Naturally, he wanted to play with it. He took it out of the cardboard box, unwrapped the tissue paper around it, and started throwing it around the house. As soon as I realized what he was doing I gently put it away and told him he couldn't play with that particular ball because it was daddy's and it was special.
Later that afternoon, when the rest of the kids came home from school, my 6 year old son found it (apparently I didn't do a good job of putting it away) and was playing with it in his room. A very devastated toddler came crying down the stairs yelling "Cayub can't pay wif da ball....it's daddy's!" I called Caleb down and explained to him that it was special not only because it was daddy's, but also because it was autographed and might be worth something one day and we needed to keep it nice. My two year old chimed in, eyes still brimming with offended tears "It's so so special...you can't touch it!" He continued to repeat that it was daddy's over and over.
It occurred to me that Carter was genuinely upset, and I wondered suddenly if I had put too much pressure on him to keep all things 'daddy' sacred. This little man, who never got to meet his daddy, has only connections with him through stories and pictures. It is my mission to make sure Carter grows up to know his daddy, even if he never got to meet him face to face. But I never realized that I could potentially "over-do it" in that everything daddy-related was sacred and untouchable. He seemed so upset by the thought of ruining something that was daddy's.
At the same time, my heart leaped to see how much he respected what was Jeremy's and understood, even at such a young age, that his daddy was something special. I want to make sure that Jer is remembered as something real, and not just an idea or something he has to walk on eggshells about. But how can you really do that with a child who has no tangible memories of his daddy, only the aftermath of everyone else's memories?
I don't know the right answer, but I am pretty sure there isn't one. Hopefully, the tender heart of my 2 year old will grow up knowing that someone very special loved him more than life before he even came into this world. The rest I'm just making up as I go along....kind of like parenting, in general. Now that I think of it, kind of like life.