Saturday, September 26, 2015

Weird Parenting: 6 Months (It Goes By)

"It Goes By So Fast"

It's my new least favorite phrase and I hear it all the damn time now.


I see you, guy in your mid-thirties.  

I see those one or two silver hairs shining in the light amidst the black.  That's just the beginning.  

You're not a kid anymore.  You're a grown ass man.  

And see that adorable little baby snuggling up in your arms?  One day you're gonna wake up and he'll be a grown ass man too, going off to college, grad schools, off to work, gone across the country, gone overseas... starting his own life, joining another family... wherever.  You'll be thrilled to see him for Christmas.  

And where will you be?  Scheduling colonoscopy appointments, jogging eleven minute miles on pre-arthritic knees, counting your 401(k) dollars to fund your future nursing home -- and that's all if you're lucky.  It goes by so fast buddy -- you'll be in your late fifties soon enough, and you'll be looking at all the kids with their babies wishing you were 33 again.  HA.

[end Translation]

Ok, I get it.  It's small talk.  It's a way to build a brief personal connection.  It's a way of stating the obvious without having to say explicitly "life moves fast" (i.e. DEATH IS NEAR) -- because that's really what we're saying when we say time moves fast.  Right?

Confession:  one benefit of being a parent -- I actually have something to talk to acquaintances about -- but the filter of spoken word keeps the subtext from rising to the surface.

6 Months

Here's how I measure time these days:  months.  

We celebrated a half birthday recently.  This constituted Owen getting shot up with viles of dead viruses and proceeding to act like a maniac for the remainder of the day.  Memories of the last two rounds of shots where he cried like an angry goat for 45 straight minutes were lucid nightmares from the recent past.  The shots themselves are actually the easy part - it's the period of time about 2-3 hours later which seem to trigger some sort of irrational reaction.  

In preparation for said event, Megan and I medicated ourselves with the strongest craft beers in the Team Taj stash.  Megan prefers the pumpkin variety - it must be one of those quirky "white-people" things.  Fall rolls around and ostensibly she goes on a two month pumpkin spice binge.  It must have done the trick; we hunkered down in the rain, battened the hatches, and staved off the goaty cry.  By 8 PM Owen and dad were both passed the F-out.  Ah, the fun of Stockholm Syndrome -- the anti-vaccers don't know what they are missing.

we're all a little mad in here...

Worth noting our mini-celebration of sorts came on the heels of...

Our primary go-to sitter getting pregnant and moving to Florida (no hard feelings, she did a great job btw in the 3 months she was with us... but DAMN.)

Owen starting day care.  voteBernieSanderssocialism6monthsofmandatorymaternityleavehedgefundmanagersandshortsellerswhocapitalizeonrandomstockfluctuationsandacquirepharmacompaniesarethesmegmaofsocietyvoteBernieSanders

Which followed with our first double ear infection... at the same time Megan's parents were out of town and both Megan and I were sick ourselves.  This led to many incoherent family conversations at 3:30 in the morning with Owen crying in his sleep and both of us awake wondering "wtf did we get ourselves into?"  I recall a few 16 hour work days somewhere in there, but I'm not exactly sure what I actually did.  I'm just glad I never woke up to find my Subaru Outback wrecked in the garage Wolf of Wall Street style.

the wolf's drug of choice was quaaludes, Owen's is NOT amoxicillin 

[Translation] Some months you just want to go by fast.

"It Gets Better"

Everyone says this too about having a kid.  It's generally a true statement, but bear in mind the benchmark is low... the initiation phase is like a horror movie crossed with fraternity hell week with less grain alcohol... 

after 1 week you'll be incapable of completing a sentence without the word "breast"... 

after 6 weeks some semblance of a routine comes back...

thereafter...  most days are simply exhausting.  A few days are crippling.  Some days are monotonous.  Some Saturdays and Sundays I look at the clock and it's 1 PM, I've been awake and busy for 7 hours and feel like I've accomplished NOTHING (other than admirably fulfilling my duty of keeping another human from starving and wallowing in his own excrement.)  If I feel this way, mom feels that way times at least ten.

