Blame Fairyland

It's not really Fairyland's fault. I'd actually made my decision days earlier, it's just that Fairyland reassured me that I was doing the right thing.

I spend a lot of time doing two things: interacting with people online and submerging myself into comic books. The two have become interlinked over the last few years of my life.

I have read comics since I was 10 and that won't change. I will always have a robust online life. But I've found recently that I need to pull back on both of those things.

At the moment, I run a web site: Comics Bulletin. It is, as you might surmise, a site about comics. I've been running it for less than a year, but in that time it has become a top priority for me. This is, in part, because I'm neurotic and this is what I do. But the site is also about something I'm passionate about, so it was easy to justify my obsession.

My current priorities in life are as follows:

My son
My wife
My writing
My job

That last one is in that spot as an aspect of taking care of my son, helping my wife, and being able to afford to write (in a house while fed). The problem is that the site, and by extension comic books themselves, was getting in the way of each of those priorities. That wasn't a big deal with regards to my job as no one really noticed, but it was a very big deal with regards to everything else on that list.

This isn't a post about comics or that site, though. I'm going through one of those times when I realize that what I used to feel was important either no longer is (to me) or can't be, and that there are new things that are replacing them.

Yesterday I deadlifted 195 lbs, which is 60 lbs more than the last time.

The idea of me using any of those words, let alone together in a sentence, is crazy. And yet here I am, a guy with a trainer who lifts weights. Better yet, I look FORWARD to it. I try to squeeze in a visit to my trainer's gym whenever I can.

I started going to strengthen my lower back, which has given me problems for years. I wanted to be able to pick up my son and not worry about being incapacitated for days. I've been going for months now, getting stronger and stronger, my energy level increasing the more I go. I'm doing it for my son, but the impact it's had on me has been huge. It's important to me.

That's not something I would have said even six months ago.

My son's school has a parents group with a representative from each class. His class didn't have one, so I volunteered. I didn't just do it because they needed someone, I did it because I felt like I was the best person for the job: I know the kids in my son's class. I say hi to each of them by name every morning. It takes me a half an hour to drop off my son and part of that involves playing with the all of the kids.

That's important to me now.

A lot of this is to be expected, I guess, but it's a testament to a) how drastically the needs of a child change when they become toddlers and b) how desperately I'll hold on to my past when I feel change coming.

What I have found surprising about my shift in priorities is how liberating it feels.

I honestly don't know why that is. Sure, it's in part because I'm no longer bound to a web site and all that entails. But it's more than that. There's clarity. For as enjoyable as my hobbies have been, they're amorphous; there's no start, no finish, no straight line. I wasn't working towards anything. Now I feel like I am.

Every moment I spend with my son or my wife is working towards building and maintaining our relationships. Every moment I spend writing has the duel purpose of unburdening my soul and creating something I can get published. Every moment I spend at work pays for this life and brings me closer to possibly making more money to pay for this life.

Like I said earlier, I'm still reading comics, just as I'm still reading books and I'm still playing video games. But they're not foremost in my mind anymore, not like they were. So I don't mind leaving the house. I don't mind a spur of the moment trip to the zoo or our inaugural visit to Fairyland. These are all parts of a bigger picture which is suddenly less cloudy than it was before.

The funny thing is that for all the time I've spent trying to stay a kid, by actually growing up I now spend more time playing with toys and watching cartoons than I have in years.

"Happy to see you, dadda."

One of the things I've learned during my 28 months as a parent is that you can't explain it to anyone who hasn't done it. I've done my best to avoid giving any advice to future parents because even if the advice is completely on the money, it more or less goes out the window when that kid shows up. Everything goes out the window.

I'm sure at some point someone tried to explain to me how emotional having a child would be, or how those emotions would sneak up on you and over take you when you least expect it. But it's impossible to comprehend what that's like until you go through it yourself.

Appleseed (what I call my son online) and I were playing at his train table. I'd been to the gym earlier and I was pretty wiped out, so I laid down on the floor. Instead of grabbing my hand and telling me to get up and be Gordon (I am Gordon, he is Thomas, my wife is Emily), he laid down with me, kind on top of me at first, then down next to me, then he crawled back up on top of me again, all the while smiling.

And then he said it.

"Happy to see you, dadda."

I could barely form thoughts, let alone answer.

He said it again.

"Happy to see you, dadda."

But he didn't say it as if he was waiting for me to say it back, he said it again as if he wanted to make sure I heard him, that I understood what he was saying.

"I'm happy to see you, too, Appleseed," I said.

We rolled to the side and I looked up at my wife, who was sitting on the couch watching us. She saw the look on my face.

"I know," she said. "He said it to me the other day and I couldn't believe it."

Appleseed shows us that he loves us all the time. He's a happy kid. He's a sweet and affectionate kid. Every day that I pick him up at school, he sees me and runs towards me, yelling "daddy!" and giving me a hug. He's even more affectionate with his mom. He loves us and he shows it.

But there's something different about hearing him say it (even if he didn't actually say it).

His affection for us has always seemed, to a certain extent, like an extension of the fact that we take care of him. Of course he loves us; we made him. We feed him, clothe him, entertain him. We are the center of his universe and he is the center of ours.

Hearing him say that he was happy to see me, though, seems like an independent thought. It's as if he is expressing something that he feels that is separate from our relationship up until now. I didn't have food in my hand. I wasn't giving him a Paw Patrol toy. I didn't just tell him he never had to brush his teeth again. I was lying on the floor. He could have just ignored me, really.

Instead he decided to tell me that he was happy to see me.

When people talk about such moments, they generally describe how it affected their heart. It melted or it broke or something like that. But the truth is that it felt like a section of my heart that I never even knew existed suddenly came alive. This boarded up room that had never been used was opened up and feelings I never knew I had suddenly circulated through my system.

There have been a lot of rooms like that, and Appleseed keeps finding new ones to open. The flood of them is sometimes more than I can bear.

He was happy to see me.

I know because he told me.