I’m supposed to be writing, aren’t I? Documenting things so that when I’m old and senile (i.e. 2 years from now) I’ll have a digital reminder of what happened back then. I’ll look over these words like Doogie Howser did at the end of every episode. Smile, tilt my head a bit, maybe give a little knowing laugh like “Right, here’s the lesson I learned!” and then wonder where all the time went. Then I’ll remember that I’m not a teenage doctor living with my parents and I have to get back to playing the role of husband and father.
Our daughter is almost 4 months old now. It’s hard to believe, but alas, time actually works that way and in another one she’ll be 5 months old. She’s matured since the last time I wrote about her. The 3+ hour nightly sessions of fussing have given way to early bedtimes and minor bouts of fuss. Diaper size has changed, and we’ve noticed that the dirty ones have the distinctive smell of butter flavored topping (I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to eat popcorn in a movie theater again). She’s even started smiling on a regular basis; sometimes at inanimate objects and sometimes at us. I’m looking forward to the day when she can distinguish me from one of the letters we have up on her alphabet wall. Something tells me that Red W will always be her favorite, no matter how much allowance I give her.
For me, the smiling has been a huge factor in her winning me over. It’s not that I didn’t love my daughter, but it wasn’t until she started smiling that I fell in love with her. There’s been a shift from wailing, inconsolable baby who only wants to eat to a baby who’s becoming a person (that only wants to eat). I’ve talked to a few other parents about this, and one or two had a similar experience. The beginning is rough, which is common for many first time parents, however this isn’t always the case. I was told that I was a fairly pleasant baby that slept all the time, and I never really fussed unless I was hungry. Our daughter, on the other hand, was trying to set a world record for fussiness. I’m guessing her picture would have been in the Guinness book somewhere between the world’s furriest man and the fuzziest teddy bear.
Another big change in our house is that my wife’s maternity leave ended, so we had to put the baby in daycare. It was tough, since we were both really happy about them being able to stay at home together. While she enjoyed the time spent with the baby, my wife mentioned that she probably would have gotten a bit bored if she had to do it all the time. I don’t know how stay at home moms & dads do it, but, more power to them. Honestly, I think I’d feel the same way as my wife if I had to stay at home all day. I know how I am, and I’d get into a routine or rut that would probably not have been healthy for me or the baby. Maybe I’m not giving myself enough credit. I’d surely want to take advantage of the time I had to teach her about the world she lives in, but only after we had our second cupcake of the day and caught another episode of The Wire.
On top of all this, I’m learning a very important lesson about free time. Free time is now the hottest commodity of this household. More precious than rare metals, more coveted than the last sweet in the house. Gone are the days when we could lounge around the house for hours on end, watching hours of TV or having marathon video game sessions. I look back on those days with a mixture of envy and self remorse. While I’d love to have all that free time again, I often wonder why in the hell I squandered it on so few things. Why didn’t I write more? Draw more? Read more? Why didn’t we go out to more shows, travel, or hang out with friends until the late hours of the night? HIndsight is, of course, 20/20. And neither you nor Barbara Walters can change what has transpired prior to the present.
So, it’s up to me to live in the now, look forward to the future, but not plan too far ahead. I need to live somewhere between being at peace with the past and not worrying about the inevitable birds and bees chat I’ll have to have with my daughter one day. For now I need to stop, smell the butter flavored topping and be the person who gives her the motivation and excitement to smile for.