To my son Francis, that is. He turns 1 year old today.
And what a year it has been.
My wife and I have had the honor of watching Francis grow, almost every day it seems, into tall "Little Noodle" (as we call him) who is walking around the house with increasing ease, eating meals with us, engaging with books and toys more and more, starting to formulate words and even recently shaking a ring of bells with us when we sing "Jingle Bells" you'd swear he's matching the beat.
Now if we can only get him sleeping all the way through the night on a consistent basis ... (I say mostly in jest, of course; take all the time you need little buddy).
We've been able to enjoy so many milestones over these 12 months; a few challenges as well, although fortunately nothing too major.
One of the hardest decisions we had to face was the obvious childcare question after my wife returned to work after Memorial Day. With a lot of latitude toward work from home, including my ability to do some tasks after-hours, we tried to cobble the workday hours among ourselves with some vital help from family here and there. But it proved unsustainable, personally and professionally.
Luckily we found a great daycare provider in our community who specializes exclusively in babies and toddlers. Truth be told, the transition was probably harder on us parents than it was on Francis. After a few fussy dropoffs early on, he now eagerly approaches the door almost as happily as he looks when I pick him up after day care. (Almost.)
We've opted for only two days a week so far, given our work flexibility and family support as well as the financial factors, but we may need to kick that up in the new year.
I'm grateful Francis seems to be enjoying himself at daycare. His growth has to be influenced by that increased socialization, being around other kids his age and alternative caretakers. But that doesn't make every daycare morning easy, on any of us.
The one clearly difficult part of the daycare experience, really since the beginning in September but especially this time of year, has been getting sick. We're lucky if Francis makes it two weeks without catching some bug. I know there's not much to be done as a parent; whether it's daycare, preschool or elementary school, little kids just pass germs around.
Still, it's often heart-wrenching watching my son being sick -- although, I'll admit, Francis usually keeps a smile on his face and his engaging personality when ill; just more naps and snuggles than normal.
It's honestly a good lesson for me on how to act when not feeling well.
But I don't want to dwell unnecessarily. Francis' first birthday is a time for great celebration after all.
We got the party started a bit at the beginning of the month, driving down to Southern California just after Thanksgiving for a family wedding and a trip to Disneyland on my wife's birthday.
The journeys down and up I-5 were quite the adventure ... oh wait, that's right; no more dwelling (so a story for another time). He did just fine on the drives though, all things considered.
He had so much fun at his uncle's wedding, and was one of the stars of the day in his little faux tuxedo onesie. I didn't realize, before becoming a parent, how much fun it would be experiencing those memory-making events with my child. Then again, I was in an extra good mood because our onerous local election coverage was finally over.
Disneyland was a blast too. "Francis did so well, had so much fun" is what I tell everybody. He loved looking around at all the people, got to ride a couple of attractions, munched on some French fries and even napped (twice!) just in his stroller.
Because we were with family, my wife and I even got the chance to enjoy several rides by ourselves. It was a great day. A long day. No doubt it seemed longer by the fact the sun set around 5 p.m.
Boy I won't miss that, now that the days officially are getting longer as of yesterday. Plus, that means just a bit more daylight to celebrate on his birthday today, and on Christmas this Sunday, and on New Year's Eve next weekend, and on his grandpa's birthday the week after.
And who knows, maybe even some extra sleep this holiday season too (wink). Love you, Francis.
Editor's note: Jeremy Walsh is the editorial director for the Embarcadero Media East Bay Division. His "What a Week" column publishes on the second and fourth Fridays of the month.