Each morning upon waking, Ethan stumbles down the hallway. He is quick to slip out of his bed and turn his light on, seemingly disappointed in himself for having fallen asleep. He possesses the same sleep is a waste of time mindset that I have, although my own mind has admittedly started welcoming rest a little more the older I get. Life. It's funny that way.
He stumbles out of his bedroom and announces his awakening with a hasty slam of his bedroom door. That's essentially the sound of our alarm these days, the slamming of his bedroom door before the quick pitter-patter of little feet on the tile get closer and closer. He's always groggy still, his hair sticking up all over his head, and he's usually clutching whatever stuffed animal he could grab on his way out the door.
"Hi, baby! Good morning!" I usually meet him in the hallway, somewhere between his room and our room, sitting ourselves down on the tile for the formal good morning greetings and hugs. "I still can't decide what instrument I want to play in the marching band when I'm big. Or what I want to be for Halloween. Or when I grow up." It's the first thing he says on most mornings, the first words out of his mouth before he lets me know he's hungry or that he needs to use the bathroom. Lowering his cheek into my neck and letting his body fall into my lap for a hug, he sighs. "You have plenty of time to make those decisions, buddy." He thinks it over for a minute -- maybe the trumpet? Or the tuba. Yes, the tuba. Or maybe the drums? Santa Claus is a sweet gig, but Jordan Pundik is another choice. For when he grows up, of course. Halloween, maybe a robot? Or maybe a tortoise -- and then gets up to start his day.
Some days, these early morning declarations of uncertainty are the only time I'll hear about marching bands or Halloween or future careers. Usually, though, it's the first time of many. I see myself in him often but, really, our need to plan and prepare and know -- really, really know -- what's going on before it happens is one and the same. It's February and I'm already knee deep in guest list preparations and decorations for Ethan's fourth birthday party that isn't until June. I'm hardly a perfectionist, but there's something that feels really, really good about being prepared. About knowing what you're doing. About not having questions that jump into your mind like a pesky internet pop-up ad when you're trying to sleep. I don't do well with "the unknown" and it appears that my sweet boy has inherited that from me. I'm mostly undecided how I feel about that.
At almost-four, Ethan is a master negotiator. He's great at analyzing and planning and collecting. If it's cold outside, we must bring a blanket for his stuffed animal or Lego zookeeper. If it's hot out, how can his plush Smurf visit the park with us without a sun hat? He has such a busy, active mind and a poetic, creative soul and the closest I get to chilling out and relaxing is watching the way in which he exists in a world that has begun to feel more like an alternate universe to me otherwise.
He is so familiar in so many ways.