You are an amazing, wonderful, funny, sometimes psychotic, other times love magnetic, absolute honor-to-be-your-dad kind of kid.
There is so much I love about you. Your personality has exploded in the past few months. You love your family, and your dog. You will walk up to Rogue and tuck your head into him, just like you do your favorite characters in “Everything is Mama.” You love your dad. My favorite way to start the day is when your brother is still asleep, you and me get up early, come downstairs, I pour you a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios, and you sit on my lap and we have a snack. It doesn’t matter what’s on — Mickey or sports — you’re happy to be there with me as much as I am with you.
You’re exploring your voice, too. You grunt, yell, change inflection, learn, forget, learn again. You babble. With your Mima, you ramble but with changing sounds and tones and it’s like you’re just chatting with an old friend. Your laugh fills up the room. Your cries also fill up the room, but that’s another post.
You’re playful. You cheers like the world is ending and you dance when you see your mom dance. You fit into our family so perfectly and I can already see a day when you’re your brother’s age now, and you’re going to be so different in so many ways. But there are going to be things that stay constant with you, too. I love your heart, your passion, your presence, your joy, and the way you look; asleep in the monitor.
No matter what our life looks like in the future, I will love you through the bad times, celebrate you through the good times, and awe in the boy you’re becoming.
As I write this, we are about 12 days away from your first birthday. It’s crazy to think about all the stages of this past year. But just so you have something to reference, here they are:
STAGE 1: ‘So this is what all those sounds I heard from in there is all about’ stage
STAGE 2: ‘I understand sleeping, but I refuse’ stage
STAGE 3: ‘The hold me and bounce me or else’ stage
STAGE 4: “OK I’ll sleep at night, but all bets are off during the day’ stage
STAGE 5: ‘The hold me and bounce me or else — part 2’ stage
STAGE 6: ‘So these teeth are coming soon? Well, then everything hurts’ stage
STAGE 7: ‘Hey look I can crawl! But I still need you to hold me and bounce me or else’ stage
STAGE 8: ‘I’m on the carb-only diet, TYVM’ stage
So that is about it. I was going to elaborate on each of these a bit, but I think it is pretty well understood what was going on during each of those stages just by the titles. At the end of the day, the important thing is that through all the holding, chasing you around the house, and angry meal time screaming because we’re trying to get you to eat something other than Ritz crackers, your mom and I kind of like you.
As a second child, it’s really hard not to naturally compare you to Reagan. I want to describe your looks, temperament, personality, etc. to the way Reagan was when he was your age. But I realize that as you look back and read this, that isn’t really fair to you. You’re your own person and while some things might be very similar, they are inherently yours.
You’re very much a monkey-see-monkey-do kind of kid. Maybe it’s ironic that I call you “monkey.” But you love doing a voice, waiting for me to do the same voice back to you, and then doing it again. There is a game we play (usually when I’m changing you or getting you ready for a bath) where I’ll look away and wait for you to make a noise. As soon as you do, I’ll whip my head around to face you and you will just gut-laugh. Your laugh is one of my favorite things in the world. I will I could save it on my phone and play it on repeat all day long.
Another thing about you is that while you just started crawling not too long ago, it almost seems like you’re over it and ready to walk. You love pulling yourself up on furniture or toys and using those things to move around the room or around the house. I’m always nervous when you’re on the hard floor that the toy is going to move a little faster than you, and you’ll faceplant into the floor. So, you usually ask that I follow you around and make sure that doesn’t happen. (When we’re on the carpet, go nuts! I’ll be over here).
We’ve been on a few runs together, too. I don’t think we’ve done a 1-on-1 run yet, but you mostly enjoy going in the double stroller with me and Reagan. I’m glad we have a good running double stroller, but even still, you two are NOT easy to push on that thing. Actually, the pushing isn’t the hard part, it’s the maneuvering. There is a little bit of a wheelie-and-pivot thing going on and it is a momentum-killer. I’d say you enjoy our runs for about 85% of the time. But, if we stay out too long, you let us know about it. There was one time you had enough and we were about 2 miles from home. I think I broke some course records getting us all back, all the while talking you down and explaining to Reagan that it was really hard to keep a conversation about trains with everything else going on in those 15 minutes (he is such a talker during our runs!).
