- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 1, 2001

I think it's useful for all people to take stock of their lives at least once a year. A personal inventory, if you will, to consider where they are in life, what their goals for the next year are, what aspects of their lives they can cut out or improve.

For many people, this take-stock time happens with the new year, but the middle of June is my period of introspection. My birthday, Jeremy's birthday and Father's Day all occur in a span of about a week, a harmonic convergence that always has me thinking about how quickly time is passing for all of us and how well I'm investing my life.

As I type these words, Jeremy is trying furiously to climb up my pants leg. Three minutes ago, as I started to boot up the iMac, he was working on my other leg, grabbing a fistful of my shirt and pulling with all his strength, his lips pressed together in a thin line and his brow furrowed.

A minute before that, as I sorted some mail at my desk, he was standing on the chair behind me at my wife Lisa's desk, poking keys on her computer with his left hand and moving the mouse around with his right. Thirty seconds before that, he was gabbing on the phone.

Jeremy turned 2 June 22, which means this column just celebrated its second anniversary. By all rights, this column should be called "Toddler Steps." It's hard to think of Jeremy as a baby anymore he's not. The only time that word even comes up anymore is when we're out at the park or the grocery store or the mall and somebody says, "What a cute baby," or (more likely) some child says, "Look what the baby just knocked over, Mommy."

When that happens, Lisa and I look at each other and then at Jeremy and think, "The baby? Jeremy? The guy who spent the 15 minutes it took us to get ready to leave the house jumping off the sofa four times, the coffee table twice and the bottom step five times, pulling his brother Sean's train-track layout apart until it resembled an evening news aerial photo of a train wreck, dragging a chair halfway across the kitchen so he could climb up to the sink and try to turn on the faucet, and racing around the dining room table 10 or 12 times? That baby?"

In plenty of ways, he still is a baby. He still doesn't talk, really, although his constant babbling is coming slowly into focus every day, meaning we can actually decipher an occasional word. He repeats things we say more and more, although, like any true little boy, he has latched unnervingly onto the latest word Sean unfortunately has taught him: "poopie." (Thanks, son.)

He brings more laugh-out-loud joy and forehead-slapping consternation often in the span of a few minutes than I ever thought possible… at least since Sean was a 2-year-old. Sean, the more mild-mannered, laid-back of the two, was more or less a charm at Jeremy's age. And of course, there was no younger brother to distract our attention from him.

Jeremy, though, was the family daredevil practically from birth. I think if the doctor had dropped him after extracting him from the womb, Jeremy would have laughed, rolled over and begged for another drop.

I wonder if I'm spending enough time with him, particularly now that I'm working at night, and if Sean still gets enough attention, too. I wonder about the bigger picture, too, how my worldview is changing as I bear down on 40 (still a couple years away, thankfully). I wonder if I made the right choices during the past 20 years or so. I wonder what life will be like in the next two years, what Jeremy and Sean will be like, whether I'll still be doing the right things.

Jeremy is on the periphery of all these musings, showing me a Matchbox car he has been playing with, throwing a ball into the office and then begging me to throw it back, climbing onto the chair behind me to continue typing.

I realize why I rarely have these introspective periods anymore, or at least why I never get to enjoy them. You can't evaluate 30-odd years of life in a moment, or with half your attention.

I sigh and add "evaluate life and fatherhood" to my long-range to-do list. There will be plenty of time for reflection when Sean and Jeremy are off to college. Right now, it's time to chase Jeremy around the living room.

A man has to have his priorities, after all.

Mark Stewart is the father of two boys, Sean and Jeremy. He is a copy editor at The Washington Times. He can be reached at mstewart@washingtontimes.com.

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