An event just sort of snuck up on me. I knew it was coming, and for a long time there I had myself convinced that it wouldn't matter so much, but now it's here and I'm not sure how I feel about it.
The time as I write this is 11:05 p.m., December 8th, 2011. That's more or less exactly the time on this day 10 years ago that we decided to take a little drive over to Willamette Falls Hospital.
Fast-forward to 1:25 a.m. on December 9th, 2001 (yes, a mere 2 hours and 20 minutes later). Look out world... Damian Richard Ford is born!
I've been doing a lot of reflecting over the last few days. Because I cannot believe that ten years went by so quickly. Heck, I'm not even supposed to be old enough to remember ten years ago so clearly, am I? But then I remember that I'm actually 29 (or "almost thirty!" as Damian likes to state it), and that 10 years is actually more like a third of my life than the half that it feels like it ought to be. Where does the time go? Seems like yesterday I was sitting on a hospital bed holding a newborn baby and laughing with Sammich so hard that my sides hurt (I don't remember what was funny, but I remember laughing). I was 19 (barely), had been married not quite six months, and I thought at that point I was a real grown-up. Fast-forward a decade and I'm a full-time working single mom, and I just finished packing my fourth-grader's lunch for tomorrow and cleverly figuring out how to get the birthday card to fit inside his lunchbox without actually folding it in half.
Really, though, my kid is awesome. And just to prove the point, I figured I'd hit a few highlights of his already illustrious career as a human being.
Mere matter of days old: Teaches Mom not to underestimate his capabilities. When placed a good couple of feet from the edge of Grandma and Grandpa's king-sized bed and left unattended for approximately two minutes, manages to pitch self onto floor. No lasting harm done (except to Mom's nerves), and Mom learns the origin of the phrase "bouncing baby boy".
2 weeks old: Sleeps through the night for the first time. Makes Mom very happy.
5 months old: Still thinks sitting upright unassisted is for losers, but dislikes being horizontal for any reason other than sleep.
7 months old: Decides to give sitting up a try and masters it.
8 months old: Decides to give crawling a try and masters it.
10 months old: Has walking while holding onto couches, tables, etc. down to an art form. Mom leaves him at Grandma's while she goes to work one day, and when Mom comes back, Damian is standing holding onto the couch in the living room. Mom says, "Hi Damian!" and walks past him into the kitchen. Damian lets go of couch and follows her in. Walking. Mom says to Grandma, "When did he start doing that?" Grandma replies, "He's been doing it all day. I assumed you knew about it."
Around 2 years old: Begins repeating the word "key" over and over. It takes Mom and Dad a couple of weeks to piece together that he says it when he sees the cat, and he's actually saying "kitty". Regardless, it's his first word. The first of many, because once this child decides to do something, he doesn't go halfway (see sitting up and crawling).
Toward the end of second year: Mom is helping Damian put on his socks. He looks at her and then says, "I have two feet. You have two feet. That's four feet, Mom." At this juncture Mom realizes that he will be better at math that her probably sooner rather than later.
Three years old: We take a trip to Mexico. Damian dislikes Mexican food, we learn. However, he is full of fun in the airports. During an 11-hour layover in San Francisco, Mom takes Damian out to the end of one of the terminals so he can watch the planes taxiing around. A plane passes very near to the window and Damian begins to jump up and down and point excitedly, "Mom! Mom! Look! I can see the piglet!" "The what?" Mom asks. Exasperated, Damian says, "You know, the piglet! The guy who flies the plane!" Several hours later, boarding the plane, we are standing in line in the jetway, just about to step through the door of the plane itself. There is about a three inch gap between the end of the jetway and the door of the plane, and you can see down to the ground, which is quite a ways away. Damian, standing there and looking down, announces in a loud voice, "Man, I bet if we fell down there we'd get DEAD!" much to the amusement of the other passengers standing nearby. On the return trip to the States (another layover in San Fran), immediately after disembarking from the flight from Mexico City to SF, Mom (who has been speaking Spanish for weeks now), tells Damian, "Vamos a buscar un baño." Damian puts his hands on his hips, glares at Mom, and says, "Mom! We're in America! Speak English!" To this day, Mom has no idea how the heck he knew that we were in America, especially given that everyone around us at that particular moment was Asian. But seriously, the kid is THREE. How does he know we're in America, much less what the difference between Mexico and America is or that one should speak English in America and Spanish in Mexico????
Somewhere in the fourth year: Mom and Damian are driving in a car. Car trips tend to inspire Damian to deep thought. Out of the blue, Damian says, "I think I like living with you better than I would like living with my dad." (We separated shortly before Damian's first birthday.) Mom asks, "Oh really? Why's that?" Damian replies, "Because at your house you have rules. Dad doesn't have any rules at his house, and that doesn't seem very safe to me." And again, Mom is blown away by a preschooler's capacity for deep thought.