Right now in our lives, there are a lot of bad things happening to the people we love around us. I don’t think this is the right place to talk about it, but ask me in a few years and I’ll let you know what was going on. But with so much out of my control that happens in this world, I am so thankful that you are healthy, more-or-less happy, and (along with your brother) bring me so much joy. I know all of that can change in a minute, but I want to acknowledge you now and pray that continues throughout your life.
I love that you are the one that completed our family. Your mom is great about getting pictures of you and your brother (and dog Rogue) up all around the house. And as I’m sitting here now, watching you sleep on your monitor, I’m looking at pictures of all the places we’ve been in such a short time and I am so happy to have all these great memories with you. I was running by myself this morning and thinking about the cicadas that took over earlier in the spring, and how it will be another 17 years before they come back — you’ll be almost 18 the next time they come back and won’t have any idea what these things are or how they got here. But I’ll think about this first year of your life and how crazy of a time it was for our family.
So cheers to a wild first ride around the sun, and cheers to a lifetime of new memories that we’ll look back on one day and cherish forever.
I think I’ve said it before, but it’s worth saying again — sometimes I want to write to just one child. Part of me feels like I’ve written to Reagan for two years before having a chance to write to you, so there is some making up I need to do. In either case, I want to write to you because I want you to know how special you are to me, your mom, Reagan, and our family. (Not to mention, your grandparents and just about anyone else who meets you).
Your mom sometimes calls you a COVID baby — I’m hoping by the time you read this, that won’t make any sense to you. But because you were born in 2020, the sad truth is that your birth year will also be remembered as the year that COVID-19 – aka “coronavirus” — took over the world. This was a time when everyone was forced to stay indoors and away from people. Because of that, you haven’t been acclimated to the world the way a normal baby would the first year of his life.
Despite the struggle to find normalcy this past year, you’ve been such a bright spot for me. Sure, the lack of sleep didn’t earn you many brownie points with me or your mom, but you’re starting to get the hang of it and we’re actually starting to get some sleep at night (you + your mom and me). You getting a good night’s sleep I think has made you a happier baby throughout the day, and that is just a good thing for everyone.
Right now as I write this, you’re 7 months old. Its hard to say the things you like and don’t like, because you’re still figuring out this whole world-thing, but I think there are a few things that make you more happy than others.
Being carried — especially in this “strap-you-to-my-chest-facing-out” thing I wear. When nothing else works, I strap you up and we just walk around the house.
Baths – your mom is usually the one who gives you baths, but the amount of Instagram videos or pics there are of you, naked-butt, being held by your mom getting selfies in the bathroom mirror before your bath is borderline concerning — but it is super-cute and you eat it up so I love it too.
Bouncing- whether it’s in your bouncer or being held under your armpits and just hopping on my stomach, you like to jump.
Raspberries – aka the thing when you get your belly blown on and it makes the big fart sound.
Waking up from naps and seeing your mom or me – you are kind of startled, but as soon as you pick up on what’s happening, you get the biggest smile.
Your blanket — Reagan calls his “Mel” because it’s shaped like a giraffe and we named him after the character in Madagascar. Your looks like a lion, so we tried to name him “Alex” or “Al,” but we’ll see if that sticks.
I just want you to know I’m super excited to be your dad. We have moments like tonight where you and Reagan got up at the same time, so I got you out of bed and we went into Reagan’s room where your mom and he were sitting in his bed. I laid you down next to Reagan and we had a family moment and it just made me really happy. This is just a tiny taste of what the next 15-20 years will look like as a family, and I can’t wait for all the moments — both little and big — to happen.
