A short post on my birthday

Today is my 31st birthday, though it hasn’t included any of the usual festivities.  Caroline has been in Vancouver for a research meeting since Friday morning and won’t be back until late tonight.  Jay, Wally, and I have managed pretty well on our own.  They haven’t cut me any slack but there have been no hammer blows, either.

My first rule for spending long periods of time with the boys is: let happy kids keep doing whatever it is that’s making them happy.  In practice this meant that I spent twenty minutes this morning sitting on the bathroom floor watching Wally play with the shower curtain (while Jay did idled the time in his booster with his bowl of oatmeal).  Part of me was eager to get on with our morning errands but I reminded myself, “The errands can wait; better to take an easy twenty minutes now than to fight through a hard twenty minutes later on.”

I’d share the details of the errands but typing them out would only double down on just how un-celebratory they were.  After completing them my plan had been to drive to Burns Park to take advantage of the sunshine and spend an hour outside before lunch.  But Wally fell asleep in the car on the way home; rather than roust him so that his brother could play on the playground, we parked in a sunny spot of our driveway and I let him nap while Jay splashed in the puddle-cum-mud-hole at the end of our driveway and kicked a soccer ball with the amazingly patient and kind nine-year-old girl who lives next door.

(To further feather this girl’s cap, it should be noted that later in the day she came by and delivered two boxes of Girl Scout Thin Mints that I’d ordered back in December and which definitely counted as the best birthday surprise of the day.)

Following Wally’s nap we went inside for a long lunch and then an even longer time lying on the floor doing who-even-remembers-what in the playroom.  All I can tell you is the boys were happy and that maybe for the first time ever, Wally beat up Jay. (The two of them were lying in the pack-‘n-play and Wally started to claw amiably at Jay’s face.  Jay squealed to be rescued.  I picked him up and told him that he did a good job not pushing his brother back, but inside a little part of me was embarrassed for him.)

Overall I relied on inertia as much as I could to through the day.  It occurred to me that this is opposite the way birthdays are usually paced.  Birthdays tend to be more planned and deliberate than most days of the year and they carry the expectation that you’ll enjoy them.  I’m happy to enjoy my birthday, of course, but as I wrote in June, a few days after Wally was born, “I’m not very comfortable with experiences that come loaded with the expectation that you’ll feel any certain way in response to them.”  When my sister called this afternoon and asked if I was having a fun day, I was relieved to be able to say that fun, in the sense of steak dinners and vodka shots, had never really been on the table.

So here we are now.  It’s 8:15pm.  Both boys have been asleep for almost an hour already (I packed them off to bed early).  Caroline is due home in about six hours.  On the table in front of me there’s an empty glass of Zinfandel and a mug of coffee ice cream topped with crumbled Girl Scout cookies.

I wouldn’t call it a grand birthday, but I’m happy to call it mine.

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An entire week boiled down to two unfortunate minutes

If at 5:35 p.m. yesterday afternoon you’d asked Caroline to predict what the next two minutes of her life would be like—if you’d really pushed her to try and imagine the slipperiest, most exasperating chain of events waiting to envelop her—it’s a fair bet she wouldn’t have managed to catch a whiff of the eventual truth.

Isn’t that how it always is with vomit?

I was out running and she was home with the boys.  Both Jay and Wally have continued to suffer pretty bad colds but on this particular late-afternoon they were bearing their afflictions well: Wally was bouncing in her arms on his rubber band legs; Jay was crawling across her lap, having fallen once again into the persona of “Baby Jay,” who babbles and wants to nurse and manages somehow to be even more trifling than his toddler alter-ego.

So there they were, the three of them all tangled together on the floor when Wally started to choke.  He’s been prone to gagging since the day he was born and he’s lost his lunch more than a few times this past week on account of all the mucus in his system.

Caroline knew what was about to happen but she couldn’t move fast enough—Baby Jay had her pinned.  So, like a soldier who falls on a grenade to save his comrades, Caroline pivoted Wally towards her chest to spare the carpet.  He got her good.

The shock of the first projectile was enough to bring Baby Jay back to reality.  He scrambled off of Caroline’s lap and offered a tentative diagnosis: “Wally threw up?”

