Babies are all about their mothers and remain so for roughly the first twenty to twenty-four months of their lives. After that, I’m told I get them until they’re about twenty-five years old, and this sentiment upsets my wife a little. I don’t know…I kind of liken it to a shiny new toy she can beat on for a while before dumping it off on me which, incidentally, is how much of our marriage has worked thus far. Maybe that’s not totally fair—I am looking forward to those years after baby-hood—but there’s no arguing that she gets the cuter versions of the rug rats.
For a dad, raising an infant is a practice in being OK with frequent rejection. Life has a pretty brutal sense of humor, after all. Case in point–mine in a nutshell:
- Puberty, when fear of rejection paralyzed me from ever talking to girls
- Post-puberty, when I was too dense to recognize the cues of when and how to talk to girls, thereby resulting in rejection
- Post-post puberty, when I learned how to talk to girls, found “the one” and figured I’d finally bested rejection once and for all…only to be introduced to my newborn son…
…and the world a’ keeps on a’ turnin’…
I mean, I know he loves me and we have our moments but, the truth of it is…he really, really hates me.
Those who’ve had children know that babies can cram about sixteen different expressions into one single look. This is because their face muscles have yet to sync with the appropriate brain waves/nerve connections. It’s the reason why, when he tries to smile, he ends up in spasms closely resembling the twerk dance, or belting out in crescendo the aria of a German opera singer. There were a few times, however, when my newborn baby held one single expression for a good solid minute. He had somehow gotten hold of a plastic toy butter knife—a piece of his older brother’s toy kitchen set—was holding it against his cheek and staring at me with a look that seemed to say, mom is mine–back off…or I cut you! Since we had him in a co-sleeper for the first several months of his life, I always made sure to sleep with a pacifier in hand (pacifiers are like a heavy whiff of chloroform to babies).
Sure, he loves me and loves being around me, loves it when I make goofy faces at him, when I tickle his belly and all that…until his mom walks by. Then the smiles and giggles and playful exchanges of raspberries turn into both of his hands on my face, followed by a deliberate shove before he lunges toward his mother like a piranha snatching prey.
My wife reminds me that he loves her so much because she’s his main source of sustenance, a human feed bag, as she puts it. But I think it’s more than that. I recall my first born as a baby, but can’t remember a single time when I held him while he was awake for more than thirty seconds—at least not for the first few months. Our dance went as such:
- Baby falls asleep, at which point he’s passed on to the daddy creature to give the mommy creature a much-deserved break.
- Baby wakes up, sees the daddy creature which always reminds him it’s pooping time (I’m convinced he must see me as some sort of bog monster, or something else so grotesque as to evoke the thought of an immediate bowel movement—score another one for my daddy self-esteem, right? I often wondered whether I should use this power for good or evil).
- Baby casts out a blood-curdling scream, because he’s just realized he’s carrying around an atomic crap that’s bound to lead to some sort of pandemic if not addressed as soon as possible.
- Daddy creature puts on his hazmat suit and proceeds in changing the atomic diaper, which he’s convinced must contain a sample of the sediment from Hell’s river, Styx.
- Daddy creature passes baby to mommy creature, as the pitch of his blood-curdling screams has begun to form cracks in the nursery window (we recognize this as his I’m hungry cry)
- Having escaped the clutches of the bog monster, baby immediately calms.
- Baby begins to nurse, eyes closed, hoisting a middle finger in daddy creature’s direction.
- Baby falls asleep…until the cycle repeats itself.
In the meantime, I can take solace in the fact that I now have a toddler and a soon-to-be-kindergartener demanding my attention…all at once and all the time…while I’m on the phone or in the bathroom or sleeping or finally getting to watch a television show that doesn’t feature the alphabet song or dinosaurs or trucks or songs that all have the same melody or names of characters that over-obsess with alliteration and rhyme schemes.
Yep, just living the dream.