It was a week in which my youngest, Dodge, grew up in many ways culminating to his 2nd birthday on Sunday. Dodge is a soft-spoken little boy with soft straw blonde hair and piercingly blue eyes. He can melt your heart with a smile, he squeezes hard when he hugs, and when he wants something like candy he turns into a screaming devil. He sleeps stomach down in his bed with his feet on his pillow and his face towards the foot of the bed with his tiny rump protruding into the air. He spends a good majority of the day pretending he’s a dog with his tongue hanging out, panting, woofing, and occasionally licking things like household objects that shouldn’t be licked. He’s spent the last two years fending off his older brother, Max, who is almost a foot taller than him and thunderously affectionate to the point of smothering. He’s shorter, stockier, and has sharp elbows. We call him “Big D” or “Dodgeball” depending on the situation. He’s a fantastic little boy on the verge of passing through toddlerhood into boyhood.
Dodge’s 2 year coronation began midweek when he decided to casually toss the F-bomb into conversation at about 7:15 AM to see if he was using it correctly. “Time to put your shoes on Dodge,” my wife Kate told him. Dodge smiled wide and happily replied, “Fuck that!” The look on his face after can only be called sheer joy. He awaited applause from us as if we were going to say, “Good job! You used that correctly!” In his defense…the context was perfect. He didn’t want to put on his shoes. However, he’s 2 and gets timeouts for arguing…this got him grounded and there were multiple conversations to follow.
On Saturday Dodge and Max (who is 4) were cooped up inside after snow and sleet covered the land. They were running back and forth through the living room and slamming into the chairs…trying to knock them over…as boys do. After successfully knocking a few things over I sent them upstairs to play. They share a room, there are tons of toys up there, and they can bounce off the walls for all I care…and they did. They had a great time and played together fantastically. Then I heard Dodge scream…I mean screeeeeeam! I ran to the bottom of the stairs to find Max and Dodge standing at the top of the stairs fighting over a toy that Dodge had and Max wanted back. Max tried to take it away and Dodge hit him. Max, stunned for a second, hit him back. Then it happened. They stood toe-to-toe and started trading punches back and forth. Tiny fists! Tiny smacks! Both had their eyes closed and their arms extended as their little heads popped back every now and then as the other landed a blow. I was not prepared for this, this is too soon for fist fights! “Hey!” I shouted from the bottom of the stairs as I made my way up. They stopped hitting, and Dodge took this opportunity to hit Max in the side of the head with the toy in what you could call either a cheap shot, a winning move, or a reminder that though he is smaller…he’s not to be trifled with. Whatever you call it, the toy now belongs to me and both boys ended up grounded. The fun part was watching how fast they went from enemies to friends working together to get out of being grounded. I remember it well from days past with my sister.
Then Sunday came. The big day. Dodge was 2. We started off by going to the YMCA to swim in the kid pool where Dodge invented a game where all the adults were crocodiles and he was coming to get us. It was hysterically fun and the look on his face as he said, “I’m gonna get you!” was priceless. As always, I slipped away to the deep pool with Max to honor my agreement with him. Plain and simple: I take Max swimming in the shallow kid pool so long as each time he lets me work with him on real swimming in the deep pool. We did our usual with the swim board, worked on getting his feet up while kicking, and dunking our head under water. Then we put the swim board aside and I held Max as he swam with my help. Then it happened…on Dodge’s 2nd birthday in the YMCA pool. I felt Max drifting away from my hand…he was swimming. So I let go. At first he panicked…then he started kicking and wham! Swimming. No vest. No help needed. Swimming. He swam about 10 feet, pretty awesome for his first time. He did it a few times. Each time he swam better than before. It was awesome.
After the Y the boys were wiped and went down for a nap which gave us the time to set up for Dodge’s “Uptown Funk Dance Party” themed birthday. We had disco lights, balloons, Uptown Funk on the TV, cool sunglasses, cake, cupcakes, and more. Kate’s parents got Dodge a fedora like the one Bruno Mars wears in the music video and he excitedly donned it as he showed off his sweet dance moves. He and Max danced, they shouted out their favorite part (“Call the police and the Fireman!”), and it was awesome. Dodge wore his fedora all day and was keenly aware that it was HIS birthday. He wore the fedora in the car, he wore it at dinner that night, and he would have gone to bed with it had we not told him it would get smooshed.
As I stroked his straw blonde hair and watched his piercingly blue eyes drift off to La La Land that night I asked him, “Dodge…how old are you.” He smiled at me and said, “I’m two!” Then he held up eight fingers. Close enough. I told him about the day he was born and how excited I was to meet him. I told him about how Max held him when he was one day old and kissed his forehead. I told him how stubborn he was even back then. I told him about the first time I held him. Then I told him what I tell both my boys every night:
“Dada loves you no matter what. There is nothing you can do to make me stop loving you or love you less. Every day I love you more, my love is a tree that grows and grows. You are special, there isn’t another person like you anywhere in the world. You are the only you and I love you.”
Then Dodge squeezed me extra hard and kissed my cheek. “Love you Dada.” He replied. I tucked Max in and congratulated him on his swimming accomplishments, sang them their favorite song, blew kisses, and said the same thing I say every night, “Night, night. Sleep tight. Don’t let the bed bugs bite. I’ll see you in my dreams tonight. I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living, my babies you’ll be.” Both boys rolled over and yawned. “I love you!” I said. “LOVE YOOOOUU!!!” They shout back together. “See you for breakfast,” I said as I closed the door to their room, “Happy Birthday Dodge.” Then…silence. Then, “I’m two!” I imagine 8 fingers were held up victoriously in the air.
It’s good to be the Dada.
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