Chris Hunt recalls the day he looked at his naked, spatula-wielding two-year-old son and realized he had finally found his confidence as a father.
I had an epiphany the other day.
I was, as is usually the case when one has a major revelation, in the bathroom. I was brushing my teeth when my son kicked open the door.
He was naked, except for socks, and he was brandishing the remote control for the TV in one hand, and a spatula in the other. And he was smiling, as though I should know why he was there, why he was carrying household sundries the way Conan carried swords and why he had to do all of that naked.
“Riley …” I began, but that was as far as I got. He squealed, did this zany tap dance thing, and haphazardly scurried from the room.
I followed him into the living room, chuckling softly. Our main closet is set in a shallow alcove. He was hiding in this recess, though his head poked out from behind the wall.
When he saw me coming, he spit out a shrill laugh and whipped his head back behind the wall. That’s his game, is it? Hide and seek.
So I played it up. I walked about slowly and loudly in the living room. I talked to myself.
“Hmmm,” I said, my finger tapping my lips as I walked. “Where could Riley be? Is he … UNDER HERE?” I lifted his favourite tiny arm chair and held it over my head.
“Nope … not there. Gosh, he’s a good hider.” He started squealing the moment I touched the chair, and he didn’t stop until I “found” him. I “searched” the entire living room, save for the area by the closet. Finally, I pretended to give up.
“Hmmm … he must be in his bedroom!” When I started walking down the hall I heard his tiny voice, pregnant with broken consonants and perforated with whispery pauses, “Noo … ooo … waa.” He doesn’t really get hide-and-seek yet.
So I followed his happy laugh and “found” him. He was so excited, he ran at me and tried to jump into my arms. Of course he didn’t tell me this, so what actually happened was he used his forehead to spear my knee. He rubbed his head, “Owwiee!” And then he laughed. I picked him up to hug him. He wiped his nose on my collar and then told me by way of trying to squirm out of my grasp that he wanted down.
So I put him down and watched as he walked toward his little chair. He dropped the remote on the floor, put his finger to his lips and said quietly, “Hmmm.”
And then he tries to lift it.
It was then, looking at my two-year-old, naked, spatula-wielding son, I realized I wasn’t afraid anymore.
Regular readers of this column might remember I frequently wrote about the anxiety I felt about being a dad. Tension was a constant companion for me. I was worried I wouldn’t be a good father, worried I’d be lazy, negligent, indifferent, or even resentful.
When he was around one, I stopped reading newspapers. Bad news involving children would not only keep me up nights, it’d also haunt me during the living day. It still does, in fact. The story of the little girl who was lost overnight on a cornfield in southern Ontario brought me to tears, both when I heard she was lost, and again when she was found the next day. She was around Riley’s age, I thought to myself. What if it were him lost overnight? Those sorts of thoughts, they linger in the cruelest possible way.
Heck, a few months ago I wouldn’t have let him be alone in any room at home.
Somewhere along the way, I guess I stopped worrying. I can’t tell you when, or even why, but I stopped letting those everyday fears rule my life. And then I started enjoying him. Watching him evolve and learn, watching him develop his own unique and buoyant personality has been a gift.
It was a transition, I guess, from being afraid of being a dad, to actually becoming a dad.
He saw me watching him, stood up, waved the spatula at me and gushed, “Dadda, hum.” Daddy, come.
And of course I went, happy just to be happy with him. In fact, the only thought lingering in my mind was, “Where the heck are his pants?”