Seven months ago, Elisa and I welcomed this little gent into our lives, but he was still a completely new person that we have to get to know. All the quirks, smirks, and cries translate into everything from “I’m hungry and tired” to “No really, I would much prefer you hold me until I get this burp out of my system.” Each of those first 200 days, we had to learn something new from Benjamin and develop renewed patterns to care for his growing self; a parental task that will never be fully complete. In my limited knowledge as a new parent, I think we’ve gotten fairly good at discerning these needs from a tiny baby boy who can’t just send a text from the other room to inform us that his diaper is more ripe than even he would care to admit. Some of these needs are now routine and mundane enough that we’ve developed daily rhythms as a family and continually learn from each other through sound, touch, and expression.
Last month, Elisa and I celebrated our third wedding anniversary and Benjamin’s half birthday. What a journey! I recently thumbed through the old photos, allowing a flood of lovely memories to surface. We both have overwhelming gratitude for the family and community that has surrounded us each step of the way. Back in 2011, I penned the following in our wedding program:
Today our hearts are filled to overflowing and our lives are forever changed. You are the people that made this day possible. You are the people that encouraged us along the way to get here… We thank God for all the ways you lead by example, watch us as we grow, and hold us warmly in your arms.
That statement couldn’t be more true three years ago and its sentiment continues to be foundational in our home: we are raising Benjamin with all the support and love of the amazing people around us. It takes many hands, many hopes, many dreams to build and grow a family.
As Elisa and I settle into a newfound pace (dare I say routine?) and get our heads above water, we’re afforded the chance to really appreciate the outsized personality that our little guy is revealing these days. Benjamin is blessed with a pleasant demeanor and cheerful disposition (except when he’s overtired, teething, or congested).
For example, he wakes himself up in the morning and happily chatters to himself, carrying on full conversations with his best pal Grover who sleeps in the crib at his side. When I go check on him, my sweet boy is rolling around on his belly in his fuzzy pajamas (hiding a full diaper), feet tucked underneath, and his arms outstretched in front of him, like an Olympic sprinter waiting for the shotgun. And in the last couple of weeks, he’s figured out how to pull himself up and stand there bouncing in his crib, as if he was ready to jump out and start a race. He greets me with a bright flash of a smile, eyes wide and twinkling, and a gurgling sound of surprise and joy emanating from his tiny person. (“Oh there you are, Daddy! I was wondering if it was time to play!”) We snuggle together whispering about his dreams and plans for the day ahead, his head tucked under mine and a little hand softly inspecting the texture of my shirt. My beard tickles him behind the ear and he lets out little melodious giggle that gives way to a full-out belly laugh the more I nuzzle his neck. There’s no better way to start the day, hands-down.
“Oh there you are, Daddy! I was wondering if it was time to play!”
Aside from his looks, which vary from being “just like his Mommy” to “the spitting image of his Daddy,” depending on which neighbor, church friend, or retired lady on the train offers a compliment, Benjamin takes on elements of both of us in his personality. He shares Elisa’s penchant for lighting up when you walk in the room, singing along to a song (with his own cute attempts to carry a “tune”), and the ability to expend every last bit of his energy before he crashes in epic fashion. He tends to be inquisitive and curious just like his Dad, craving moments to himself to recharge his social batteries, and prefers to be a bit subdued and more serious in public, reserving the opportunity to let loose and be wild and crazy in the comfort of home or around familiar faces.
When he really wants to, especially in the safety of Mommy and Daddy’s arms, Benjamin lives up to our nickname for him: Mister Giggles. Elisa and I recently introduced the concept of “peak-a-boo,” ducking behind a door or under the top of his crib, and popping up with a goofy face, much to his delight. And then, the other day he figured out that he could recreate the game himself. Now we can sit just out of view and he’ll slowly turn his head to the side until he sees us sitting there; peals of happy giggles ensue. I think he’d continue playing the game all day if he had the choice!
It’s truly remarkable to see these character traits begin to emerge in Benjamin: both the subtle gears churning inside his head and the blatant heart-on-his-sleeve emotional bursts. Sometimes it’s exactly like looking through a mirror at a miniature replica, and other times I find myself wondering, “who is this tiny wonder and where did he learn to do that?” Time will certainly tell. I’m so excited to have a front row seat to each little adventure and introduce the world to our sweet little guy!