Being a stay-at-home for round two is an interesting experience. Elias is completely and utterly on the other end of the spectrum from Kai in almost every possible way. As parents, we're not supposed to compare our kids as "better" than one another in any fashion; and yet, comparisons often occur naturally: who ate this way; who acted this way at bath time; who slept this way; and so on.
I love that I get to live through so many experiences with Eli. As a veteran parent, I think I'm more relaxed with Eli than I was with Kai. The first time around in being a parent, you tend to get so wound up in trying to do everything right that you miss so many of the quiet moments. Things like just playing on the floor with no educational objective in mind. Things like just spending time looking in each others' eyes and smiling to see if the other one will smile back. Things like taking the time to investigate every leaf, blade of grass, or rock outside, because it's likely his first time to ever have seen them (at least as far as his memory goes).
I am very intentional - probably overly so - in that every time I pick Eli up from his nap, I try to always hug him and say the words "I love you" to him. I try and carry on a conversation with him during meals when I feed him every day (go on and visualize it; it's more ridiculous than you can imagine). I try not to let anything, from the changing of the most offensive of diapers to the lotioning down after a bath, go by as something routine and mundane where he and I don't intentionally interact.
To be honest, I screw up. A lot. My tolerance level has in some ways not so much been shortened as it has been eradicated. I've gotten frustrated, angry, raised my voice, and said things I regret even as they are coming out of my mouth far more times than I care to admit. To Eli. To Kai. To Ashley. And time and again, I have had to apologize for being an ass. (Perhaps not phrasing aloud it quite like that, because I don't want Kai to pick up yet another word he shouldn't say.)
I'm discovering that my staying home with Eli is as much for my benefit as it is for his. With Kai, I was at a crossroads when I started my SAHD journey with him, in many ways at one of the lowest points in my life. I was dealing with the death of my father, the questioning of what I was supposed to do with my life. I defined myself as a dad, and only as a dad.
With Elias, I'm far more me than I have been in years. To be fair, I'm still dealing with the loss of my mom and the trainload of issues that stem from picking up the pieces of what it's like to be orphaned. But these days, I'm facing them as a much better me than I have been before. I don't define my being through the framework of what I do (or as I have been prone to call myself: "just a stay-at-home dad") as much as I do through the identity of who I am as a person. The boys both see me at my best, they see me apologize for being wrong, they see a healthy balance of how to fight well and how to love well.
I'm still not sure who or what I'm going to be when I grow up. But for the first time in ages, I'm having fun trying to figure it all out.
And for as much as the constant drooling during teething, sleepless nights due to whatever reason, the refusal to eat the amazingly healthy meal I spent hours preparing, or the fact the lightbulb happened to be shining in a manner unleashing to him and he gets fussy, angry, and tries to punch me gets on my nerves - I wouldn't change a single moment with Eli.
Except for maybe the offensive diaper bit.