I return to writing on this Tuesday morning after a Monday full of thunderstorms, estate work, getting our oldest prepped for summer camp (she left today…*tear*), and working on my stuff purge that has taken over my living room. Thankfully, the purge allowed me some time to collect my thoughts, as I’d felt unfocused, just on autopilot, all through Father’s Day.
Part of the fun of being a parent is watching these amazing, little people that you’re raising grow, all while wondering and imagining what they’ll do with their lives. What will they become? Who will they become? What will they do? Will they keep the interests they have now? Will their passions change and what new talents will they develop? That’s the joy of toddlerhood. These babies that have been so dependent on you start to become their own people. They walk, talk, act and react, and you really start to get a solid sense of what they like, don’t like, what their strengths and weaknesses are.
That was a joy and frustration for me as Caleb’s mom. He was great at everything he tried. He started holding his pen properly before he was two. He would draw the most intricate things, always very focused. His gentle swirls, sweeping arches, and precise circles would be purposefully placed on his paper. He didn’t want crayons and a coloring book. No, he wanted blank paper and a pen. He was an artist.
As an infant, he’d sit on Brig’s lap as daddy played the piano. Most babies would try to bang on the keys, but not Caleb. He’d watch Brig’s hands grace the keys and, in time, he started “playing”. He didn’t bang on the piano, he would seek out just the right keys to play in his own little way. Anyone could bang on the keys, but it takes patience and respect for music to play with purpose. He loved all instruments and could even get sound out of Brig’s trumpet! He was a musician.
With that musicality came his natural rhythm. As soon as he could sit up, he’d bounce and rock to the beat of a song. Before he was one, he started clapping in time with the music. In church, he would actually watch the chorister and bounce on time with the hymns. He would lay on the floor at the big kids’ dance studio to watch the dancers’ feet under the door and his booty shaking was rather well known. He was a dancer.
In true no fear fashion, Bub was fast and agile. Anyone who has seen the way a gazelle in the savanna effortlessly weaves as they evade capture while bobbing (duck and weave) has a sense of what it was like to try to catch him if he decided to flee. Then, there was hand-eye coordination and throwing ability. I don’t know of any other 2.5 year olds who have a 10 year old brother that looks to them as a legitimate option for someone to play catch with. It didn’t matter if it was a football, baseball, or a hacky sack he found, he could catch and chuck a ball like no kid his age I’ve seen. He was an athlete.
Now, I can’t even begin to describe his climbing ability or the fearless way he jumped off of the things he climbed up onto. Before he could walk, he was climbing on top of the kitchen table. Last fall, he officially upped the ante to heart-attack-for-mom level when he began jumping off the top bunk bed. I would put him in time out and talk to him about how dangerous that was and how he could get hurt. He’d dutifully serve his time and then go right back to it. He was always living life on his terms, packing in as much as he could in his nearly 3 years, like he knew he had a lot of living to do in a short time. He was fearless.
He loved to problem solve and work with Legos. “L” and Bub would often excitedly bring me their Lego creations and then go on to show me just how intricate they were with all their moving parts and uses. If Brig left a screwdriver within Caleb’s reach, he’d take things apart and put them back together. He’d organize things by commonalities that they had and loved to play learning games. He was so sad when the kids went to school and he couldn’t. He loved marching through the halls like one of the big kids. He was smart, a real budding engineer.
Above all else, he was loving. For all his rough and tumble sides, he loved to snuggle, or ‘nuggle, as he said. One of my favorite memories is of him, crouching next to a dew soaked monarch butterfly at the park, waiting for it’s wings to dry after he carefully moved it to a sunny spot. He wouldn’t leave the park until he saw it fly and he knew it was okay. It wasn’t uncommon to hear his little voice saying things like, “You, kay?” and “Love you!”. He was tender hearted.
Because of all of this, I never could quite figure out what my baby boy would do with his life. His talents, abilities, and interests were so eclectic. So much of our joy as his parents came from watching him and imagining all of the incredible directions his life could go in. With Caleb, the future was a true mystery and that made it so much more fun. Was he going to be an adrenaline junkie with a GoPro, swinging between arches in Moab and base jumping? Was he going to take a more traditional sports path? Was he going to dive even more into music and play multiple instruments? Was he going to hit the books hard and develop amazing things with his design and engineering skills? Would he do it all? We looked forward to how his future would unfold and then that was gone.
It’s hard to imagine the future now. We still chat about it and what the kids may do, but rarely do I let it play out in my mind’s eye like the cinematic preview it once did. I suppose it’s a defense mechanism at this point. I’m still excited for the future and I have faith and confidence that I’ll be able to see how it plays out with the kiddos. I just know there are no guarantees. Our lives have gone against the natural order of things and that changes a parent’s perspective on life. Yes, we still plan for the future, but I can’t imagine, dream, or worry about it too much. I’m too busy soaking in every single bit of the present. That is all the guaranteed time we have.