A few days ago, my wife started laughing, and I looked up to see my 15-month-old trying to slip his chubby little feet into my size 13 dress shoes. They didn’t fit. I laughed. He laughed. I picked him up and gave him a kiss.
A few minutes go by before he toddles up to me again.
“Baby!” he says, offering me a fuzzy brown blanket.
“Okay, son, let’s play Baby.”
Baby is a game we play that his mama taught him the rules to shortly after he was born. Basically, Baby involves us wrapping him in a towel or a blanket and holding him tight while rocking him back and forth. He always gets this serene and peaceful look in his eyes that spreads across his face. He loves being cuddled and being our little baby.
The game Baby is one of the cutest things our little man does. But there’s this certain nostalgic wistful sadness that fills me up when we play this game. Because in these moments, he truly is just pretending to be a helpless little baby. But in fact, he’s not. Our little boy is growing and changing quickly. Each new month he learns new words and gets stronger and bigger. And as his father, this is everything that’s good and right. I’m so grateful to have my boy growing and experiencing life. But yet there’s this sadness in recognizing that the road of life is a one-way street and that each milestone represents a beautiful stretch of his life that I’ll never be able to relive.
When my son pretends to be a helpless baby, he is pretending to be something he no longer is. He’s going back to a simpler time. And it’s easy and comfortable going back for a little boy who is experiencing so much change so quickly. While his growth is rapid for me and his mom, it must be exponentially more so for him, where each month that passes is a huge percentage of his life relative to my own where each month is a smaller and smaller percentage.
When I look back on my own life and think about different seasons, there’s been times where I desperately wanted to go back to when things were simpler and less complicated. Sometimes it would be nice to be picked up and wrapped in a warm towel and told everything is going to be okay. Or, forget the warm towel, I’d take a trip back to high school, when the most pressing issue was whether or not my hair gel made my hair look greasy or deciding which deodorant scent gave the most mysterious vibe.
But yet when I think back to high school, I was so excited to be done and ready to move on to college. I couldn’t wait for the next season in life. And, when I look back before high school, I couldn’t wait to go to high school. And, if you could go back far enough, you’d find me wearing my dad’s dress shoes as a 15-month old, feeling all big and proud of myself to stumble around with those shoes I’d seen my dad come home from work in. I probably didn’t even know what work was at the time, but I wanted to go.
And now here I am on a business trip at a Holiday Inn, wearing black dress shoes, not unlike the ones I used to toddle around in as a baby. I’ve grown into them now.
When I watch my son switch between trying to be a big boy and wearing my dress shoes and desperately pretending to be an infant, I can’t help but see a little bit of myself, torn between past and future. But if I could tell my son anything, it would be to be content with his little chubby feet in his chubby baby sandals. There’s no need to rush this. And there’s no need to go back. My son, be where you are now just as you are.
Maybe, one day, I’ll take my own advice.