It seems like only yesterday when I was sitting in the maternity ward at Children’s Hospital, trying to stay calm while we waited for you to arrive. Mommy was so freaked out that day because you weren’t supposed to come for another five weeks, that she even began that whole if-anything-happens-to-me talk, which I had to put a stop to before she worked herself up too much, even though we were all worried too. But you were here. I’ll never forget the look on her face when she woke up from the anaesthetic and said, “I’m a mother now…”
When I saw you the day after you were born, the first thought that came to my mind was, He’s so small. I had never seen anything like it; you looked so small, so very, very fragile, and so vulnerable, and I knew then that I would do anything for you. But you were so strong that you didn’t even have to stay in the NICU until your due date the way most premature babies do; you were allowed to go home when you were two weeks old. I remember how secretly freaked out I was when Mommy said, “Will you be all right looking after him whenever I have to run errands?”, and all I could think was, This is me. What the hell do I know about taking care of babies?
For the first time in my life, I was responsible for another human being, and everything changed. It didn’t matter that I had been a babysitter before; you were different. You were my own little godson, and all I wanted to do was to take care of you, to protect you, to teach you all about the cruel realities of life before you found them out for yourself and had your heart broken, to tell you that it’s all right to be angry, to be afraid, to be sad, — because we’re only human — and regardless of what people thought of you, to be yourself and be all the man you could be. I could laugh at myself now for feeling this when you were only two weeks old.
You were such a well-behaved baby; I was always so proud to tell Mommy that you never cried on my watch, you ate when you were supposed to and slept the rest of the time. I remember how you never liked being set down in your bassinet, and we had to pick you up and walk around the house with you. I remember all those mornings when Mommy left you with me so that she could run errands — you would wake up the minute she left and cry, until I took you out of the bassinet and put you on my chest and you would go right back to sleep with me. I remember all the little conversations we had when Mommy wasn’t around; you smiled when I laughed, and you pouted when I cried, and it was as though somehow, in your little heart of hearts, you could understand. I liked to think then that you already knew who I was, that you remembered me even though I had been away for a month in Boston, that you would still remember me when you came home with Mommy in December.
I used to think that I would always be around while you were growing up; to teach you to speak Chinese and French because Mommy didn’t want you to be ‘one of those American boys’, to babysit you when Mommy wanted to go on a date, to let you hide out in my house when you got into trouble with Mommy. One of the most difficult things about being back here is that helpless feeling of knowing that I can’t be around to watch you grow up, to help take care of you when Mommy was going through the most difficult time of her life, and just to be there for the two of you. My only consolation is that you have the best mother anyone could ever wish for, and people all around you who love you and would protect you.
And now here you are: a year old, and the brightest, happiest baby I know. You will never know this, but it was because of you that I grew up more quickly over the last year and a half than I ever did before, and it was because of you that I learned that it was more important than ever to take care of the people who mattered to me and not care about myself. I know we won’t be able to see each other very often, and by the time you next come back you probably would have forgotten me all over again, but I have no doubt that at some point in time, we will be a big part of each other’s lives. I love you with all my heart, and I know the day will come when I can be proud of the man you have become.
In honor of Aiden Xavier Robb.