In the meantime, I just want you to be happy. Keep on figuring this sleep thing out, then we can work on crawling, popping some teeth out, and turning you into the happiest, healthiest, perfectest little person there is. Your mom and I are so thankful to have you complete our family, and we both love you so very very much.
Now the thing about being a parent is that you’re unable to choose which child is your favorite. With that being said, if favorite child status were based on sleep — which it isn’t — then Reagan would be far and away the favorite.
Now I’ll say this: Reagan, you weren’t the poster boy for sleep when you were a newborn either, but your mom and I have been trying to go back in our minds and remember when it clicked and you became the great sleeper that you are today. It’s very possible that it could be later than where Koen is at now, and our brains just refuse to go back to that place.
I’ll also say this: I’m writing this to you boys the day after Koen decided at 3:45am that he was going to pull an all nighter on your mom and I, so there may be some level of bias in these words. Now three hour sessions like last night aren’t the norm, but they are more common than the “wake up once, take a quick bottle, and clock out” kind of nights that we’ve seen from you.
Sleep is a funny thing. When you’re young like you boys are, you sleep all the time. I guess a lot of brain development happens when you sleep, which could explain why you’re a genius, Reagan. I can count on one hand the amount of times you haven’t slept through the night in the past two years.
As you grow into your childhood, sleep becomes something you almost resent. You don’t want to go to bed, try to stay up as late as you can, and generally have enough energy in the mornings to carry you through the day without ever really feeling tired. Then you become a teenager, and you start to appreciate morning sleep like you didn’t when you were a kid. I remember Sundays when I was a teenager and didn’t have baseball practice, I would try to sleep in until noon if my mom would let me. Then college comes and noon is an early day on a weekend.
But as you get older still, and the teen years and college are in the rearview, sleep starts to become something you, dare I say, look forward to. It doesn’t happen right away. You’ll find yourself in your mid-20’s, and midnight hits a little differently than it did a few years ago. You might have Orange Theory in mind for the (not-too-early) morning and decide to bypass that last drink in lieu of getting to bed at a “reasonable” hour.
Now you’re in your late-20’s or early 30’s, and bedtime is kind of the “event” of the evening. Like, you’ll go out to dinner and get a drink with friends at 7 so that you can be home, flossed up and in bed by 9pm on a Friday — big win! If you get a workout in on the weekend, better believe you’re going to at least get an hour on the couch while football is on TV (or Bravo for your mom).
Then come kids and that thing you’ve grown to love, that sweet sweet sleep…. just goes away. Baby naps are inconsistent at best, and parents never really get restful sleep at night in between feedings because the tiniest little movement or sound that comes out of your mouth gets a full sit-up and monitor check from both parents.
Parents make jokes about “going on vacation” to a hotel where they just go to bed early and sleep in. There’s a reason that these jokes hit home with anyone who has lived with a baby for more than a few days.
Listen, I love you both and I’m just venting because your mom and I are in the thick of it right now. I’m sure that, Koen, sooner or later, you’ll figure this sleep thing out and then your mom and I can count on at least a few good hours each night, which would be super fun. But until then, just keep being healthy, hitting us with those 3am smiles that make staying up with you a little bit easier, and we’ll all figure this thing out together.
I don’t know if “changes” is the appropriate title for this post. But when I kind think about where I want to go with this post, the thing that comes to mind first is how much life has changed for our family in the last few months. Going from one boy to two has been a huge change and a huge challenge for your mom and I — we used to be able to hand you, Reagan, off to the other and go for a run, get some work done, etc. Now, as soon as one of you goes down for a nap, it feels like it’s a mad dash for one of us to take care of something while the other holds his breath that the sleeper doesn’t wake up.
That probably makes it seem more dramatic than it really is. The truth is that life with two kids is much tougher than I think either your mom or I were expecting. She and I will always put you both first above all else, but we also want to take care of ourselves by working out, spending some time together as a couple (and not after the chaos that is “nighttime routine”), and even getting some time to ourselves to reflect and find our focus for what all we want to accomplish as a family.
