I should have seen it coming when I was woken from trying to sleep off a night of partying after helping to carry the mikoshi at the local festival by Beloved telling me that her water had just broken. I should have known that we were going to have "fun" with this one, that our first child was going to be challenging, and one who delights in messing up every schedule he possibly can.
But let me go back a bit, not to five years ago, but back to 2004, the year I came to Japan.
Apparently we celebrated a bit too much after arriving in Japan as I learned in January of 2007 that Beloved was pregnant.
As with all newly expecting couples, we probably went overboard. Everything was looked at. Was Beloved eating right? Was a car trip to Tokyo in February that year really ok? I had bought two pregnancy books (Great Expectations and Pregnancy for Dummies) and we read them religiously each week, catching up on the stages as Beloved slowly got bigger. Before Makoto was born, we already could tell that he had some affinity for music, he would become very, very active whenever music was played around him (It was somewhat startling to see the shape of tiny feet and hands appear on the side of my wife's stomach).
But, yes, five years ago, plus 36 hours, I was trying to sleep off a LOT of sake and beer. The night before had been the Autumn Festival for the town and we had carried the mikoshi. Even better, this year we had donated to it and asked that it be "tossed" up. It was a joke, Beloved's due date was fast approaching (We had been told September 24) and like all women in that stage of the game she wanted it done and over with! Thus I suggested that maybe she should ask the kami for help, you know, to hurry things along.
Be careful what you ask for...
Because, yes, I was awoken by Beloved shaking me to say her water had broken and, sorry, Honey, even though you're hung over...
We didn't know what we were getting, the both of us had agreed to make sure to not find out the sex until he, or she was born, and instead we prepared names for both a boy and a girl. We also agreed that the first name would be Japanese, and Beloved's choice, while the middle name would be English. Beloved chose Makoto, which when written in Japanese, means truth, sincerity, faithful, etc. which is what she wanted for our son to be. I chose Gerald, my father's name. I never got the chance to know my father, but I wanted to honor him.
Makoto, from the get-go, was startling. He cried, don't get me wrong. He howled when he came out, but once he was dried off and wrapped into a blanket he didn't nurse or fall asleep. Instead what I remember is holding him about 10 minutes after his birth and watching him as he looked at everything. It was like he wanted to see what he had been hearing, now that he was out he wanted to find out all about this world and he wasn't going to wait.
Today is his fifth birthday, and he's still not waiting. It's a constant challenge with him, and in many ways it's one where I have to run to keep up. We get reports from his teacher at pre-school that Makoto is, in many ways, ahead of his peers. He works his way through problems, logically (For a given value of logic), he has more empathy skills than his peers, he considers others more and takes a leadership role in the class... and has problems with focusing on things he doesn't want to do, being quiet, and in someways tends to be a bit lonely, even though he's made friends with just about everyone, including a horde of girls.
My mother, it should be noted, laughs when she hears this and gleefully shouts "REVENGE! YOU ARE RAISING YOURSELF!", thus why one should never expect sympathy from one's mother.
Still, for five years, Makoto has been changing and growing. He has taken his first steps, learned his first words in both English and Japanese. He is learning how to read two separate languages, and every day still tells me all about the day that the world was born.