My wife and I spend a lot of our time talking about how wonderful our two and a half year old son Declan is, and how much joy he brings into our lives, and the lives of everyone around him. That is a particularly popular topic of conversation on date nights. As you can imagine, we are an extremely exciting married couple and dynamic young people are banging down our doors to spend time with us.
The missus likes to joke that we must have Declan due to some switched-at-birth mix-up and that there must be some cheerful, happy, well-adjusted couple with a morose, neurotic, intensely awkward two and a half year old because Declan’s preternatural exuberance and infectious lust for life sure didn’t come from either of us.
When I marvel at how unbelievably well-adjusted and functional our son is, my wife has a tendency to caution that he incredibly well-adjusted and chipper “for now”, and that is, in no small part, because he is a baby, and his life pretty much revolves around playing and having a small army of admirers attending to his every need and showering him with gifts and love and validation.
My son will not always be a cherub with long, flowing golden tresses who literally jumps up and down with joy on a regular basis and unselfconsciously yells “Yay!” frequently. My wife ispessimistic by nature. She tends to be see the glass as half-empty, whereas I have, over the course of my life, become much more positive. Part of this is attributable to some of the incredible good fortune I’ve had in terms of my career and family and pets. But part of it also is a lifelong effort to try to be positive person that has yielded dividends.
So when my wife cautions me not to project a lifetime of happiness, contentment and non-neuroses on our baby’s first few years, I know she’s right but I also know never to dismiss or underestimate for now because on some level, for now is all we have. For now is the present, and the present is wonderful, I want to live in the present of Declan being a joyful, wonderful sprite for as long as I can, and when he grows into something else, I want to fully experience that as well, no matter what it is.
If Declan turns out to have inherited his parents’ neuroses, our depression, shyness and crippling self-consciousness, I won’t be overjoyed, because I know how difficult life can be with those qualities, and I want my son to never experience anything but happiness and acceptance. But I’m not insane and I know that’s not possible. So if Declan grows up to be the kind of 14 year old who mopes around, is mono-syllabic, doesn’t go to parties and listens to 4-D holograms of live late-period Morrissey concerts—in other words, if he begins acting like our child—I will love him all the same. Hell, I might be able to relate to him more, although I somehow am able to relate to my son now despite him being so happy and popular and well-adjusted.
In the grand scheme of things, we don’t just have “for now.” We also have memories. For me, that’s what a lot of being a father is about at this point. I spend my days creating memories with my family that I will always treasure. And that’s good enough for now, and forever.
Support Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place at https://www.patreon.com/nathanrabinshappyplace