Caroline would have answered, but there was no time to waste—she knew these things come in waves.  She drew on every ounce of hamstring strength and managed to lift herself off the floor without using her hands.  She cradled Wally in one arm, used the other to try and keep the mess contained to her shirt, and raced towards the bathroom.  No sooner had her feet hit linoleum than Wally went off again.

A few seconds later the episode would have seemed complete.  Wally was face down in Caroline’s arms.  Tears and snot and milk were slick on his face.  Caroline took one giant step to the far side of the mess.  She pulled a hand towel off a rack and applied it gently to Wally’s face.  “There, there,” she might have said.  “It’s all over now.”

“What’s all over now?” asked a voice.  It was Jay, for sure, but where exactly was he standing? Her brain measured the sound of his voice and mapped it against the geography of the bathroom floor and the events of the last twenty seconds.  All signs pointed towards disaster. Caroline spun around and sure enough there was Jay, standing smack in the center of the splash zone.

Caroline locked eyes with Jay.  She spoke slowly and clearly as if giving instructions for how to defuse a bomb.  “Whatever you do,” she said, “don’t move.”

Caroline took a giant step back across the mess.  On the other side she dabbed a few more times at Wally’s face and put him down on the playroom carpet. Then she ran upstairs like the track star she should have been to get two more towels from the linen closet.

At this point you’re probably performing some calculations of your own.  You’re trying to estimate how far it might have been from the bathroom to the linen closet; you’re thinking about how quickly a panicked mother in the prime of her life can climb six stairs and run down a hallway.  And if you’re really, really good you might be asking yourself the most important question of all: Just how fast can Wally crawl these days?

Caroline found the towels and turned around. She reached the top of the playroom stairs, started down, and then froze in her tracks.  She couldn’t see the bathroom from where she stood but she could see the spot on the playroom floor where she’d left Wally.  He quite clearly was not there anymore.

Where he was, of course, was with his beloved big brother.  This might not have been a problem, except that for the first time all week Jay had done exactly what he’d been told to do: He hadn’t moved an inch from his position in the middle of Wally’s puke.  Only now he had company, in the form of an eight-month-old with absolutely no survival instincts sliding around at his feet.

Caroline stood in the doorway to the bathroom.  For the last two minutes she’d been moving as fast as she could but now she sighed and let her arms fall to her side.  Wally looked up at her from his puddle.  Jay looked down at his brother.  Caroline looked at both her precious boys.  “So this is how it ends,” she thought.

It starts with a sneeze

On Tuesday just before dinner Wally sneezed four times in a row.  Caroline looked at me.  A feeling of dread passed between us: We both knew how things would go from here.

A few years ago, before Jay was born, I spent a Saturday morning reading Tolstoy’s wonderful novella The Death of Ivan Ilych.  Near the beginning of the story Ivan Ilych is standing on a stepladder hanging curtains in his house.  He slips, knocks himself against a knob on the window frame, but regains his balance before he falls.  Afterwards he thinks to himself, “It’s a good thing I’m a bit of an athlete. Another man might have been killed, but I merely knocked myself, just here; it hurts when it’s touched, but it’s passing off already—it’s only a bruise.”

Of course, it’s not only a bruise.  Ivan’s symptoms get worse and worse.  Each step along the way he rationalizes to himself: Oh, it’s nothing.  But in the end that slip on the stepladder proves fatal.  He bumped himself in just the wrong way. A few weeks later, Tolstoy writes (in a sentence characteristic of the barbed style that makes the story so entertaining), Ivan’s “so-called friends” are left “to fulfill the very tiresome demands of propriety by attending the funeral service and paying a visit of condolence to the widow.”

A few sneezes from Wally don’t make me worry that his life is in danger, but they do predict with great accuracy that the coming weeks aren’t going to be fun.  Since Jay was born I’ve become very good at recognizing the first signs of a cold.  All it takes is a misplaced sniffle or the faintest sheen of snot beneath one nostril and the rest, as they say, is written:  the fever, the cough, the sleepless nights and ruthless mornings.  The cold picks us off one by one.  It’ll be a month before we’re all healthy again.

And indeed, my eyes are slits right now.  It’s turned out to be Jay who’s gotten it worst.  He’s been running a fever and has a spot of red on each cheek as bright as if he’d stolen into Caroline’s rouge again.  He’s sneezing and coughing.  Droopy in the eyes. Utterly pathetic to look at.  And because of it all, he can’t sleep: Last night he coughed himself awake around 2am and spent the next 90-minutes calling to us (very good naturedly, as it happened) with one request or another: I need a tissue; I need water; take my blanket off; put my blanket back on; Daddy, is the vaporizer working?

