I was having a conversation with Eitan the other day when I realized it.
I don’t even remember what we were talking about. It could have been about something that happened at school or one of his new favorite television show characters or our upcoming move to a new apartment.1 It could have been about his train tracks or his stuffed animals or about him singing one of his two new favorite songs, Etz Chayim (The Tree of Life) and The Beatles’ “Love Me Do.”
The truth is that it doesn’t really matter what we were talking about.
The point is that we were talking. We were having a real, actual conversation. I made a statement and Eitan responded and then I spoke again. Apparently we had left the days of interrogations behind and I had somehow missed it. Suddenly, I was sitting with a real person with real thoughts and ideas. Eitan wasn’t quoting Nietzche or commenting on the current state of American politics but he was thinking about situations, forming opinions and listening to my comments. Somewhere along the line I turned my back for a moment and Eitan became a real person.
I’ve been anticipating this day with both excitement and dread since before Eitan was born. I would think that every parent looks forward to the day when they can have the kind of conversation with their child that doesn’t involve asking a thousand questions in order to find out two small pieces of information. On the other hand, Eitan being able to form opinions means being able to decide that he doesn’t want to do something and explaining why, which means I’m quickly approaching the day when “Because I said so!” will no longer hold any weight.2
More importantly, though, is the fact that Eitan has a terrific grasp on the events unfolding around him. He can make associations – “Your name is Alex? There’s an Alex in the office at my school!” – and comparisons – “These cookies aren’t as big as the cookies at the bakery by Rara’s house.” He knows his role in contributing at home and he is constantly looking for ways to help out.3 He gets excited about assisting and is genuinely angry when there are no opportunities for him to pitch in. Annoying as it can be, at times, it’s a nice quality for him to have.
Trudy and I are looking forward to capitalizing on that quality when the new baby arrives.
Yes, Trudy is pregnant. She’s due in May, which means that by the time my birthday comes, we’ll be eyeballs deep in diapers, onesies and laundry once again. It’s also the biggest reason why we had to make sure we moved into an apartment with more space. Our one-bedroom place was spacious enough for the two of us and we made do with Eitan in our bedroom for three and a half years, believe it or not. But we had reached our limits, both in terms of ways that we could keep the space relatively organized and in terms of physical locations for Eitan’s toys. The new place has lots of space in the living room, a separate dining area and Eitan has his own room.4
It’s kind of hard to tell who’s more excited between Eitan, Trudy and me. Trudy and I are obviously thrilled to be having another baby, although I wonder if Trudy is looking forward more to being a mom again or just not having someone tap dancing on her bladder all day and night. I’m just excited to be a dad again, in general, though I feel a bit less jittery this time around. I’m hoping caring for an infant is sort of like riding a bike in that it’s not something you ever really forget once you learn how to do it. I’m sure there will be bumps here and there (including various sights, smells and stains), but I feel like it has to be a little easier the second time.
All that being said, Eitan is probably more excited than either of us. He keeps talking about how he’s going to help feed, change and bathe the baby and how he’s going to share his toys. We’ll see how long that lasts, obviously, especially once he realizes that the baby is encroaching on his territory, but Trudy and I are both pretty confident that he’ll get acclimated to the new arrival fairly smoothly. We’ve been talking with him about how things will be changing and what he can expect once the baby is here. He’s also handled all the other transitions in his life like a pro, from starting preschool to flying literally across the world to Singapore to moving into a new home, so we’re expecting more of the same from him.
It’s been a bit difficult really grasping the idea that we have a new baby coming, but most of that has to do with us being so busy that we haven’t had much time to really think about it. Now that we’re settled into the new place, though, it’s becoming a bit more real. At this point, we’re all just getting ready for the next part of the adventure.
1. We actually moved into our new place last week, but we hadn’t moved yet when this conversation happened.↩
2. On the other hand, “Because I said so” is a crutch phrase that parents rely on too often as it is. Toddlers may not have quite the same reasoning skills as adolescents but they can still sniff out poor justifications for doing things. If you can’t come up with a better reason than citing your position of authority, it may be worth questioning whether the argument is worth having in the first place.↩
3. If you consider yourself a patient person, the ultimate test is allowing a toddler to help you with household chores. See just how patient you are when your child is folding laundry or using five scrubbing brushes to clean the toilet.↩
4.That won’t last too long, since the plan is for the new baby to eventually join Eitan in his room, but he’ll be on his own for a little while.↩