Kindergarten: Damian brings home a worksheet from school on which he is supposed to find shapes in the picture and color them a certain color (triangles blue, squares yellow, etc.) and then count how many of each shape and write the number on a line. Mom is watching over his shoulder as he colors the squares yellow. The squares happen to be windows on a building in this picture, and there are four rows of four windows. Damian silently taps the first window on each row with his pencil, then writes "16" on the line. Mom goes, "Whoa! Wait! How did you do that?" Seemingly exasperated with Mom's slowness, Damian taps the same four windows again, this time counting out loud, "Four, eight, twelve, sixteen!"
Later that same school year: Mom has a friend over from work. At this point Mom is working at Damian's school with grades K/1, and the coworker is working with grades 4/5. Damian's latest project is writing songs, and he has a spiral notebook full of lyrics he has written. He asks the coworker if she would like to hear his songs and she says, "Sure!" so Damian drags out the notebook, flips it open, and starts singing his lyrics to an improvised tune. Coworker is very impressed and asks Mom, "Do you even realize what he's doing? That's some high-level thought he's got going on there! I wish I could get some of my fifth graders to do that!"
Also that year: In the car, Damian is complaining that all the kids in his class are pairing up and that Yoselin is is best friend AJ's girlfriend, and that they want this other girl to be Damian's girlfriend, and Damian says, "But I really don't like her that much!" Mom says, "Well you know what? You guys are way too young to be worrying about all that boyfriend-girlfriend stuff anyway. You don't have to have a girlfriend if you don't want to. In fact, you can just tell them that your mom said you're not allowed to have a girlfriend until you're sixteen." Damian brightens noticeably. "Really?! What a relief!!"
First grade: Teacher complains to Mom that Damian is talking in class to much, but admits, "I think it's because he's done with the work. The problem is that everyone else isn't done, and he keeps them from getting done." This seems like a no-brainer to Mom, who says, "So... do you not have some extra worksheets you can give him? Because he'll do anything you put in front of him. Give him as much work as he can handle! I don't care!" Same teacher complains that, while Damian's reading skills are excellent, his comprehension skills are practically non-existent. Mom laughs this off because she knows that he's reading and applying information gleaned from Pokemon Strategy Guides at home, and he just doesn't give a crap about penguins or whatever the teacher was making him read.
Second grade: As early as the second week of second grade, Damian refers to first grade as "a massive waste of my time." He likes second grade much better, however, and by Open House in late September his second grade teacher (who clearly catches on quickly) has made available to Damian a box of things he can work on when he's done with whatever was assigned in class. Later on in second grade, Damian conducts his first and only test of mom's "two-for-one" rule (Mom told him the first day of Kindergarten that she had a two-for-one deal with his teacher - "you get in trouble at school, you get in trouble at home!"). He puts this rule to the test by getting in a fight with another kid on the playground "because Jeremiah said something I didn't like." He will not say what Jeremiah said, and thus Mom is not convinced that it was worth getting into a fight over (Mom concedes that some things might be worth fighting for, but something Jeremiah said probably isn't one of those things) and suspends all "electronic entertainment privileges" (computer/TV/DS, and pretty much anything else with a screen) for a week. Damian has yet to test this rule again.
Third grade: School work is finally catching up with Damian's ability level, thank goodness. One day in the car, Damian says, "Mom, I have to tell you a secret... there are, like, six girls in my grade who find me attractive!" Mom sighs... it has begun. But Mom can't complain too much, because she had her first completely fake boyfriend when she was Damian's age.
Fourth grade: So far, so good. Damian has a male teacher this year for the first time, and it seems to be working out really well for him. He's in an extremely challenging reading/spelling group... some of the words that show up on his spelling list, Mom has to look up to know how to pronounce properly. After a somewhat rocky start during the first trimester, Damian finally got it together on the spelling and has done very well on the last few spelling tests, including a 100% on the first spelling test of the second trimester, which was also his first letter-graded assignment ever. So far that's a 4.0 GPA, right? ;-) His primary interest at the moment is designing his own card games, which involves hundreds of index cards all over my front steps most of the time.
Despite the fact that he has grown up with me, my son is an intelligent, thoughtful, sensitive and caring individual... all while retaining his boyish fondness for fart jokes. He's undeniably the ringleader of the kids he hangs out with in our apartment complex (ranging in age from 4 to 12), but not because he's bossy... it's because he's just that charismatic and he has the most fun ideas. Neighbors have remarked to me on how well he plays with younger children. Said one, "I was watching Damian sword-fight with one of the younger kids and I could tell that Damian could have just totally beaten the snot out of him, but he didn't... he was letting the little kid do well and was giving him pointers." (My son has an extensive collection of fake weaponry... he's all boy.) His closest friends, however, tend to be several grades older (middle schoolers that he meets at his after-school program). He has intelligence, depth of thought, and vocabulary beyond his very-soon-to-be-ten years and the sort of creativity and desire to learn and grow that television has mostly killed off in his generation. In other words, my kid is epic. My kid is small for his age, has no siblings to fight with, and probably can't beat up your kid, but my kid will probably never need to beat up your kid because he gets along with everybody.
Damian Ford: Bringing more awesome to the world every day since December 9, 2001.