of me. Lindsey helped me slow down and to see each moment for what it is — something we’ll never have again with him. I told her early on I might not like this stage where he can’t talk to me, or go to the Lego store or play catch. But I was so so wrong. It’s a very tough time with lack of sleep some nights (and I’m just the part-time caregiver for him) but I want to burn each moment into my memory to play over for a lifetime. So I typically pick him up in the morning and feed him breakfast. And at night, I do his baths. Those have been such special times for me as I just stare in awe of this amazing little creature. In the mornings, we typically open the curtains, look out into the morning light and I whisper in his ear how much I love him, how I’ll always be with him (as he carries me into the world) and how he’s going to be a great man. I want him to hear my voice saying I love you over and over and over again. Believing in him and believing great things for him. These moments are priceless.
- One Smile Heals My Soul – His smiles melt me. They put my world back into rotation (or stop it). I live for those smiles. All my problems or worries just fade away in an instant. I can be intently focused on something then see that smile and forget it in an instance.
- You can run over me, but I’ll bulldoze you for my child – You can call me names, misplace my order and generally just push me around … but no one messes with my baby. I’ve always enjoyed being a nice guy. I like being liked by others. I like being pleasant and courteous and enjoyable to be around. But I am the force field of my child. I always start with charm. We tell them it’s FTP — “first-time parents” syndrome. And I smile and point to my adorable son. And that has typically worked 99% of the time (unless you encounter a heartless jerk who doesn’t realize he was an infant who cried and pooped too once). But I’ve realized I can also summon the Daddy Hulk to protect and ensure my child gets everything he deserves and more. In the hospital, I had this surreal realization when I could completely step outside of myself and my norms and be whatever was necessary to ensure he was well taken care of. I think Lindsey laughs a little at it inside, but also cherishes it and lets me do my daddy thing. I memorized all the names of his surgery team and knew their exact jobs. I quizzed them, restated things they told me for clarification (and testing) and ask a million more clarifying questions. Then I looked them all directly in the eye and made them promise they’d take care of him like their own. (Yeah, that’s call the Daddy Emotional Baseball Bat.) And when they didn’t call when they said they would, I went looking for them. No one messes with baby. If they do, they have a Daddy to deal with. And trust me, they’d rather deal with me, than an angry Mama Bear.
- He is MY teacher – I thought I would be the teacher, but he has taught me more. When he was in his cast, everyone felt so sorry for him and cried like we did. They ached for him. All the while, our little boy just smiled and laughed. He knew no difference. He only knew love and happiness and joy, even while trapped in an itchy cast from his chest to his ankles. This is when I realized he was MY teacher. I could have a bad day, get bent out of shape over something most likely very trivial and see him in that cast smiling and realize I was so dumb and naive and shallow. I was squandering my time and happiness on things that really didn’t matter. He’s taught me problems aren’t really problems, they are merely obstacles to blow through. He’s taught me about resilience, about obstacles and challenges, like none other. When he flipped over for the first time in his brace like an Olympic gymnast, I was soberly reminded there was nothing too big in life. And this is just the first 365 days. I’m looking forward to a lifetime and being taught by him.
- Learning is Failure. Failure is Learning. – One thing in particular he’s taught me is about learning and failing and trying. Seeing how he learns to do things is awe-inspiring. Watching him figure out clapping, or crawling, or standing and soon, walking, is so incredible. It’s continuous failure, continous learning. Each time he falls, he learns something new. He adds that to his experience vault and tries it again or adds something new to the vault. It’s so fascinating to me. Somehow we forget how we are supposed to learn. Sure, he gets upset when he can’t do something or falls down. But he’s relentless in getting right back up and trying again. Testing, experimenting, learning. He drops things and looks over the edge. (And of course expects us to pick it up.) He sees me pick up the TV remote and instantly looks at the TV. When we read to him he looks intently then sometimes back at us. Or just yesterday touched the book to feel the animals. I see this little sponge just taking it all in. It’s just reinforced and reminded me how we all learn … Try, fail, learn. Try, fail, learn. Try, fail, learn.