Wally has born his illness more sensibly.  Last night he slept for 14 hours.  We went in to check on him at 9am just to make sure he was still breathing.  To be fair, he hasn’t gotten it as bad as Jay.  No fever that I’ve noticed and no cough yet, either.  His biggest problem is that nursing with a stuffy nose is about as pleasant as being waterboarded.

In a way it’s funny that all it takes is one little germ that’s not even very menacing as far as germs go to knock a whole world-beating family on its back.  Most days we scheme great schemes—about how we want to live abroad; have a third child; buy a house; make our marks in the world.  Then we get sick and we’re thankful just to make it to naptime.

Not everything about a family cold is bad, though.  Being sick has a mellowing effect on Jay’s personality.  He’s sweeter, cuddlier, maybe even more empathetic.  Yesterday we were settling in together for our afternoon nap and Jay turned to me and said: “I like your shirt.”  He’s never said that before.  I figured either he was buttering me up because he knew he’d be asking a lot of me later that night, or, as sometimes happens, his sickness had made him more aware of the water he swims in—his itchy eyes, his burning forehead, his godforsaken nose—and thus more aware of other people, too.

And that, I guess, is one of the virtues of sickness generally—that it throws normal life into relief, at least in those moments where it’s gentle enough to let you think.

About an hour ago I put Wally down for his nap.  I held him in my right arm, put a bottle to his mouth, and walked him around his room.  At first he couldn’t eat and breath at the same time but after a few false starts he cleared an opening in his nasal passages just wide enough for the task.  He gulped the milk.  His eyelids fluttered.  He breathed in one rattling breath after another and at last, fell asleep.

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Rating Jay and Wally’s effect on my well-being

Earlier this month I wrote a post called “How a toddler’s tantrum might produce two kinds of happiness.”  A reader responded with what I took to be a gentle and well-placed admonishment: “Funny, though, how parents seem to spend so much time thinking about whether or not they are happy.”  Nevertheless, here I am with another post on how kids affect parental well-being.

The term “well-being” as opposed to “happiness” is the preferred nomenclature of University of Pennsylvania psychologist Martin Seligman, whose work I’ve been reading today as part of a story I’m writing about his colleague and disciple Angela Duckworth (who, for her part, studies character traits like self-control and determination that correlate with achievement in school and in life).

Seligman is a lion in psychology—one of the most important members of his field over the last century.  He’s the founder of the “positive psychology” movement which he defines in his most recent book “Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being” as “exploring what makes life worth living and building the enabling conditions of a life worth living.” The “positive” in positive psychology is meant to distinguish the pursuit from traditional branches of psychology focused on negative aspects of experience like depression, schizophrenia, alcoholism, etc.

In “Flourish” Seligman argues that there are five components of well-being that go by the acronym PERMA:

  • Positive Emotion
  • Engagement
  • Relationships
  • Meaning
  • Achievement

I thought it would be interesting to rate on a scale, from -5 to +5, how becoming a parent has impacted my life in each of those five dimensions.  Here goes:

Positive Emotion:
This refers to how often you experience the best feelings in life, among which Seligman includes “pleasure, rapture, ecstasy, warmth, comfort.”  When assessing Jay and Wally’s impact in this realm I’m also going to dock points for negative emotions like anger, boredom, and frustration that they sometimes inspire.

Overall, Jay and Wally have greatly enhanced the quantity of positive emotion in my life.  And these contributions are not close to being outweighed by negative emotions. I’m definitely prone to anger and frustration but I’ve found that I tend to experience those feelings no matter where I am or what I’m doing, whereas the possibility of positive emotion seems to me to be much more situationally dependent.  So basically, I’m not much more angry/frustrated/bored as a Dad than I was before Jay, but I’m a lot more rapt/ecstatic/comforted.

So, I rate parenthood’s contribution to Positive Emotion a +4.

Engagement:
Seligman defines engagement as “flow”: “being one with the music, time stopping, and the loss of self-consciousness during an absorbing activity.”

