Monthly Archives: June 2013

Dangerous Questions

An odd thing happened the other day.

Referring to my son, I turned to his mama and asked “Where is he?”

You don’t understand.

I asked “where is he?” There was no panic in this question. No anxiety. I was merely curious.

No, you don’t understand.

Listen, the only circumstance in which a parent asks casually after the location of their 2.75 year-old is when they’re under the direct supervision of someone else. Like daycare, Grandma, or the NSA.

He was with none of the above. I knew he wasn’t being watched by anyone. He was somewhere in the apartment. Playing quietly by himself.

Playing.

Quietly.

By himself.

It took me a while to realize the stupefying profundity of this simple question. I wrote a few posts ago about this wild new world of sitting while he pursued his interests around the playground. The onset of which still has me giggling drunkenly whenever I think about it.

But now, but now, but NOW it’s changed again. He can, does, and will occasionally continue to play by himself quietly. In another room. That I’m not in.

All this and I’m still amazed he can freakin talk.

This, this is like discovering penicillin or Batman. This is like the introduction of literacy to human civilization. Everything is different after this, my identity as a father will change to its very foundation.

The repercussions for my lower body joints alone have me shuffling a gleeful tarantella of popping cartilage and ibuprofin.

Seriously, people, imagine you wake up one day and discover you’re Magneto. Yesterday you wore business casual and cared about office supplies, today, you can manipulate all metallic elements and the earth’s magnetic fields by thinking about it. And you’ve got a boss helmet.

Now you begin to understand how my day to day life shall be revolutionized. The new father is characterized by the constant and unrelenting demand for his attention. And stubble. And stains. But you’re on duty, or on call always, at all times, under all circumstances. Sleeping doesn’t count. Eating doesn’t count. Watching the last 20 minutes of the final episode of The Wire doesn’t count. You never clock out, you just go from bus boy to janitor.

But now, if he plays quietly by himself, I get coffee breaks.

Coffee Breaks.

With both hands.

This is the beginning, my sleepy brothers. I hoped and feared this day would come, where I crest the hill of “new fatherhood” and begin the long slow descent into the dim possibility of having a life again. When he can stand without falling, articulate clearly his needs to any number of trusted adults between whom is day is spent. When he doesn’t need to be constantly monitored, entertained, supported (physically).

Soon I could give him permission to go play in his room. Soon, we could spend rainy days not wracking our brains and worrying about the downstairs neighbors, but sitting and reading in the same room. Watching movies. Soon, he’ll go to other kids’ houses. Soon he’ll be in school, then have after-school activities, then have after-school activities he doesn’t want me hanging around for. Then he’ll be embarrassed by me. Then he’ll go to college.

Wait a second…

Excuse me while I go see what he’s doing. Just, you know, check in on him.

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Is Twigging Still a Word? That the Kids Say?

It’s not that I’m unhappy – it’s very important that you understand that.

I’m actually very satisfied with my life as it is. My life is awesome. Especially if you watch the news. Or Game of Thrones.

Happy. Satisfied. Grateful. That’s my Venn diagram and there’s my sunshine self grinning in the overlap.

It’s only that I lay in bed last night, staring at the wall, thinking “What the f#*! just happened?”

Where did my life go? Where did the last 3 years go? How is it that I regularly wake up before 10am? Will somebody please walk me through the process by which using my own laptop, sleeping in my own bed, or brushing my teeth are all things that require a level of scheduling, coordination, and subterfuge sufficient to hunt down Osama Bin Laden?

I wrote in one of my early posts that the first few weeks of being a parent are so intense and all-consuming that at some point you wake up and realize you’ve arrived. No doubting, no beginner-level, no probationary period – you are now, and forever will be a parent. I think that’s part of what’s happening now – standing up and looking around (consciousness-wise) after keeping my head down lately, baby-job-dishes-sleep on repeat. What pitiable social life isn’t killed by working nights and weekends, is very soundly euthanized by knowing you’ll be up at 7:00 or earlier the next morning. This may have something to do with this newest of existential crises.

The thing is, if it’s a vacation from parenthood I’m wishing for, I need not wish too hard. Every 2 months or so my work gets busy. Like, 12-14 hour days, 6 days a week for 2 weeks kinda busy. I’m at work the whole time, so it’s not quite like having my life back, but it is a very clear window into  world without my son. And it’s awful. It only takes a day for me to start looking at old pictures of him in idle moments, to tear up when I come home and see his little shoes outside, see the chaos of his day all over the living room.

I’ve been listening to a podcast called “Pratfalls of Parenting” in which Twin Cities writer, actor, and funny guy Levi Weinhagen talks to local artists (mainly of the performing flavor) about being parents. It’s a fantastic podcast, especially if you’re a creative type who’s responsible for a miniature human. There’s great stuff about art, kids, gender roles, social justice, money, pregnant burlesque – it’s got it all.

In one episode Levi summarizes nicely a thought that’s been rattling in my own head: “I don’t wish I didn’t have my child, but I do wish sometimes that I didn’t have the responsibilities I have now.” I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the idea, and I think I share that with every papa (and mama) who’s ever had to prioritize which fluid to clean up. I can’t imagine life without the little man, but I’d love to take a shower without having to plan it days in advance.

So really, as I reflect, it’s not that I want back what I’ve lost. I just want somebody to take the man in the mornings. Maybe get the dishes, make me a burrito.

I need a footman.

Or a Gorilla butler.

First world problems. God Bless America.

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