Almost exactly a year ago I wrote a post called “Jay believes completely in a dad he cannot see.” It was about an experience one evening after the boys were in bed. I was sitting downstairs and Caroline was out of town on a trip. Jay called down to me from his crib: “I need my blankets on.” I realized, hearing his voice, that he had not “a single shred of doubt” that when he called to me, I would be there to hear him. The post concluded by thinking about how wonderful a thing it is to be such a reliable fixture in a child’s life.
Last night the scene in our house was much the same as a year ago. Caroline left early yesterday morning for a conference in New Orleans and by 8pm both boys were in their beds and I was downstairs reading a book. It had been quiet for awhile when Jay called down to me.
“Daddy,” he said.
“What do you need, Jay?” I answered.
“Nothing,” he said. “I just wanted to see where you were.”
It is a sign of how he’s grown in a year, I think, that Jay doesn’t take my presence for granted the way he used to. He certainly understands more about distance than nearly two-year-old Wally does, who wailed from his crib for “Mama” even though I’d told him Mama wasn’t here tonight. Jay’s also developed real fears since last spring, of pirates and tigers, and of a mummy stenciled on the side of a Matchbox car that he threw out of his room the other night because it was scaring him. These specific worries may be off-base, but the maturing sensibility that they grow out of is true enough: A year later Jay knows there are things to be afraid of, and good reasons to hope that someone is standing guard.