- Lindsey and I prioritize our marriage and relationship – Before we had Caloway, we promised ourselves we’d prioritize our relationship. We knew we’d have less time, energy and focus on each other and sought to put things in place to ensure we keep our love and relationship in tact. One of the key things was getting a babysitter/nanny and the other was spending time together, alone. So what we’ve done is travel extensively (with and without him), we take monthly getaways (like to Dallas a couple weekends ago) and bigger trips (like to Europe in a couple of weeks), and then each week we try to have a date night. I will say, I feel strongly about it, but Lindsey has led the way with all of this and I’m so thankful for it. We’ve said and believe that we want to have a lasting and loving relationship for us AND for him. We want to show him an authentic example of two imperfect people who simply love and care for each other. Who give preference and priority to each other. Who sacrifice for each other. Who have their unique faults and strengths. Yet are deeply committed to each other. And of course we realize at some point, he’s going to move out and start his own journey in life, without us. (Insert tears and weeping here)
- Poop – I’ll change the tune a minute and just say POOP. There is a lot of it. Had no idea how much but all the stories were true and not exaggerated in the least. I could go on …. but I’ll spare you.
- Understanding my parents and grandparents better – After 37 years, my grandfather still kisses me on the cheek. Now I understand why. I love those little Caloway cheeks and can’t help but kiss them. (And people tell me he’s my little mini-me.) I also understand a mother’s love and a father’s love so much better now. Moms give so much (in particular of their bodies God bless them, but their energy and time and hearts and souls). They dream and want so much for their children. I have a better understanding of a mama’s love for her children. It’s very very special and unique. And sharing these times with my parents and grandparents has been so amazing and special in its own right. Seeing my mother and my father hold my child for the first time makes my heart well up in pride and love every time I think of it. And of course I get a father’s love now. (Reference this entire post for my thoughts on that.)
- My Daddy Bucket List – I started a different version of the Bucket List when Cal was born — one with all of the things I want to do and experience with him — like seeing the Northern Lights or watching Spaceballs to see if he laughs like I do. I don’t ever want to force him to do things he doesn’t want to do or enjoy doing. But I want to introduce him to things to see if he likes them or not. I want him to be open to trying new things at least once (the positive kind of stuff of course). I told Lindsey my greatest joy is thinking about his first reactions and hearing his thoughts about them, like watching a hockey game (I’m not a hockey fan really but want to know his opinions about it), voting in an election, or seeing a falling star.
- BBFs or Best Buddies Forever – That’s one of my new supreme goals and chief aims in life. I just want to be his buddy. If he’ll let me, I’ll learn and enjoy whatever hobby or sport or passion he loves. Promise. My brothers tease me about teaching him to hunt because they are avid hunters. I never got into hunting. My only enjoyment when hunting was spending time with them and my father. But if Cal decides he loves hunting, you better believe I’ll learn to enjoy it … I’d wake up before the sun comes up and freezes my tush off in a stand alongside him if that’s what he wants … all because I just want to spend moments and have experiences with him. I’ll carry the equipment. I’ll be his biggest fan. Cal, I promise to be the least obnoxious hunter I can be if that’s what you choose. And just love and support you even if your uncles brainwash you, buddy. #pals
- What We Want To Impart To Him – We talk a lot about his education and what we want to give and impart to him so he has the best chance to live a long, healthy, joyful life fulfilling all of his big dreams and goals. We’re still formulating the formal education plan. But our goal is to help him embrace and tackle challenges boldly on his own, be a creative problem solver, start and maintain healthy relationships and define and achieve success for himself.
- Finally, I added a new item to my Bucket List – I want grandchildren. Sorry, Cal. Pressure is on. Welcome to the party, buddy.
Those are just some of the things overflowing in my heart as I reflect on the miracle named Caloway …
To him, my buddy, I say, thank you for the best 365 days of my life. Here’s to many many more joyful days together.
With love, your adoring goofy father, Cory