This is a tough one to rate.  On the one hand, when I’m up at 5:30am with Wally the minutes pass like crawling across a parking lot littered with broken glass.  But on the other hand, I have found that parenthood is a nice antidote to self-consciousness.  I remember looking in the mirror while holding Jay a couple weeks after he was born: I was so much more interested in the baby I was holding than in my own reflection, and I think something like that change of focus has maintained over the last 2+ years.

But overall this diminishment of self-consciousness (or diminishment of focus on my-self) has been less profound than the anti-flow impact parenthood has had, in terms of making me more preoccupied with activities like chores and household routines.

So, I rate parenthood’s contribution to Engagement a -2.

Relationships:
On the plus side, I’ve formed two extraordinary new relationships with Jay and Wally.  And Caroline and I get to share the intimacy of having and raising kids together.

On the minus side, Caroline and I share the intimacy of raising kids together. Our marriage revolves around Jay and Wally, which was made apparent the other night when we went out to dinner for Caroline’s birthday, just the two of us, and remembered a long forgotten secret: just how much we like being together as adults. (We intend, btw, to improve on this by kicking Wally out of our bed as soon as he gets over his current cold.)

And in terms of other relationships—friends, family—having kids has been a net negative to this point.  In a practical sense there’s just not as much time or mental energy to go around.  And on a dispositional level, as I wrote over the summer, becoming a parent has narrowed my ethical circle: the stronger my ethical attachments to Jay and Wally, the weaker my ethical attachments to all the other people in my life.

On the bright side, I suspect that Jay and Wally’s impact on our marriage and on all the other relationships in our lives is more negative now than it will be even in a few years when they’re a little more independent and don’t consume quite so much of our mental and physical energy.

Still, for now I rate parenthood’s contribution to Relationships a -3.

Meaning:
Seligman defines meaning as “belonging to and serving something you believe is bigger than the self.”  Here, parenting is a home run winner.  For reasons I’ve written about a lot,  Jay basically solved my longstanding meaning problem the day he was born.

I rate parenthood’s contribution to Meaning a +5.

Achievement:
There are some confounding factors here.  In the three years before Jay was born I was pretty lacking in career direction, and Reversion to the Mean suggests that my early-thirties were likely to be a more fruitful period in my professional life regardless of how many kids I had.

That said, I have found Jay and Wally to be a spur to work harder and to be more serious about figuring out what I want to do in life.  But I hesitate to give too high a rating here because the optimal conditions for Achievement would seem to be having a lot of career direction and not having any kids to worry about.

Still, given my particular career circumstances at the time Jay was born and the changes that have happened since, I rate parenthood’s contribution to Achievement a +1.

Totaling it all up, becoming a parent has improved my well-being by 5 points.  Seligman doesn’t provide a scale to evaluate what that means, but my intuition says it’s a pretty big positive change.  At the same time, Seligman warns that when people rate their own happiness, 70% of the score they give themselves tends to be determined by the mood they’re in at the time they perform the rating, and only 30% of the rating tends to be determined by analytic judgment.  And, despite the fact that Jay, Wally, and I are all suffering from our first colds of the year, I’m in a pretty good mood today.

I’d be very interested to know how readers of the blog assess the impact of having kids on their own lives in these categories.  Please share in the comments if inclined.

Do all parents fall into two categories? One leading sociologist says they do

This summer I wrote an article called “The Perils of Parenting Style” about a University of Pennsylvania sociologist named Annette Lareau.  Lareau is one of the top qualitative sociologists studying American families.  She made her name with a groundbreaking ethnography conducted over the course of three years in the 1990s that was published in 2003 in a book called Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life.

To conduct her ethnography Lareau embedded for a month each with 10 families arrayed across the socioeconomic spectrum.  She spent the night with each family, went to doctor’s appointments, soccer games and parent-teacher conferences, watched parents get their kids off to school and put them to sleep at night, observed siblings at play in the backyard before dinner.  Her study constitutes the most intimate, sustained look any sociologist has ever taken of American family life.

After the observations were over Lareau spent several more years sifting and synthesizing her data.  Finally, she concluded that all American parents fall into two broad categories:  poor and working class parents who raise their kids according to a style she termed “natural growth,” and middle class parents who raise their kids according to a strategy she called “concerted cultivation.”

The two parenting styles are what they sound like.  Lower income parents, Lareau argued, tend to trust that their kids will grow up fine without any overt parental intervention.  A roof over their heads, food on their plates, and a bit of love- that’s all kids need.

