This last Saturday my son Ethan had his first birthday. Yes, the time has seemed to fly. Someone told Karen that, with having children, "The days are long, but the years are short." This last year has surely been an example of that.
Because we are a two spiritual-tradition family, we've held off on doing any kind of christening. Karen wanted my Buddhist practice to be represented at any such ceremony. I asked around, and did some research, but apparently there isn't such a thing in Buddhism. Typically, one becomes a Buddhist by Taking Refuge and/or the Precepts, which requires that the person know what they are doing. There doesn't seem to be a Shambhala ceremony for a birth, either. In some Buddhist countries monks may do a ceremony just before the birth, and I did find reference to one after the birth, but this seemed more cultural than spiritual, if you can actually separate the two in those countries.
So, I decided to just do something somewhat universal. I read a passage from Thich Nhat Hanh's The Miracle of Mindfulness
(the story written by Tolstoy, about the emperor and his three questions), and asked everyone to read and recite (three times) the following version of the Four Immeasurables:
May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness.
May all beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.
May all beings rejoice in the well-being of others.
May all beings live in peace, free from greed and hatred.
Now, I'm no Buddhist priest, but this seemed to fit the bill (except I guess the story went on a bit too long, even though I shortened it).
Karen's father Ralph is
an ordained minister, so he did the christening, naming our friends Larry and Sandy Rouse as his godparents. We were all thrilled that they agreed to take on this role.
After this, both Ethan and I needed a nap, so we snuck downstairs (all this happening at my in-laws' newly renovated home) for forty winks. When we emerged, the birthday party was in full swing. Cakes were produced, ready to be cut and plated. Dozens of people had arrived, all bearing presents, and we had a great time. After opening presents (y'all were very
generous!), we visited. Taylor K. entertained us all by inhaling helium and singing City of New Orleans
, Ethan's favorite song. Taylor K. was happy to meet Taylor G.; apparently there aren't too many male Taylors in the world (I did not know that).
Last week Ethan had a nasty cold, and we were afraid he would be too ill to enjoy the party. But the cold cleared up (Karen and I now have it). My parents, aunt and uncle had made the drive up here, but I was too sick to visit with them, which I really regret.
But: the last year? There is something about being a parent that causes me to come face to face with psychological issues I thought I'd resolved, or just ignored. I won't bare my soul here (I just don't have the personal revelatory skills some people
have), but I will say that some issues with chronic pain are better at hiding than they are at being resolved.
Without question, though, I can say that Ethan has brought so much joy to our home it is beyond qualitating. As he develops bit by bit, you want to say, "OK, this is how I want you to stay." Then, he'll learn some new skill (as simple as it may be), and you say, "OK, this
is how I want you to stay."
For example, I don't think Ethan is going to crawl, at least not in the most recognizable way. But he has developed a way of getting about: He butt-scoots. Sitting on his hind-end, with one leg forward and one leg beneath, he pushes with the leg under him, while pulling himself forward with one arm. He used to use both arms to pull, but now one hand is usually holding something, and there's a very good chance he is bringing that something to you.
While Kane has had an on-and-off (mostly off) relationship with Ethan (though, luckily, he is a very patient dog), he is not too happy about our son's new ambulatory skills. In some ways, it is almost like one of those bad horror movies, where a person is slowly, painfully being followed by some sort of beastie, and the nubile heroine has to escape once again. Ethan seems to love Kane, and will follow him around at times. Kane mostly just wants to get away.
I suspect that attitude will change, when Ethan is old enough to be Kane's boy. Then they will run and play in the woods, two happy nature lovers.
And that's another thing about Ethan: he seems to be fascinated by living things. He is always wanting to touch leaves of plants. He never seems to get tired of it (I get tired holding him up to a tree limb long before he tires of fondling the foliage). One of the first things we have tried to teach him is to be "gentle." He seems to be getting the idea. When he gets rough with something (or someone), he is told "gentle," and if he persists, he gets taken away.
Then, there are the anxieties. If he is asleep in his room, I seem to hear him gagging and choking on something, which has me flying into his room, to find him sleeping peacefully. I can't tell you how many times that has happened, but it always gets me and my heart racing. I always fall for it.
It's been a year of growth for all of us. I am sometimes amazed at just how much I love our son, and how that started at first sight. The sudden, unconditional aspect of it just can't be expressed. I know, when talking to parents before I was one myself, I would get vague descriptions of how wonderful it is, but I couldn't relate. Now, not only do I understand the feeling, I also revel in my pure, simple inability to describe it sufficiently.Music in my head: All Through the Night
, not the Cyndi Lauper version, but the synth and ocean waves version
we play for Ethan at his bedtime.