I remember working with someone who had his second child and would tell me how many changes happened when they went from one child to two. I’ll admit that I probably nodded along when he told me about it, but in the back of my mind, I thought that your mom and I would have a better handle on things and we could thrive where others might not be able to do so. I think if you asked either of us in an honest moment, there is probably more surviving and less thriving in the past few months.
Sidebar: as I write these blogs, (and I think I’ve mentioned this before), but it all comes out as a stream of consciousness. Rarely do I go back through and do any major edits outside of grammar and making sure it doesn’t read to clunkily. Sometimes, I realize that the direction a post is going isn’t how I intended it to go, but I think it offers you a real insight into what life is like for us at this time, and I hope that you might take something from that should you read it later in life.
As I continue to reflect on changes — mind you, I’m doing so as you’re both sleeping, so it probably is a different perspective than it would have been an hour ago — the thing that keeps me going are the little things. Earlier today, Koen was lying on his mat-pillow-thing and the rest of us were huddled around him cheering him on as he was trying (not max effort, but there was some attempt there) to roll from his belly to his back. We eventually helped him out and cheered like he did it all himself. Then, Reagan took his hand and mom was holding the other, and then I took Reagan and mom’s hand and we kind of made a little family circle. It wasn’t a huge moment worth making a statue for, but it’s one of those million little things that make up for the craziness that fills most of our days.
Changes are hard and no one really knows how best to handle those changes until after the change already happened. Most days, I feel like I’d be a better parent-mentor than actual parent because I can tell someone, “here is what I didn’t know and wish I did. If I had the chance to go back, here is how I would have handled it.”
On that note: parents — spend the money and buy Taking Cara Babies (not a sponsor). Watch the videos. Do the things. Know it is going to be hard but worth it. Did it the first time and swore by it, then took the “throw everything at the wall and hope something sticks” approach to naps and nighttime with #2 — love you Koen!
Changes are hard but they’re also necessary. I want to reference some movie your mom had one the other day where there is a line about how diamonds are made from carbon absorbing all the heat and pressure from the earth — not that I’m using that analogy because I’d probably be the zillionth person to do so, but if I did, I’d tie a bow on it by saying that to get our family to where we will eventually be, we need to get through all the heat and the pressure of these big changes so that the two of you can shine. Again, wouldn’t ever ACTUALLY do that, but if I did, well, I’m sure it would be a good way to wrap up a blog.
This is the first time I’m writing to two of you. Because, well, there are now two of you. To be honest, the have been two of you for two months, now. The fact that I haven’t written you both since then is something I regret, but I hope to continue these posts so you both can look back at this time in our lives…
To two… 🥂
Koen, you were born September 28, 2020. In fact, we’ll probably look back at this year and think of what a crazy year to have been born in, but the fact that you came healthy and happy will make your mom and I look back and appreciate 2020. Now that you’re nearly two months old, there isn’t much to say about you in terms of your personality (sorry, you don’t have a whole lot to say yet — but you have been smiling and making cuter noises lately, so you have that going for you…).
There are so many things that are different now that there are two of you. With one, your mom and I would be able to schedule handoffs so that one of us could work, work out, run an errand, or get done whatever we needed to get done, pretty easily.
As I move forward with this blog, I hope to write sometimes to each of you, and other times to both of you. The truth is, and I guess this is a lot like parenting, I am just going to figure it out as I go along and we’ll just see what happens.
The best thing I can say about where we’re at now is that we — our family — feels full. You both have so much room to grow and I’m sure things will continue to change and excite, but there is a feeling of completeness when the four of us (plus Rogue… I know, Rogue — you count too) are all home together.
So, here’s to looking ahead while staying present. To memories made and to memories to come. I love you both beyond words, to the moon and the stars and everything in between.