Thursday January 9, 2014 8:21 pm
Happy 10th birthday, Alijah!
Wow. Today, my son Alijah turns 10 years old. As a parent, it feels impossible to not look back and reminisce. Ten years--a full decade. So much time, and yet it feels almost like an instant. I'm so happy to see him get excited about his birthday coming, and hearing the little things he is interested in doing to celebrate, comparing them to the things I remember wanting to do back when I was a ten-year-old little boy. It's also interesting to remember the post I wrote five years ago, when he turned 5. It was the first birthday where he really understood that it was his day, the day he was born, and where he picked what he wanted to do (eat dinner at Red Robin because he liked the cartoonish bird "statue" they have at the restaurant.)
Since then, life has changed quite a bit for Alijah. In the past five years, he's gone from Kindergarten to fourth grade, moved four times, became a wrestling fan, suffered the separation (and subsequent divorce process) of his parents, put up with the stressed demeanors of his parents as a result, became a Seahawks/Falcons/Dolphins/Patriots/Eagles/Brief 49ers NFL fan, worked on his pronunciation and enunciation through speech therapy, began work on improving his sensory processing, developed an affinity for wearing suits, tuxedos, and ties, gained a stepmother (my wife Taylor) who he has loved for a few years, along with a bunch of other things that contribute to his personality, making him uniquely "him." It's been a joy to see him grow up, from infant to today.
I love this little guy, and I miss him. After my separation, I spent a few hours with Alijah every Monday and Wednesday after school, as well as every other weekend. This went on for almost three-and-a-half years, getting to spend time with my son on half of the days in a given month. I strongly believe that fathers need to be present and relevant in the lives of their children, both in the case of a divorce as well as in homes where both parents are together, and I wanted to make sure I was there to continue the most important job I ever took on, which is being a parent. Eventually, though, something had to give. Having to pay child support, while also having to pay for multiple costly legal battles brought on by my ex-wife meant I had to focus on generating more income to cover the extra expenses, and that meant I had to spend more time working and less time with Alijah - I could no longer stop working three hours early twice a week, spend time with him, and also maintain the ability to afford pay all the bills.
Since the start of this school year, I see him every other weekend until at least such a time where the expenses are gone or minimized. It feels like a broken promise, and not one that I have the power to fix with any immediacy. Having to choose work over your child due to finances is a tough pill to swallow. Hopefully I can come up with an alternative in the near future--in the meantime, I love hearing about his day during our nightly phone calls and FaceTime sessions. It's been nice seeing him more through November and December with holidays and school breaks, but those have come to an end now that we're in January.
I often try to see life, or life's moments, through Alijah's eyes (not always his specifically, but through the eyes of a child.) The simpler mind of a child amazes me, and is an important lens that keeps me grounded to remember minimalism in many ways. Some things are so important, that you shouldn't let more important things get in the way. To notice what those things are, you have to strip away the challenges and struggles of everyday life, and choose to do what's right despite how you feel about it or how others act towards you. It's a value I'd like him to learn and practice as well.
I'm blessed with a son who loves to laugh and be silly, loves his video games, and truly enjoys spending time with the people he loves. One who is cautious, but doesn't give up when he wants to beat a little challenge that he has set for himself. Still playful and loving, and somehow continues to see me as a cool Dad. He is someone I can just look at and feel that unconditional love that a child feels for their parents, the kind that deserves to be seen as an honor to receive, and a reminder of your responsibility to love them back with that same intensity. If you're a parent, please recognize it, cherish it, and don't let anyone or any organization come between it or demean it.
It's been ten years that I've been a parent, and that time has flown by. In eight years, Alijah will be an adult. The older he gets, the faster the time seems to go, and the more I feel like those years will pass right by me with the amount of time that I currently spend with him. I don't want to miss anything, and I want to equip him and prepare him to be the best citizen, man, friend, husband, and father that he can be. One who loves and respects his fellow men and women, and loves God.
I'm so excited to see how he continues to grow and change, and at the same time, I wanna keep him where he is now, and miss the tiny little boy that I carried around in my arms almost a decade ago. Life goes on, and the greatest thing we can do is make the best of it for ourselves, and for those around us.
Happy birthday, little guy. I hope one day when you're older, you'll be able to read this and know that you're loved more than everyday life can communicate. I love being your father.
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