Gabriel will be ten years old in July. It will officially mark him as being more than halfway through his childhood. When he was born, I looked forward to this day so much. Not him turning ten years old, per se, but the day when I would be able to talk to him and hear his opinions about the world. I wanted to share all of the things I loved- writing, Star Trek, videogames, anime. He would pick and choose what he liked and didn’t, and I could ask him why, and learn about a whole world of things that I had missed out on. What amazing new toys and games would he show me that didn’t exist twenty years ago when I was ten?
As it turns out, many of the things that Gabriel loves are the same things I love, just in sleeker packages. Instead of playing GoldenEye, the first person shooter of my day, we play Overwatch, the FPS for his generation. I rushed home from elementary school every day to watch Sailor Moon at 3:30; Gabriel watches Naruto on demand, whenever he wants. It took me hours to find and download the obscure music I heard in my favorite shows over dial-up internet, and I had to wait until everyone was off the phone for the evening. He can stream his music with a simple YouTube search wirelessly with his tablet.
The future is a great deal like the past, just better. I joke with my son that he’ll never know the pain of waiting for months to catch a rerun of an episode of television he missed. He’s never paid for music before, and probably never will. He has hoverboards, drones and handheld computers to play with. The technology he’s growing up with is beyond anything I could have imagined in the 1990’s. My brothers and I used to fight over which of our friends would be allowed to come over and play with us on any given day. Gabriel can video chat with his friends through Skype as they play games online together.
Yet some things are exactly like they always were. Nothing beats going to the park and chasing each other on the playscape in a game of tag. Any kind of bouncing ball is immediately more interesting than the closest electronic device. We’ve climbed more trees together in his ten years than most bears. He finds any excuse to stay up later than his bedtime. He hates cheese and loves ketchup. He never takes his jacket off. He always wants money for things he can’t buy on his own. Dessert is his favorite part of the meal. He’s like every little boy.
Not so little, though. That’s what makes looking forward to the next weekend when he comes over so bittersweet. Another week has passed by the time I see him again. Another leap has been made towards the end of his childhood. After this July 5th, there will only be four hundred and sixteen weeks left. Looking forward to the next exciting date- ConnectiCon, Halloween, Christmas- means that all that time has to pass in the meantime. Time that doesn’t come back. That’s the tradeoff though. I have a boy who can tell me why Naruto can beat Goku in a fight, and that’s a thrill that I can’t exactly put into words. Still, there’s one day that I do want back. He wasn’t even two years old yet. It was just before 8:00 AM, and I could hear babbling coming from his room. I rubbed the sleep away from my eyes and went to check on him. As I opened the door, the sunlight was pouring through the blinds of his window. There he was, gripping the railing of his crib, standing and bouncing up and down on his mattress. He saw me, and he smiled. That was the day I found out what happiness was.