I have an infatuation with my four year old son’s head.
Wait, let me back up for a second.
Becoming a parent, and maybe specifically, a father for the first time, is a transcendent moment for reasons I can’t begin to describe with any adequacy. I can’t even try to do it in something as simple as a haiku:
A new dad, begin
Life with diapers, no sleep
See? Can’t do it. But, I can reflect on the small things, the small, tender things. And one of the first things so striking about becoming a father for the first time is not just the tininess of a newborn baby, but the peculiar details of this life-filled object suddenly swimming in its own vitality — the smell of their hair, the near translucent butterfly-like delicacy of their new skin, and for me, their head. It is so small, so oddly and unusually soft in some places, because it is not yet fully formed. You can actually feel the cranial sutures, marked by soft spots, holding the bones in place. Those sutures will eventually disappear and one day fuse together to form the hard noggin that my boy now heavily relies upon daily as he caroms about the house, as if hunting for personal injury to inflict himself and/or others.
And the entire head fits right into the palm of your hand. So small, yet literally and figuratively more than the sum of its parts, inhaling life and exhaling hope.
And ever since that first moment, when I first put my first child’s tiny head in my hands, I’ve had an infatuation with this cranial encounter. To feel human artistry as I rub their heads, feel the shape of their bones, tug on their ears, trace with my finger the lines that make up their eyebrows and nose bridge. And yet, and still, to know that what I cradle in my hands is both a physical component that brings them to life as well as what opens the attics, caverns, and catacombs that will house entire worlds of thought and imagination. Body, soul, and spirit, hemmed in together and secure in safety as I hold this precious little head.
So every time my little boy hugs me or puts his head on my lap, I hold his head again in my hands to remember.
What’s my point? That this is what new dads do.