I'd like to say that this represented the end of what was, at the time, a more-than-one-year-long process, but of course it didn't. There was still a lot of paperwork to do, finalizing the adoption, getting Ian full citizenship, etc. To expect it to be over after Ian's safe arrival would be the equivalent of a biological parent thinking Whew! Glad that's over! after she gave birth. It — no matter how you define the "it" of parenting — never ends. The adoption process just naturally segued into the parenting process, which latter goes on to this day; and for me will, God willing, continue until they carry my lifeless carcass out of this house in a plain pine box — something I hope will not happen for a long, long time.
crappy picture priceless picture of us with the judge who made Ian a naturalized citizen. [Caption amended per trailturtle.]
Ian's eleven years old now, which never fails to blow my mind when I stop to think about it, which I often do. He actually still likes it when we tell him about the funny little things he used to do as a baby, a toddler, a kid ... because he's accepted the fact that he is no longer a baby, a toddler, a kid — which is far more than I've allowed myself to do — and so those stories, for him, might just as well be about some other kid, not him; I, of course, will always see him as that baby, that toddler, that kid. While not losing sight of that former-Ian, I trust I am also accepting him as he is now, dealing with him on terms that are appropriate for an eleven-year-old boy. It's funny to remind him that he didn't learn the first-person singular personal pronoun until looong after he learned to speak and, hence, for the longest time would refer to himself as "Ian": "Ian hungry, Daddy"; or (my personal favorite, which I constantly tell him about) that time I didn't put enough chocolate syrup in his sippy cup of milk and he, after taking a sip, held it back up to me and said: "Ian no feel no choklit." I totally lost it laughing and squeezed about half a bottle more syrup into his cup as a reward for his being so unintentionally funny.
So I don't (can't) lose sight of those things, but I try to enjoy who he is now, too — which is easy enough to do. He's a great kid. At this moment, his room is being painted by our handyman guy — Teh Fantastic Mr. Fox — and Ian opted for a darkish blue color. That part is already done, but that doesn't matter: What matters is he got Mr. Fox to agree to try to paint a giant Phillies "P" on his wall. That still hasn't happened but, believe me, it will ... or heads will roll.
Ian got a little bit interested in the Phillies a couple of years ago; I myself, at the time, hadn't followed them in what must have been decades. I had other, more important things to do. Now, thanks to Ian, little else is as important as the Phillies! Because his interest in baseball has grown exponentially over the past two years. We've already got our tickets for three different games in this upcoming season, and in all likelihood we'll go to a few more. (We went to one game last year; I hadn't been to a game in I don't know how long. Possibly not since the late 1970s.) The Phillies got knocked out of the running in the National League Championship series last year, but, despite that, gave us an exciting season. Yes, I now care enough to want the Phillies to do well, which is a gift my son gave back to me — continues to give back to me.
It is an egregious and unforgivable cliché to claim baseball (or any sport) is a metaphor for something else; let that first half of this sentence serve as fair warning that Here Comes a Cliché2:
Back in August of 2010, Ian and I were watching the Phils play a game against the Dodgers on TV, a rare treat for us because we get NY stations where we live and thus never get to see the Phils unless they play the Yankees or the Mets or are on national TV. (We ordered the MLB package on DirecTV for this season.) Anyroad, it was a night game and it was getting late and since the Phillies were going to lose anyway — they were down by seven runs in the eighth — I sent Ian to bed, probably around 10:00 p.m., because I'm the Dad, the authority, and I can do that. "They lost," I said: "Bedtime."
Ian of course didn't want to go, and I could hear him there upstairs NOT going to bed; just rattling around. "What are you doing!" I demanded. "I hafta pee!" "AGAIN?!!?" "I HAFTA PEE!!!"
He was pulling out all the stops, but I'm the Dad — his superior, the voice of authority. "Get to BED!!!"
Then a funny thing happened. The Phils scored a few runs in the 8th, and Ian was still upstairs "peeing" or something unrelated to going to sleep, so I, still not believing this was the beginning of a comeback, relented and said, "Okay, Ian, the Phils are at least making a game of it. Come on back down."
He was already at the top of the stairs, so he was down in a second.
"They're gonna lose, but they're making it interesting."
"They could come back," Ian said.
"Never happen. They're still down by three runs and it's the 9th. Never happen."
But it did. They won that game 10-9. (They did things like that a lot last year.)
And I realized the only reason it mean so much to me was that I was sharing that experience with my son — not as his superior, as his better, as his Dad, as The Authority — that was the guy who'd sent him to bed — but rather as his peer, as just another guy who loved his home team. We were equals in this experience and I hoped in my heart of hearts that the comeback I didn't believe would happen would happen, but it would mean so much less to me if I didn't experience the win with the one person in the world I most wanted to share it with:
My son. My friend.
I guess it was then that I first consciously realized that our relationship had changed. I was still his Dad, but I was also his peer, because I had decided that we were also friends ... that I wanted to be his friend. And he was aching to be mine.
"See? SEE!?!" Ian excitedly screamed as the rest of the Phils mobbed Chooch after he got the game-winning hit: "You always say they can't come back! Then they do! I told you! I TOLD YOU!"
"You were right! When will I ever learn, Ian?"
I am lucky to have him to teach me.
1 Update: Still does.
2 Specifically: Baseball as metaphor for Male Bonding Experience.