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Our son is now nineteen months old.

Emily and I are often tired due to the demands that Charley places upon us. And yet, we’re not ready to part with this stage of his life. It’s a sweet, comforting exhaustion to parent the little beast, so full of wonder, constantly hungry both physically and mentally.

There are new adventures each day, Charley discovering himself and his abilities, unwrapping the gift of life with intrigue and excitement. New discoveries can be fun, such as learning to walk, to catch a ball, to climb on any and every climbable object. And other experiences are painful, such as fresh teeth poking through tender gums, causing agony for our little human. He’s also learning to deal with his frustrations, such as a toy that won’t do what he wants it to, or the travesty of dinner not being ready when he is. Mom and dad are learning too, like how we need to cherish the harder moments just as we do the easy ones.

One recent morning while the three of us were sitting together, adjusting our sleepy eyes to a new day, Charley crawled into my lap, and pressed his head into my chest for what I am certain is the best hug he’s ever given me. These moments are elusive, maybe having to do with our common gender and his propensity for independent behavior. Regardless, it was as though he wanted to reassure me that everything was okay. In his own little way, he reminds us that he needs us, and how glad he is that we are the ones he needs, and not some other strange adult couple.

While I’m at the computer later that morning, Charley enters the office with a small rubber basketball, an eager smile on his face. It’s time to play, Daddy — Daddy being the only intelligible word, the rest a messy arrangement of babbles.

I open the front door, and before I head off for work, I turn back to look at him and see that his expression seems to be asking, isn’t it time to play again?

He awakens from a mid-afternoon nap, frustrated that he’s recently lost his Elephant WubbaNub. But soon it will be time to play again.

He finishes dinner and motions with his hands, then makes a verbal attempt at “all done,” because of course, it’s time to play again.

Charley keeps us busy, instructing us almost forcibly as to the best use of our time. Somehow, through all of it, we lose track of every minute, hour, and day. There are moments when our bodies beg for night time, so they can recover at long last. And how we crave vacations, the freedom they bring from routine and work and stress and busyness.

But time can be cruel, it’s judgment against us as emotionless as a hangman. While everything is happening, the present is becoming history, and Charley is growing older. We’re locked into a tug-of-war, his needs taking one side of the rope while our needs grip the other with timidity. Time is the rope, and Charley’s side always wins.

And so, it’s another new day, another early morning, and Charley is ready to be freed from his toddler prison. We pay his bail, and bring him out to the world again. He slurps a packet of fruit and vegetable goo, tolerates a diaper change, and then, of course, it’s time to play again.

Our son is now twenty months old.