But there's this too... Every weekday I look forward to coming home (yes even when little dude is sick.)  Most days I get a huge smile when I walk through the door.  Some days I run, but never for long.  Some days I don't run because I'd rather stay home (and I'm completely cool with that.)  Every day I laugh.  Every day I learn something new about this strange new creature in our house.

When I get a smile, sometimes when I smile back I get a huge goofy grin of affirmation and Owen collapses to the ground face first.  It's hilarious.  We think we have an introvert, but a kind of wily one - a kid that's going to cause trouble behind the scenes but lay the guilt on hard after getting caught.  Sounds familiar.

I remember reading a parenting article in my pre-paternal life, where said author made a statement that is unequivocally true:  sometimes parents just like hanging out with their kids.

My other bit of advice to new parents:  get used to cognitive dissonance (don't worry, I had to look it up too.)

Summer of Owen

I don't know if summer happened this year.  If it did, anything before September was an illusion.  I recall a few days that were typical Carolina soupy-hot.  I remember running on Wrightsville Beach one early morning and driving around Wilmington listening to Jamie XX's In Colours after  my day at a conference had ended - and it was the first extended period of time I had to myself in months.  

I remember one day just after 4th of July hanging with Owen at Cocoa and Cinnamon amidst the sea of tattooed indie kids and adults with dubious employment and editing a few pages of my book while he slept and slept (I couldn't do that anymore, he's a busy guy these days...)  I declared this my Summer of Owen, because I knew that's what it was going to be.  And so it was.  

But I negotiated one weekend with Megan WELL in advance - staking my ground before Owen was born.  Hopscotch.  Most guys-guys go on golf trips or Vegas trips or Fantasy Football draft retreats, etc...  My hedonistic indulgence for the year was rallying past 1 AM to hear BATTLES drumming euphoria and raging with a tidal wave of humanity to King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.  Best advice when free time is scarcer than ever before:  know thyself and find an enabler.  Yup, I'm a weird dude, I own it, and am better for it.

Pour House, Raleigh

Following obscuremusicfest2015 I went to the other extreme... a beach trip with Megan's family to Hilton Head Island (i.e. island of said subjects from introductory section, really old white people, and damn bloodsucking mosquitos.)  It was quiet.  It was the type of vacation I would have scoffed at just five years ago, but this time around it was exactly what I needed to recalibrate.

I watched Owen as he peered curiously into the ocean, the receding tides, the shifting sands, the glistening reflection of the sun off the waves.  We listened to the breeze together and he licked the wind quietly, with wonder.  

I thatched together a makeshift tent of umbrellas and blankets on the empty beach one day to keep us dry while mist cascaded across the seashore.  Owen snoozed peacefully on Megan's lap while I read the recently controversial Alison Bechdel's Fun Home and wondered why I didn't read more books like that in college.  Reading about someone else's family tragicomedy seemed so apropos in the moment.  

I remembered when I was a kid I used to pretend I was somewhere exotic on family beach vacations, like I was an explorer in the Sahara desert, camping under sheepskin tents.  I made a comment to Megan about it, but it may as well been into the wind; it was one of those fragmented memories that wouldn't make sense to anyone else because no number of words could convey the sentiment of that time.  We all have those solipsistic pieces and parcels of our past I suppose.  I guess Owen will have his one day too.  After all, he's still in limbo.  He won't remember any of this yet.

I pushed carts filled with overpacked luggage and boxes of toys into the elevator.  Maneuvering the cart awkwardly and apologetically around strangers, it all hit me.  THAT did go by fast.  But what is THAT, exactly?  Was it this:  that only yesterday I was on the other side?  Is that what this is all about - reliving everything again but on my own terms?  It was as if everything that happened in between 1994 and 2015 disappeared for a moment and I was left raw, exposed, a child myself.

Maybe folks are right.  But I'm still annoyed.  I just wish this all could last longer.

Except the ear infections.  Those blow goats.

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