The Balance

I’ve just finished the dishes and a cursory cleaning of the kitchen countertops. Jenn asks who the guest is on the episode of You Made It Weird I’m listening to. Roy Wood, Jr., I tell her. She looks puzzled and I explain he’s a correspondent on The Daily Show. I’ve really been enjoying the conversation between him and Pete Holmes. It makes me a little lonely, not having any real close guy friends I can hang out with and talk to the way Pete and Roy talk about life, comedy, family, philosophy and times you’ve laughed the hardest.

With about 10 minutes left in the podcast, I decide to go sit on the couch and listen to the rest while feeling the cool air of the living room fan blow on me. Jenn’s on her computer preparing for her first week of the school year when she says, “Uh-oh.”

“What’s up?” I ask.

“Do you hear that?”
I look toward the bedroom and sure enough, I hear a faint cry. I pause the podcast, put my phone in my pocket and go into the bedroom.

Stormy’s woken up and I see he’s upset and on his knees among the pillows, wondering where Jenn and I are. He sees me and stands up, arms outstretched, crying. My heart melts a little as I rush in to pick him up, quietly telling him everything’s okay.

Not a second passes and his head is already resting on my shoulder. Not sure if he’s quite asleep I still hang onto him, patting his back and doing my best to remain in the moment.

After a few minutes I’m pretty sure he’s asleep and I lay him down on the mattress and lie down next to him. His eyes are closed tightly, but he still moves. He wiggles into kind of a downward dog pose then rolls over, snuggling up into a spoon position against my chest.

My heart melts a little more and I help keep his arms still as he’s a restless sleeper and he gets into a more sound sleep when his limbs are secured.

I look at his little round face, finally at rest. His breathing is slow and deep. I begin to reflect…

SO much has happened in the last year since li’l Stormy came into the world. It’s been one of the longest and fastest years of my life.

Earlier Jenn asked me if I remembered the sleeping ritual for Stormy when he was a few months old. I honestly could (and still) not remember. That period is a hazy blur. Few memories stick out from the first handful of months – especially during the first weeks.

I remember we started alternating nights of who would stay up and sleep on the couch, keeping an eye on Stormy as he swung back and forth in the infant swing. It was the only way he’d sleep in those days. One of those nights there was a Stephen King movie marathon on TV. It was the first time I ever saw Maximum Overdrive, albeit half-awake, and the first time in many years I had seen Pet Sematary.

I remember how a lullaby version of The Imperial March was the first song to soothe him in his bassinet and how Zelda’s Lullaby would instantly calm him down when he’d start sobbing in the car during rush hour traffic.

Anyway, I digress…

I’m about to turn 37. Jenny and I are zeroing in on 40, and here we are with this brand new thing, this whole new venture in our lives – offspring. And as precious and precocious as Stormy is in this time, he’s not going to be a toddler forever. Part of me celebrates and part of me laments that fact.

It’s taken me 36 years just to get to this point: the beginning of my career in film and writing; a married man for a couple years; a father.

Now, if I want to see Stormy grow up and be there for him every step of the way…that’s going to take at least another 36 years. Well, 35 from this point.

I confess that while I look forward to many things to come, part of me shudders, wondering: do I have another 35 years in me?

By the time he’d be graduating from high school, I’ll be 52.

I don’t feel like a father. I don’t feel like a husband. And yet, there is a woman who fell in love with me and assures me I am both.

I don’t feel like I’m about to turn 37.

Oftentimes I feel like I did when I was 15-22, when I was starting to figure things out; when I was starting to figure myself out. Past 22, things become a bit of a blur unless I stop and think deliberately about certain times in my life.

Over the last five years or so, I’ve learned that life isn’t as simple as I wished or was led to believe it is.

My views and understanding of faith and objects of faith have undergone a radical metamorphosis. Things that were so fundamental to my worldview, which I thought were unmovable and immutable, I’ve experienced them to be quite movable and flexible.

I think of the second album by Jars of Clay entitled, Much Afraid, an album I listened to heavily during my freshman year of college. I think specifically of the second track: Fade to Grey.

I need something familiar, but with new meaning to walk me into this new world. I love how non-specific and open to interpretation the lyrics of the song are. The band caught a lot of flack from the church for that on their first album. But that’s how life is: open to interpretation, rarely so easy to understand.

 

Three Months…!

Good-ness.

THREE MONTHS!

It’s been three months since one world ended and another began.

Two days old...
Two days old…
Just shy of three months in this'un.
Just shy of three months in this’un.

Dadgummit…makes me misty already…

He’s been with us for three months. I remember thinking three days was a big deal and then three weeks.

His personality is definitely emerging (as are his vocal talents) and…it’s just amazing.

Life just keeps barreling on.

Jenn started back at her job this week after taking off a whole year to aid in Nightstorm’s conception and to allow her a little more time with him.

I’m taking this and next week off from work to help a bit with the transition as well as furthering my own career transition out of the Navy in just a couple more months(!).

And this week we’re getting an idea of what it’s like to have someone else watch our kid for the day while we both work. Spoiler alert: it’s weird.

It’s good in that it’s her parents, so the boy is already getting some good multi-generational exposure in there, but still. To think that he’ll be spending the majority of his days now with people other than his parents.

Jenn felt the melancholy more than I did, at first, because she’s been with him all day everyday (with the exception of a couple date nights and a spa day) since he popped out of her very own body. And her body continues to nourish him, day in and day out – talk about an intimate bond…

But then, this morning I felt it, too. Getting him ready, putting him in the car seat, driving him to his grandparents’ house. A part of me wanted to call and cancel, to say that I’ll be spending time with my son today and everyday the rest of my vacation time. Thing is, it’s just not practical.

