Last night, I wished you were born with an off-switch. Or perhaps, just a manual indicating where the hell to find the mute button. As your crying made your mother and I sink deeper into the quicksands of despondency, my mind briefly started wandering along the paths of more Neanderthal solutions. Babies and walls equal bad parenting though. Your mother suggested that I count to ten. I snapped back that I need something stronger and of the double-on–the-rocks variety to calm my nerves. Then I counted to thirty.
For the last week, every night at six o’ clock, you begin to cry inconsolably. It starts with the smallest of whimpers; an overture leading into a crescendo of earth shattering misery. Like an air raid siren your wailing voice strikes fear into our hearts and makes us want to run for the closest sound proof bunker. Enter the other Big C:
When people talk about colic they do so in whispers, like they’re talking about their mother-in-law. Their pupils dilate, they break out into a cold sweat and their voices start quivering uncontrollably. Some simply find a corner, curl up and cry. Others try to brush it off with euphemisms like “high need babies”. I thought it just meant you got a little sad. Turns out it’s more like having two dragons in high heels tap dancing to dubstep around your insides.
To appease this god of heart wrenching melancholy we bought half the pharmacy and sacrificed colic warding cocktails with varying degrees of success. But after a week of trying to sooth you, I cracked. Last night, there was one too many shrieks of suffering in my ear. Finally, I wanted to scream too.
I wanted to tell you that this was all a big mistake and that I would like to return you to sender now, thank you very much. I wanted to put you down and book a ticket to the Federated States of Micronesia. The twenty-one year old me looked into the future and smugly said: “See, I told you so. Come back and make your whole life fit in a backpack. You were broke, but at least you didn’t have baby shit in your beard.”
I wished that you weren’t here so I could dust off the computer and finish watching House of Cards. I wish that I still had time to carefully plan suppers, instead of making lasagne, again. I wished that I didn’t need to shovel food down my throat like a kid at boarding school. I wished for cups of hot tea and whole cigarettes and time to play with the dogs. I wished for contemplative beers on the stoep and sunsets that weren’t fleeting glimpses through the window.
When most parents explain how their children have changed their lives, radiant beams of sunlight break through the darkest of clouds and shine down upon unicorns frolicking beneath double rainbows. Last night I looked at you in your colicky splendour and realised that they were all on acid. My life was busy changing, but God was finally punishing me for all those blasphemous jokes I made. Which made me send up a pitiful little prayer: “Sorry about all those All Mighty smiter jokes Lord. Who knew you were so sensitive?”
As I write all of this down, I realise it sounds like we were standing there for a really long time, but all these thoughts occurred in the blink of an eye. It was like speed reading the summarised version of my emotions. What I really thought was slightly less articulate and crass, yet honest: What the fuck have we done?
In the meantime, your mother and I were passing you between each other like the backline of a rugby team possessed with World Cup fever. We were going for phase 25; we could smell the sleep beneath the goalposts, before we hit a brick wall of despair again.
I had run out of tricks, except one. Desperate fingers turned the hi-fi on and selected a special playlist I made for you when you were still on holiday inside your mother.
The first song that came on was Bob Marley’s Fussing & Fighting. It was the first time I heard it in months. (Your mother is not a big fan of the reggae.) Bob was right. You were fussing and I was fighting. Now your mother is blessed with the purest of nightingale voice, where as I, on the other hand, sound like a husky lawnmower plowing through wet grass. Which is why, despite knowing all the words, I started humming to myself. Slowly, that small hum grew into a whistle and before I knew it, we were dancing around the room.
Your crying ceased. I could feel you starting to relax in my arms. Slowly, you nestled your head closer to my chest. And just like that, you fell asleep. Maybe you were just tired of screaming. Maybe it was the medicine. But I like to think it was Marley magic that made us stand on our first common ground last night.
We both love reggae!
I smiled. And then I couldn’t stop. It was as if someone had pinned my lips to my ears. I regretted regretting my regrets and wished I hadn’t wished those wishes five minutes earlier. None of it mattered at that moment.
There weren’t rainbows or unicorns, but I felt strangely proud as we slowly danced around the room. We had a small victory you and I, but it felt like we were celebrating something much bigger. I winked to my 21 year old self and told him he still has a lot of growing up to do. Everything doesn’t need to fit in a backpack and more often than not, the things that matter the most, can’t be confined in canvas. More importantly though, it made me realise you have great taste in music, which means we can get rid of all those silly, mind numbing lullabies for babies. You don’t raise a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate on twinkle, twinkle, bloody little star.
P.S. I wrote the above a week ago. Needless to say and much to your mother’s dismay, Bob Marley has been playing on repeat since that night. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. What matters is that when we needed it most, it did.