Far be it from me to quote Donald Rumsfeld, but I think he was talking about parenting when he said "As we know, there are known knowns. There are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns. That is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don’t know we don’t know." Sound confusing? Yeah, that was my first year of being a father. Fortunately, the unknown unknowns are starting to go down…I think…Then again, I wouldn’t know, would I?
It’s hard to believe that Iris came into our world a year ago. I spent my birthday sharing how I’ve changed in the last year and, obviously, it’s been a profound experience. But Iris’ growth is nothing short of amazing. People love to use the phrase "the Miracle of Birth" and it certainly was a miracle, but I’d contend that the "Miracle of Growth" is even more stunning. When we first brought Iris home, she was little more than a squirmy worm. Communicating with her was akin to Anne Sullivan working with Helen Keller in the "Miracle Worker". I remember confessing to Cherise that she was cute, but I thought I’d be a better father when she could actually talk and respond. Till then, I was just biding my time and making sure I didn’t break her (so far, so good!). After all, she was oblivious to my words or actions. I figured that once she turned two or three, we could really start interacting. Well, I underestimated how quick kids pick things up.
Iris has been a sponge, just taking in everything we do. She’s clearly developed a personality and she and I have developed this great relationship. She knows me as the goofy guy that likes to sing to her, watch the Orioles lose, and is good for a comfy shoulder and a warm hug. When she is in her crib and crying, I walk in and the first thing that she does is stick her arms out to me, as if to say "I need a hug". When I pick her up, she wraps her arms around my neck and squeezes tight. There is NOTHING is the world that feels better than that and it has grown into a routine with us. Meanwhile, when I leave for work in the morning, Cherise and Iris will see me off and Iris will actually wave goodbye. She knows how to let me know what she is thinking. That’s the amazing thing about Iris–she’s beginning to accept and put out behavioral cues, like putting her arms out for a hug or using sign language to make requests (like for milk and…well, milk).
Much like my realization that I am officially an adult, it’s clear that she’s a real person. I suddenly have enough behavioral traits to project her at 5, 10, and 15 (well, maybe not 15–that’s unpredictable even at 14). When Cherise will tell me a story of something that happened during the day, I’ll usually think "That’s so Iris!" as if she’s got a style. She’s got a wicked sense of humor, she’s pretty stubborn, and she’s a sharp cookie. And every time I think I can’t be surprised by the next milestone, she does something unexpected that blows my mind. Looking at the pictures of a pregnant Cherise, it doesn’t seem possible that what was growing inside her is what has given such joy (and pain) over the last year. What lies in the year ahead? Well, I am not sure. I could ask Mr. Rumsfeld, but I assume he only knows what he knows…