You’ll have to excuse my naiveté about parenting. I was 40 when we brought our son, Wesley, home from the hospital. And while becoming parents wasn’t something my wife and I entered into lightly, there was nothing that adequately prepared me for that day or any of the others that have followed. So there have been plenty of surprises since then.
I can’t remain cynical in the face of such a tiny miracle.
By loosening my grip on my own preoccupations I’m open to so many things that never occurred to me. Now I’m seeing life through Wes’s eyes, and it’s far more comforting to embrace the unknown. And what I’ve found myself appreciating most through these early days, strangely, are a lot of the same exact things that everyone else seems to appreciate most: those first looks of recognition, the mini-Michelin Man physique, a personality forming before my eyes.
Parenting is all consuming.
What was I talking to my friends, my family, my wife about for all those years? A friend told me once that you could pretty much maintain your lifestyle with one baby. It was the second that changed everything. I’ll admit that I clung to stories about those experiences and I’ve selfishly tried to keep a certain order to my life. But I’m also swallowed whole by my time with him. Last night, when I was feeding him, he grabbed the spoon with his little left hand and wouldn’t let it go. I mean, I seriously could not pull it away. So I nudged the bowl closer to him and just tried to steer. A week into eating from a spoon and already he wanted to do it on his own. It was, at once, the happiest and the saddest moment of my week. And it’s all I’ve been able to think about.
How do people do this in their twenties?
My wife (who’s 36) and I held out hope that our maturity—OK, our age—was going to give us a small advantage. If anything, we feel like bigger idiots when we watch a young family of five climb into a gleaming minivan like they’d rehearsed it a few hundred times, while it takes both of us to collapse the stroller and wrestle it into the trunk.
I actually enjoy changing diapers.
My wife does all of the heavy lifting and there’s little that I can do right now that makes me feel useful. But I can change diapers, at least. And these moments between Wes and I have yielded some our most precious bonding. I can never tell if he’s lighting up over the fresh diaper or me, but it doesn’t really matter. And I’ve come to take immense pride in the fact I can get him to giggle every time I lube him up with A+D. It’s like it’s become our inside joke. I’ve seen that kid literally grow before my eyes on that changing station. Hopefully, his view’s been much the same.
Everyone else’s kids matter to me know.
“You can’t talk to them like that,” my wife always used to say to me when were among our friends and all their kids. “Like what?” I’d ask. “I’m talking to them like anybody else.” “That’s just it; they’re not like everybody else. They’re two.” I genuinely had trouble differentiating because kids generally gave me the same confused looks as their parents in response to a snarky barb. But now all I want to do is protect them from all the other jaded and indifferent adults (and kids) of the world. And it’s not relegated to the kids that I know. I’ve been binge-watching “The Walking Dead.” When young zombie-Sofia was shot down at the end of an early episode, I sat there on the couch, by myself, virtually paralyzed for a half-hour. And then I quietly mourned her for, like, the rest of the weekend.
I feel utterly vulnerable. All. The. Time.
My wife would describe me as being on the sensitive side. If we tallied up the number of times we’ve cried in front of each other in our 11 years together, my total would trump hers 10 times over, and that’s not even counting series finales. But Wesley has launched us into a whole other stratosphere.
I stopped thinking about the mechanics of my life a long time ago. But all I seem to do now is consider the countless ways this kid could harm himself or be harmed. If he’s not choking from trying to stuff both fists in his mouth at once, then Russian subs, I’m sure, are lining up along the east coast. Life is fragile. I get it. Now, turn it down.