Friday, June 17, 2011

By the Numbers

Day one: 16 pots, 6 nots.

Day two: 12 pots, 2 nots.

Day three: 10 pots, 2 nots.

Day four: 8 pots, one not.

Yes: we have begun potty training Tyler, officially and with the resolve to not turn back to the species-saving invention of the diaper. (Or, at least, the at-home daddy saving invention.)

We've got a flowchart going on our refrigerator, tallying up the times and substances of what was released by Tyler's bowels and when. It's reminiscent of a March Madness bracket, but with a bit more madness, more disgusting consequences for the loser, too.

Upstairs, the Potty Chart holds a number of birds that Jennifer cut out of wrapping paper, which Tyler is able to place one at a time on the chart each time he sits on the pot and does his business.

The process has been the journey from babyhood to boyhood--especially considering that I recently gave Tyler his first "big boy" haircut--one which shortens his hair with a clipper, rather than scissors which maintain the longish, babyhood feel. Now, when I look at my son, it's hard not to think, Don't go to college yet! and Whoa, curfew is still 6:45 buddy, I don't care if this is your fourth date and that you think this could be the one.

I know. Hold on, Luke! It's a far leap to go from applauding as I would at a Nobel Prize ceremony for every poop's plop to saying goodbye as Tyler heads off to college, but I'm not kidding: it's all fast. And in the moments where Tyler's banter carries me away from any semblance of my own life and engulfs me totally in his world, I want to freeze time and keep that conversation going forever. (Alternately, in the moments where he fights sleep like it's some kind of obscene human rights violation, I say, bring on teenagerhood!)

By the numbers, it does go fast.

Nine months ago, we moved to England. It feels like two.

32 months ago, Tyler was born. It feels like ten.

71 months ago, Jennifer and I were married. It feels like 15.

366 months ago, I was born. It fells like, well, 366 months.

When I was a public school teacher, numbers were important. Crucial, some administrators might say. CAPT and MCAS standardized scores for my students: were they strong? Grade point averages for those students heading off to college: were they high enough? Was each student getting enough one-on-one writing conference time? How many pages should I be challenging them to write?

As a writer, the number again play their crucial role. How many words am I crafting per day? How many manuscripts have I got with viable options to forge lives of their own, outside my safe little study? How many rejections has this manuscript garnered?

The number swarm almost every human endeavor we undertake, from novel writing to potty training to challenging young minds.

But as Tyler has forged ahead in his transition into boyhood, leaving behind the numbers of babydom, I am confronted, too, with another number: one.

As a dad, as a teacher, as a writer, one thing alone really matters: the authenticity of love I give in each of those roles, each of those journeys. No amount of numbers--whether indicating success or failure by the world's standards--can replace that very first number, that one.

It's nothing original, of course, my realization of the one thing that counts--Jesus was saying it to ears that refused to hear a couple of thousand years ago. I'm saying it now to myself as deeply as I'm sharing it with you. Amidst all the numbers that assert themselves everyday, may I remember the most important one.