Middle class parents, on the other hand, think their kids’ proper development requires a lot of intervention.  They think kids need to be read to as early as the womb, raised in a language-rich environment, given lessons in everything.

Lareau focused her analysis on three areas where she found the poor/middle class divide to be particularly sharp: organized extracurricular activities, the use of language in the home, and the willingness of parents to intervene in school on their kids’ behalf.  As I wrote in the article, ” In all three of these areas the middle class approach can be described as  more: more activities, more frequent and sophisticated chatter around the dinner table, more parents ready to step in to get their kids assigned to specific teachers or enrolled in special programs.”

Before I get into how writing about Lareau made me think about raising Jay and Wally, there are a couple things to say. First, Lareau’s book, Unequal Childhoods, is a great read.  It’s accessible, clear, and even gripping in places, particularly where Lareau narrates scenes from the families’ lives.  Here’s one interaction she recorded in the home of Alexander Williams, a black middle class boy, that Lareau took as evidence of the dynamic by which middle class parents provide a linguistic advantage to their kids:

Terry (Alexander’s father): Why don’t you go upstairs to the third floor and get one of those books and see if there is a riddle in there?

Alexander: (Smiling) Yeah. That’s a good idea! I’ll go upstairs and copy one from out of the book.

Terry: That was a joke—not a valid suggestion. That is not an option.

Christina (Alexander’s mother): There is a word for that you know, plagiarism.

Terry: Someone can sue you for plagiarizing. Did you know that?

Alexander: That’s only if it’s copyrighted

The second thing is that Lareau doesn’t think there is any sense in which parents choose their parenting styles.  Her work is heavily influenced by the late French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, who theorized that socio-structural forces like education and wealth stratification dictate the shape of people’s lives all the way down to the way they think.  So, as I wrote in the article, in Lareau’s view “to be middle class is to practice concerted cultivation almost as surely as to be Christian is to believe in Jesus.”

Which brings me to Jay and Wally.  As a well-educated, middle earning couple, Lareau would argue that Caroline and I can’t escape practicing concerted cultivation.  She would say it’s in our social DNA.  And certainly the way we talk with Jay is consistent with the patterns of middle class language use she details in Unequal Childhoods: We play verbal games with him, we use reason when correcting his behavior (“you’re getting timeout for running into the road because running into the road could hurt you”), we read to him every night.

At the same time, in disposition I don’t feel like a “concerted cultivation” kind of parent.

What would be the point of trying to practice concerted cultivation with a nut like this?

As I said in my post about how Jay wasn’t getting a $200,000 playhouse, we haven’t enrolled him in any of the swim, dance, yoga, or music classes that are popular with our neighborhood peers in Philadelphia and Ann Arbor.  And as Jay gets older I’m sure he’ll participate in extracurricular activities to a much greater degree than poor and working class parents.

But, in our conversations Lareau explained that it’s not just the fact of the activities that matters—it’s the intent behind them.  She argues middle class parents emphasize extracurricular activities because they see them as a unique and powerful developmental tool.  In my view, though, I want Jay to play sports because they’re fun.  And that is one reason why I’m not quite willing to accept the “concerted cultivation” label that my social class position would ascribe to me.

The other reason I don’t think of myself as a “concerted cultivation” parent is that fundamentally I don’t think concerted cultivation is possible.  My one, big, final hope for Jay and Wally is that they grow up to be happy adults.  But what combination of parenting strategies and tactics produces a happy adult?  Who the heck knows.

And because the blend of experiences that turn a babbling toddler into a contented middle-aged man are beyond my comprehension, I think tinkering too much with Jay and Wally’s development is likely to do them more harm than good.

Either that, or I’m trying to justify not wanting to jump with Jay into the frigid pool at the YMCA so he can learn to swim.

After the flood and the move, it’s good to see you again

Two Sunday nights ago flooded roads waylaid Caroline, Wally, and me on our way back to Jay.  We’d left him for the weekend at my dad’s house in upstate New York after he’d been deemed (by us) unfit to attend a friend’s wedding near Poughkeepsie.  In the interim Hurricane Irene had raged, and so it was that at 11pm on Sunday night, after hours of detouring around fallen trees and washed out roads, we pulled into a gas station only 19 miles from my dad’s house.  There a woman fueling beside us delivered the unwelcome news: “Ain’t no one going to Cobleskill tonight,” she said dourly.  Later we’d learn that 24 hours of hard rain had caused the Schoharie Creek to overrun its banks, swamping every highway, road, and cow path in and out of my dad’s county.

