My son Declan will be three in October. He eats like a bird, so he’s tall and lanky, but he’s big for his age and, like all soon-to-be three year olds, perpetually filled with the kind of energy, enthusiasm and excitement adults only experience when under the influence of pharmaceutical grade stimulants.
Yes, my son is a rapidly growing, combustible ball of kinetic, irrepressible energy. I, meanwhile, am two hundred or so aged pounds of world-weariness and spiritual exhaustion. Yet when we’re headed home from the playground right by our home, nine times out of ten Declan will ask me to pick him up.
And nine times out of ten, I will acquiesce to Declan’s request even though, on a logical level, it makes no sense for me to carry all three feet and forty pounds of Declan up the hill leading to our home instead of him using his seemingly limitless energy to walk up the hill himself.
Thankfully, there’s more to life and love and family than logic. So while I know that on a rational level, Declan is eminently capable of getting wherever he needs to go on his own two feet, and does not really need my help in this regard, I also know that Declan likes being held. He likes being carried. He likes to be close to his mother and myself, physically as well as emotionally. And, on some level, he enjoys being babied even as he’s rapidly aging away from those days.
On a related note, I like carrying Declan. I like holding Declan. I like being close to him physically as well as emotionally, and I like being able to still baby Declan. So even though it wears me out to carry Declan uphill, and I’m usually pretty winded by the time we get home, I do it anyways because we both get something out of it.
I always knew that my father loved me growing up but being a repressed Jewish Midwesterner, he seldom showed affection in a physical way. When I was a teenager, he used to tell me he liked me “as a friend.” It was a joke, of course, but one that betrayed how uncomfortable physical displays of affection made him.
My wife and I are raising Declan much differently. We don’t go out of our way to be physically affectionate because it comes naturally, and while my creaking back and spine might protest, I love being close to my son, even if it means schlepping him around and having him use me as a sort of sentient Lyft taking him wherever he needs to go.
I tell Declan that he’s getting too big and old for it to make sense for me to carry him, and on some level I mean it. But on another level, I secretly hope that he’s never too big or too old to want his dad to carry him. To feel close to my son, to have him nestle his little angel face in my chest after a long day at play is worth the strain and the effort and the inconvenience. So I’m holding onto this stage of Declan’s development as long as I can, because, to be honest, I’m not entirely ready to stop carrying Declan either.
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