I remember as a kid watching the Space Shuttle launches on television. It would start with the scratchy voice of some NASA engineer: "10, 9, 8...". Then came the rumble and roar of rockets belching huge plumes of white smoke all around: "7, 6, 5...". Next, scaffolding that supported the shuttle would unhinge and fall away to the sides of the launch pad: "4, 3, 2, 1...". Finally came a moment of intense thrust where the shuttle-- somewhat apprehensively at first-- suddenly released itself from the Earth and then soared away into the wild blue yonder: "We have lift-off!"
In a small way this was kind of like when Gregory took his first step.
The kid has been able to stand up and scoot himself around the furniture for weeks now, but it was just the other day when he finally took his first launch into free space. I was sitting across the room as Gregory guided himself along the coffee table. He looked down at his feet and then smiled up at me and I could almost hear the countdown going on in his head: 3, 2, 1...
Then the moment came when he suddenly released his grip from the edge of the table, raised his arms high above his head and lifted one foot in front of the other towards me. He teetered there a few seconds with a huge grin on his face before plopping back down on his rear.
It was one small step for man.
And yet what's most amazing is that now, just about a week later, he's able to string together eight steps and counting. True, he still looks like a drunken sailor as he walks, but every day his stability and mobility grows exponentially. Parents always warned me that children grow up fast but it's mind-blowing to see my son change, literally, before my eyes!
As I watch Gregory toddle around the house, I can't help but reflect on the past ten months of being a stay-at-home dad and wonder: which of us has grown more?
When my wife first went back to work last August, my main concerns were survival and image. I had never changed a diaper before and the prospect of caring for a fragile little wet screaming smelly infant terrified me. Was I ready for this? Would I break him? Added to this, the stigma of being a stay-at-home dad while my wife became the chief breadwinner of the family was a hard pill for my male ego to swallow. Would I have to turn in my man card if I was seen pushing a stroller around town?
The first few weeks were the hardest. The minutes and the hours dragged on as Gregory and I sat around the house and just stared at each other all day. I couldn't wait for my wife to get home from work. On really hard days I would break down and call her, confessing that I just couldn't do this. On several occasions I began looking for jobs on Craigslist.
But then I'd have one good day during the week where things with Gregory went okay and that gave me enough encouragement to go on. And soon it became two good days a week and then it was every other day that was not so bad. I found a few other dads (a.k.a. "The Diaper Dudes") to hang out with and that helped a lot.
And now after ten months, I'm happy to report that I'm having an absolute blast as a stay-at-home dad. There are still hard moments, but Gregory is at a really fun age right now and we just seem to have found our rhythm in how me manage a day together. Not only does this make the hours fly by, but being a stay-at-home dad is the coolest thing I've ever done.
Growth often comes in baby steps.