One of my favorite parenting stories involves my sister, her first husband, and their son, Sam. Going home from some social event, Bill turned to Angie and asked, "Do you think it makes other people sad that their kids aren't as cute as Sam?"
I've smiled about that anecdote for years. It seems that every parent secretly (or not) feels that his or her child is superlative--although speaking semi-objectively, Sam was the most adorable baby ever. Until Christian came along, that is.
After a somewhat colicky start in life, Christian came into his own as a sweet, funny, precociously verbal child. We spent all day, every day together, and I don't remember ever getting tired of his companionship. As if he knew that one of the ways to my heart was through books, he would remain entranced as I read aloud to him for literally hours on end. Sometimes I'd get hoarse because we'd been reading for so long. When I was busy with other things, he'd sit happily with a big stack of books at his side, making his way through them over and over again.
Like many little boys, he had a deep love for trucks of all sorts. A highlight of his week was garbage pick-up day. He would perch on top of the radiator cover in front of his bedroom window and look down at the garbage truck picking up our apartment building's trash. Load, load, crash, grind: this was a show that never got old. Once, at a dinner party, he told a friend of ours, "I want to be a garbage man when I grow up. My parents think that's funny."
Christian was able to relate to people of all ages, initiating conversation with strangers and putting them at ease. He had so many interests that he had something in common with nearly everyone. He never got tired of trips to the "Dinosaur Museum" or the "Pyramid Museum." He had names for the various playgrounds we frequented in Central and Riverside Parks: "Volcano," "Pirate," "Turtle," "Hippo." His joy and enthusiasm for life were infectious.
Through his early life, I kept telling myself that this couldn't last. I braced myself for the pre-pubescent and teen years, when surely our friendship would be put on hold for at least a decade. I know it's still early (and I'm knocking on all kinds of wood), but at thirteen-and-a-half, Christian remains delightful.
He cheerfully does whatever I ask of him, from practicing the piano to changing Daniel's diaper. He is close to his siblings, who bask in his kindness and attention. He bears his infrequent punishments with good grace and apologizes sincerely and promptly when he has made a mistake. He is thrilled for the success of others and can laugh at himself, two signs of humility that I prize highly. Does he have flaws? Oh, yes. But you won't hear about them from me. He knows what they are, and we see him working to remove them.