Even though I’m off from my day job, I’ve got to hustle a bit to ensure that my next step is ready and generating income. I mean, I’ll have income from the G.I. Bill when I go back to school at UH, but in trying to supplement that with the dream I’ve pursued since I was in middle school in trying to get published through crowdfunding; it’s taking a lot of work – work I can’t necessarily do with an adorable, yet needy, little/big munchkinboy hanging out with me. And then first full week of August I’m back in the office again anyway.

I don’t know about Jenn, but I think what I’m feeling is a sense of failure. Our family unit is unable to stay together throughout the day; Stormy has to be with someone other than his nuclear family because we can’t afford to be a single-income family.

But then I realize that this is actually the norm – the state of the American dream, I reckon. It’s how I was raised, by babysitters and daycare supervisors before I was in school and then afternoons after school, waiting to be picked up; during the summer months, too, until I was old enough to be a latchkey kid.

And for the first time I really understand what the debate about paid family leave is all about and I have a sudden urge to relocate to Iceland or Sweden.

Nevertheless I am grateful for in-laws who love their grandbaby and spending time with him, so for them it’s no chore.

I look forward to a time where it doesn’t have to be this way, but if grandma and grandpa can babysit so mom and dad can have lovey-dove fun time that’d be great.

Some days these next couple of weeks I will be staying home and looking after Stormy all day to get a feeling of what it may be like to work from home should my writing or video production career take off.

Sometimes when he starts getting fussy or needy and clingy I want to teach him independence and how to lay the ju-do smackdown on feelings and such. But then when my picking him up calms him, or when he flashes that precocious, half-smile my damn heart melts to gooey-gooey blood sauce confections.

Three months…where will he be in three years? In three decades?

Making the world a better place, I hope.

TWO WEEKS AND LIFE TO GO

Lic. from Adobe Stock
Lic. from Adobe Stock

Today (Tuesday) we hit the two week mark and we still have a baby.

I realize that may sound silly, but really, this whole ordeal is still quite surreal. We were basically sequestered in small rooms at the hospital those first few days then released to our home with a new roommate. The only thing is, this roommate doesn’t do (anything but) shit [and] take, take, take and really, that’s okay because Jenn and I just want to give, give, give…until we don’t.

Don’t misunderstand: we love our li’l Nightstorm to the moons of Uranus and back. It’s just the sudden inclusion of someone else to love as intensely as we love each other continues to throw us for a loop.

And what it takes to make sure this li’l adorable snugglebug has everything he needs…

…for example: after I typed the word “needs” just then, Stormy started crying and needed tending to. Now it’s the morning after.

Anyway, what I was getting around to saying is that giving love to a newborn is a vastly different dynamic than giving love to another adult. Sounds like a given, I know, but you don’t really know until you’re in it eyeballs deep.

This whole experience is really making us define new limits of what we’re capable of. For example:

Your whole day can go off the rails because maybe the baby*starts fussing for no determinable reason. All your methods of soothing fail and then at the next diaper change you discover a crucial bit of diaper rash that seemingly sprang up out of nowhere (because you make damn sure to take every single precaution to prevent diaper rash) and then start noticing your kid really seems to hate pooping because of the pain involved and you start getting anxiety because pooping is an essential function for daily living and if you train your kid (inadvertently or otherwise) from week 2 out of a possible 70 years that pooping is something to be afraid of, you realize you’ve really screwed your kid over.

Or maybe you get worried about overfeeding the kid because the doctor made such and such recommendation at the last appointment but the baby keeps wailing and eating his mittens and apparently contradicting the recommendation there’s always the mandate to “feed on demand” and googling every 5 minutes about overfeeding a newborn brings a little comfort until he has to poop again and you see the face scrunch up, the skin go purple, and the wails go nuclear and you’re back to the aforementioned problem.

So yeah; it takes a lot.

One of the more frustrating aspects is the inability to communicate efficiently. Jenn and I say all kinds of things to him in all manner of voices and tones, and he doesn’t really respond.

He can’t tell us what he wants or needs except through a very primitive system of body language and sounds based not on clearly defined thoughts but only exclusively motive and instinct.

And again – another 30-40 minutes just went by for diapers, feeding, and burping.

Saying all that to say in terms of defining new limits for ourselves: we’re learning the value of sleep in a whole new way and we’re not superhumans. Sleep/rest is what fuels the patience reserves. Shoots, sleep is what fuels the energy reserves. It’s real easy to get caught up in trying to do stuff, and once Stormy’s down for a nap, not even considering napping ourselves. Rather, the idea is, “He’s down! Quick – to the activity list!!” And when you’re giving 110% to your kid for any amount of time, it’s difficult to switch gears and redirect whatever energy is left from that expenditure to something else.

Bleh…I’ve lost where exactly I was going with this…

20% staged/posed; 100% flummoxed.
20% staged/posed; 100% flummoxed.

Anywho, we’ve made it to the two-week mark and crises still turn out to be common issues easily dealt with (when of sound body and mind). In the midst of all this, Jenn and I are miraculously somehow rekindling our romance. I reckon it has to do with us being united by a common challenge: raising our son. It could slip into an us vs. him situation, but I think that’s why God makes babies so goshdarn adorable, to make it more difficult to get/stay mad at them. And Stormy is a freakin’ cutie pie.

Rather than us vs. him, it’s us for him vs. the challenges of life and forces of evil that conspire against life.

And I guess that’s about it for now.

L’chaim!!

THINGS I’VE LEARNED ABOUT STORMY SO FAR:

– he loves his mother’s touch
– he gets the hiccups a lot
– he seems to like the ambient works of Aphex Twin
– he can pound a 2oz milk like a thirsty man pounds a pint
– he has about an 80% complicit response rate to my Dr. Claw voice

*speaking in general terms to try and make it universally applicable