D is for Developing

This is how I say "cheese" for the camera

That goofy faced kiddo right there; I really want him to morph into a civilized being over the course of the next seventeen years. Right now, I'm totally cool with the running around wearing nothing but shoes and the shoveling ketchup into his mouth using only his fingers and laughing every time someone farts.

But someday, in the future, I'd really like him to listen when I tell him not to do something. I'd like him to eat an entire meal while seated at any form of table, possibly even using utensils. I'd like him to understand that the world at large does not, in fact, revolve around his wants and needs. I'd like him to respect others. I'd like him to learn to empathize with people who aren't exactly the same as him. I'd like him to grow up and develop into a good human being.

And sometimes I feel like I'm failing him. I feel like my example is not good or consistent enough. I feel like the way I'm doing things is detrimental to his development. Some days I'm just too worn down to do the right thing with him. I let a couple things slip, an empty threat or two go unfulfilled. It's a slippery slope that I'm really trying to gain traction on.

For example, that whole sitting at the table thing; I'm worried it might never happen. Because he gets up and down, up and down, up and down and wants to do a million different things while chewing up a mouthful of food. If I make him sit down, he screams and doesn't eat. So I let it slide most days. I think I'll do it tomorrow, but then tomorrow comes, and it's the same old story.

The consistency, it's hard. The time outs that need to be more than empty threats; they're a lot more draining on me than him. And when I let things fall through the cracks I'm always worried that it's going to have a huge impact on his development.That he's going to become a total terror because I let him push the boundaries an inch too far.

But then there are the other things, the things that are even harder to teach. The consistent kindness with words that I always strive for but often fall short with. A gentle touch with nature and animals and others, a gentleness born from respect. Compassion for the weak and downtrodden. Sympathy and empathy and love. These are the characteristics I really want to see him develop, and they are things that can only be learned from example. It weighs heavy on my heart. At times I feel unprepared to fill such important shoes. But the weight of that responsibility makes me want to be better. Because I have to be. For him.

In a time of frequent tantrums and lots of hitting and throwing of food, it's sometimes difficult to see how he'll ever develop into a fully functioning person. I know these phases are all a part of his development, it's not that. It's the fact that his future is so malleable right now that it's hard to imagine the person he might become. But then I watch him pet the dog and tell him he's a good Odie. I see his face fall when he thinks he has broken something; crying "oh no" until I tell him it's all right. I watch him hand a toy to baby Cora; I see him make faces to get her to laugh. I watch him snuggle his teddy bear and give him a kiss before tucking him beneath a blanket. I see kindness, gentleness, compassion, love.

So maybe I'm not doing everything perfect. Maybe a few things will fall by the wayside. But when I witness those quiet moments with him - when I see the goodness of his heart - a bit of that doubt I feel within myself vanishes. I know he's going to be the kind of man I'll be proud of. Because in some ways, he already is.