We spent the rest of that first night trying in vain to find a hotel room before settling gratefully on the floor of a high school gymnasium that had been converted into an emergency shelter.  The next morning, after it had become clear that we weren’t traversing those final 19 miles that day either, we retreated to a friend’s parents house north of Albany, where the power was out but the roads at least were open and a guest bedroom awaited us.

For two days the flooded Schoharie Valley stood between us and Jay

That night at dinner the conversation turned to raising children, particularly in times of duress. Our hosts had a lot to say on the subject.  They’re Lebanese, and they’d spent their first six years as parents amidst civil war in Beirut in the mid-80s.  They talked about huddling in the basement of their apartment building with their two young sons when the bomb sirens would go off.

The father told us that during those years, before he and his family moved to the United States, his kids’ safety had always been on his mind.  He implied that the presence of such an overriding concern had shaped his relationships with his children in ways that would have been different had they been born into calmer times.

I had that idea in mind—how circumstances shape how I interact with Jay and Wally—over the next tumultuous week.

On Tuesday morning we made it back to my dad’s.  The expression on Jay’s face when he saw us step out of the car made it clear that while he talks a lot, he feels a great deal more than he can say.  For nearly a minute he stood still on the porch, looking at us down the walk with a wary expression on his face that said, “What business do you have showing up after I’d finally come to terms with the idea that you weren’t coming back.”

We spent that afternoon and evening swapping stories from our respective sides of the creek: Caroline and I talked about the kids who’d run around all night at the emergency shelter playing tag; my dad and little brother Andrew (who also took care of Jay while we were away, and whose attentiveness and caring were exemplary for a person of any age, let alone for a 15-year-old boy) told us that had we been gone any longer they would have started making plans to enroll Jay in the local pre-k.

The time for reflection was short lived, though.  Early the next morning we set off on the 600-mile drive to Ann Arbor.  Jay managed to spend less than an hour of the twelve-hour trip asleep which means in toddler time he must have felt like he was in the car for a year (and he let it show).  We arrived in Ann Arbor at dusk, with only frozen dinners from Trader Joe’s and an air mattress to see us through the night.  When Caroline and I finally got Wally and Jay stowed in their portable cribs, we surveyed our empty house and wondered where exactly we went from there.

The answer, of course, was that we unpacked boxes; found our way to the grocery store; harangued my sister twice a day to check our email (Comcast was bogged down by undergraduate move-in and couldn’t get to our house for a week); and generally tried to balance the somewhat antithetical tasks of maintaining two little kids while trying to find our way in a new town.

The hardest part for me was not knowing where anything was.  As in, for four days every single time I needed to change one of the boys’ diapers I’d spend five minutes trying to locate the right supplies, before giving up and yelling to the heavens (or to Caroline), “Where are goddamn baby wipes!”  On one occasion I got a reply.  It came channeled through Jay who told me, “We get wipes at the store.”

Ah yes, my son, but where the hell is the store?

After 12 years of urban living, a front yard to call our own in Ann Arbor

Aside from that exchange, the only thing I recall saying to Jay during our first days in Ann Arbor was “no.”  “No you may not go out the front door without us.”  “No Daddy won’t sleep in your bedroom with you.” “No don’t unpack that box.” “No don’t open that closet.” “Nooooooooooooo don’t touch that vase!” In an unfamiliar environment, out of our routines and with our belongings strewn about, it felt like we were managing Jay every minute of his waking day.

But sometime in the last few days we began to find our footing, and as the chaos of the move subsided, there was Jay, waiting for me.

This morning, with Caroline and Wally still asleep, he and I went downstairs for breakfast.  We sat in our respective chairs, eating peanut butter toast in the quiet of the dim Michigan morning.  I looked over at him, chomping away, and told him that I had a secret to tell him.

“Did you know you’re the rascal, Jay?”

He smiled and pointed his finger back at me.  “No Daddy, you’re the rascal.”

As we laughed I thought to myself, “It’s really nice to see you again Jay.” I imagine he was thinking the same thing about me.