Our family recently went camping with some friends and their children. In the Canadian tradition, we loaded up as much of our house as we can fit in the car and drove off to rearrange it in the woods. Our first evening, Saturday, was shared with many other camping families at the same site. As I watched older children zoom along the gravel road on their bikes, I caught myself looking forward to the days when my own sons are old enough to bike around and play independently, leaving my wife and I to some peace and quiet.
On further examination, I don't wish for this. I wish for moments of peace among the busyness of life, but I still cherish the time together with my boys. There will come a time when my eldest is no longer excited to show me the cool bug he just found. I can only have a lazy afternoon nap in the tent with my youngest for so long, his little arm draped over my chest, the soft patter of rain overhead. (In fact, if I think about it hard, I might realize that I already had the last one that I ever will).
My sons won't always need me or even want me around. There will come a time when they just want to grab their bikes and zoom off with their friends. I don't have to long for the future. I can wait.
I moved to a new city for a job after earning my undergraduate degree. I rented a small apartment in a house that had been converted to a triplex. I liked a lot of things about that apartment: the wood stove, the friendly landlord, the proximity to grocery stores, that it was the first place I had all to myself. However, my favourite feature was it being next door to a Goodwill bookstore.
Shopping for books at thrift stores can be a frustrating experience. Usually they're thrown on the shelf haphazardly with minimal attempt to sort or categorize. Finding a good book among all of the bad is difficult, though rewarding.
This thrift store was different. It was a curated collection of books and other media from donation centres all over the city. The shelves were organized by subject and alphabetical by author. The employees could often help you find something specific, or at least show you where to look. Almost all of the books could be had for $2 to $4. Every month there was a sale where everything was half-off as they cleared out old inventory to make way for new.
I didn't make much money back then but I decided that I'd allow myself to shop at that bookstore without a budget. My main constraint was shelf space in my apartment. What started as a reasonable collection atop the fireplace mantle soon necessitated a floor standing bookcase. I found a used one for about $10 and told myself that once it was filled, I'd stop buying books.
That bookcase got filled, overflowed, and I bought another one. I bought more books to fill that, too. I felt a bit guilty buying books when I didn't have the time to read all of...
Don't Pity the Second Child (too much)
My youngest son, the second of two, is learning to count. When he sees a collection of objects in a book he's reading, he'll grab my finger and point to each while saying: "One, two, free, pour, pibe, sis". He's still working on seven to ten.
I'm so proud of him and I encourage him to count whenever I can. And yet, I have no videographic evidence of his feat. I'm sure I have a handful of videos of his big brother doing the same around the same age, but the poor baby of the family doesn't.
My wife and I lament this sometimes. We have fewer pictures and videos of #2's milestone events than we do for #1. We joke that it's clear who we love more, but of course that's not the case.
When your first child learns to walk and talk, it's the most amazing thing. This little person, who once lived in his mother's womb before emerging, squinting in the light of the world; who once fit easily in the crook of his parent's arm; whose only daily activities were eating, sleeping, and excreting; is now an agent who can take action in the world and communicate their needs. It's just as amazing with Baby #2, but perhaps the novelty has worn off.
But our pity for the second child is overwrought. We should celebrate that we're satisfied to live in the moment. Every new activity does not need to be documented with the meticulous care that has become common in the age of social media and ubiquitous smart phones. I'll content myself with a kiss, a snuggle, and a "Good job! Can you show me again?"