Eli at 4: When a Father Enjoys His Son’s Birthday More than His Own

Eli birthdayFour years ago Elijah Shane Toto demanded a royal entrance, complete with (nursing) attendants, tears and one very tired mama.

My son’s birthday officially begins in a few hours, and I won’t bore you with the typical, “where did the time go?” line of queries. Instead, I’ll share why Eli’s special day is oddly even more special for me.

New parents get an earful about the perils and pleasures of parenthood in the nine months leading up to the big day. What I don’t recall hearing is how easily a father can relive his own life through his child.

No, I don’t mean being one of those dads who tries to make up for his lousy Little League batting average by drilling his son to exhaustion. One of the most enjoyable parts of watching Eli grow is seeing life through his eyes with a similar sense of wonderment I once felt.

This year I’ve seen Eli ice skate for the first time, stare down challenges he wasn’t always prepared to meet and begin his school career without a tear or a tantrum. With every achievement I remembered what it felt like for me when faced with new adventures. How could you forget that crush of fear, exhilaration and curiosity that flooded the senses? Parents rarely experience the shock of the new, unless you count the electric bill in August. Children feel it almost every day.

Which brings me back to Eli’s special day. As excited as he is for the morning to arrive I’m even more thrilled. What do I make him for breakfast? Do I spoil him with candy all day long, or am I setting a tooth-unfriendly precedent?

A parent’s birthday is hardly a time of unmitigated joy. We’re another year older. The crow’s feet that once seemed cute are downright nasty. The gray hairs you used to pluck to maintain a perfect dark brown mop are suddenly too many to attack.

It’s my solemn duty to make sure my son’s special day is unmarked by fears or worries, and if I have to eat some of his birthday cake to protect his perfect little teeth so be it.

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