Growth. It’s a damn funny thing. Most of the time, if you pay attention to the signals, you can see it happening right in front of you. The markers are pretty obvious.

Dates on a calendar are easy to track. Birthdays happen every year. The start of a new grade in a new school year is another easy date for parents to process. It’s right there in front of you on the calendar. You see the date coming.

Pencil marks on the molding in the laundry room doorway are another good one for parents to comprehend. They’re linear, simple, numeric. Best part is, they’re usually done at the parent’s insistence to satisfy their own curiosity, so they’re easy to embrace.

Clothes are a pretty good indicator too. Again, simple, logical, numeric marking an organic progression over time. But you have to watch out, clothes can be sneaky.

Because one day your kid turns 10. You buy him a new pair of shoes and your wife discovers that if she curls her toes she can get her feet inside those new kicks! Now that just became a what the hell moment for her and it can be tough to process.

Then it’s Easter morning. We’re getting dressed for Sunday brunch. I reach to straighten the neck tie you tied yourself and my brain about explodes inside my head. It’s in that moment that I realize I’m kneeling on the floor looking UP into my son’s eyes as we speak! When the hell did he get THIS big? Exactly WHEN did he become this young man? For that matter when did he go from wearing clip on and zip up neck ties to tying his own damn neck ties?!  How did I miss these clues.

I’ve spent the better part of the day thinking about this. There were other clues along the way. If I’d been paying attention, I might have seen them.

I didn’t think much of it when you chose dance over baseball this Spring. We never talked about the why. But Dad’s not totally clueless…now. I see the stink eye you give me when I dare to watch the class through the window. THAT’S when it hit me. Why run around getting sweaty on a ball field with your Dad and 12 other guys when you can take dance on Saturday mornings and be the only young man in a room otherwise entirely populated by young ladies?

Another clue is the way you naturally assumed the role of ‘eyes’ for Poppi when we take him grocery shopping on weekends while Oma can’t drive. No one asked you to guide his shopping cart, check his lists and help him find the brands he likes. You do it because you know reading labels is really tough for Poppi and I’ve got my hands full keeping your little sister out of trouble while shopping for our house. You just stepped up and took on the role.

If I’d been paying attention along the way, maybe this morning wouldn’t have come as such a surprise. But it did. Seeing you looking down at me smiling, allowing me a glimpse of the man you may one day become was a thunderbolt, son. It was a revelation and I’m in awe of what I saw.

I love you, Caleb.

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