Thursday, November 7, 2013


There are times when your kids do something, maybe even something that seems rather inconsequential, that it just makes your heart melt. 

There they are, just doing their thing, when suddenly they do something, say something, or just achieve something, and you feel your heart liquify, and run out the bottom of your shoes while you fight back a couple of tears of pure, proud joy.

Young Sylvia busts a rhyme. 
It's easy for me to remember the first time this happened. Thanks to a deployment to Iraq with my Army National Guard unit, one that coincided 'perfectly' with our first child's birth (Lillian was born the very same night as when I flew from Kuwait into Iraq to start my yearlong deployment there). Because I was half a planet away in a war zone, I missed all the first moments most parents get to have with their child; her first coo's, first roll over, sitting up, all that stuff. Devoid of all this, I came home for 15-days of leave when Lillian was then five months old.

Now, I wasn't a baby person and I had no experience with little ones, at all. And my first day back home, still wearing my 'Desert Combat Uniform', I didn't even want to hold Lillian, I was so afraid of her. I left the parenting to my wife Sally. But very early the next morning, my body clock severely out of whack due to the flights back to the US, I was up and about, right around 2AM. I just walked around the house, both amazed to actually be home, and afraid to do anything like turn on the tv, in case it might wake Lillian. But soon after, I heard her stir in her crib. 

I froze. 'Oh crap,' I thought, 'I'm going to have to take care of her. What do I do?!?!?'
Lillian asleep, during my 15-day leave from Iraq in 2005.
I waited for the tears and crying that would force me to go into her room and actually deal with her. But I heard only a rustling sort of sound. Finally, perhaps more scared than I had even been patrolling the streets of Iraq, I went into her room. She must have been dreaming. She fidgeted, her arms and legs shooting out randomly, and I just stared at her for a while. Then she suddenly settled down, and let out a tiny little yawn, her legs and arms stretching out, little fists clenching up. And then she settled back into a deep, angelic sleep.

Right at that moment, that yawn; my first heartmelt. Put a fork in me, I was DONE.
After that, I was absolutely crazy about her and quickly picked up from Sally all that I could to learn how to care for her, play with her, and just help her grow and learn and help her start to figure out this world of ours out a bit.
Other heartmelt moments:
  • My deployment finally over, Sally handed Lillian to me on the Air National Guard's runway and she gave me 'The Heisman', pushing me away because she didn't know who I was. Three days later, I walked into the house, said hi to Sally as she did the dishes, and Lillian came running up to wrap herself around my thigh - and wouldn't let go. My first hug from her, at age 11 months. Heartmelt.
  • Lying down on the floor to watch football game, 18-month old Lillian sidled up to me and just lay her head in the nook of my arm and watched football with me. Heartmelt.
  • Dropping her off at daycare one day, Sally and I were informed that she was now advanced enough to move over to the other side of the facility, the 'big kid' room of 3-4 year olds. We gathered up her stuff, and started to walk her over to the other room. I, as a joke, started to hum the graduation processional song, when I was suddenly overcome by just how big this achievement was (something that before kids I would have thought nothing of if I'd been told by a parent friend about it). I thought of all her graduations to come and frankly I almost lost it.
None of this leaves out baby #2 of course, quite the contrary. When Sylvia came along, it was my opportunity to finally experience all those baby firsts I'd missed with Lillian. Sylvia's own, abbreviated, list of hearmelts:
Jubilant Lillian after roller girl camp.
  • Sylvia was a momma's girl, to start. She wanted Sally and only Sally and would have nothing to do with me. Fed up with constantly, incessantly having to carry her around one night, Sally forced her into my arms, saying something like, "That's it! You take her!!!" I was, again, terrified of a baby. I looked her in the eye and started to bounce her on my knee. She started to make a sound, something guttural  I thought for a moment she was choking. But she kept doing it, getting louder the faster as I went. It was, I realized, her first laugh. Heartmelt. (Meanwhile, a very grumpy, tired, stressed out Sally had some choice words that I'd been able to have this positive moment with her, when Sally had to always do all the hard work of taking care of Sylvia... not so 'heartmelt' for Sally then...)
  • Sylvia walked into our sunroom, while we were having friends over for drinks, and told her first joke; "Where my Dora [figure]? Where my Dora? You seen my Dora? Is it... in my butt!?!?!" The room of adults cracked up, Sylvia's big eyes bouncing around the room at each person's laughter, and she laughing loudest of them all. Heartmelt (a qualification here - this is probably a 'Daddy Heartmelt' as I don't think Sally was as impressed as I was...)
Sylvia's first drum lesson.
The heartmelts still come now, but they're for bigger, more complex achievements  Lillian, now eight, has gotten into roller derby (yes, they have a junior team here that starts at age eight). She's not a strong skater yet, and I was trying to tell her how to do crossovers as she went into the corners. She ignored me, in her eight-going-on-fifteen way, or so I thought. But she actually listed, and started watching the other, big, girls, and suddenly, one day, she just started doing crossovers. Double heartmelt for that one, because: she was a formerly all 'girlie' girl that took up roller derby in the first place, and then started to take a step toward trying to master the sport.

Sylvia started taking drum lessons recently. She sat down behind the practice drum kit with her little pink sticks and that was heartmelt #1, just seeing her sit down behind the kit, ready to drum. Her teacher asked her why she wanted to take drum lessons and she shyly whispered, "Because it's my dweam." Two heartmelts in, like, four minutes.

There are of course, many more heartmelts to come. And they're only going to get bigger: graduations, first apartments, first jobs, probably marriages, hopefully births, and who knows how many more. And of course, if I'm so lucky, with the births of any grandkids, the heartmelts will start all over again...

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