You and your mother are asleep as I write this. It’s 5:30 am and the fear of making any noise and waking you has manhandled me into a corner called quiet introspection.
The last four months have been interesting. No, that’s a lie. It’s been a hair raising, testicle clenching, dear-god-when-will-it-get-better emotional, physical and mental ride on that tired metaphor of a roller coaster. (Who can think of anything original this early in the morning?) The kind of ride where, when you eventually get off, you wipe the vomit off your face and mumble through clenched teeth: “Holy shit, that was fun.”
Four months is a short time, but you’ve already picked up twice your birthweight. This means you no longer look like a head surgically attached to a spasming frog’s body. The pediatrician says it’s because of all the healthy breast milk you’ve been drinking.
Currently your mouth is a black hole capable of devouring entire solar systems. Not that you’re fussy. Keys, toys, bags and especially your own hands (often both at the same time) are stuffed into your mouth with singleminded determination. I try and avoid prolonged contact with your face for fear of being sucked in and waking up on the other side in a parallel universe where I am the father of sleepless quadruplets and coffee is a swear word.
In the mean time, entrepreneurial flies have been selling tickets for wall space to watch us take turns in frantically pacing around the bedroom, dancing this tiny creature with the huge lungs to sleep. Instead, you seem to reserve nap time for when we go to the doctor, town, or anywhere else where it is impossible for your mother and I to catch up on some REM ourselves.
Did I mention the dancing? Apart from falling asleep when it is most inconvenient you have also decided that you like to be rocked to sleep. No, not the gentle swaying from side to side. Rock, as in rock ‘n rolled.
The soothing melodies of The National and José González have been discarded and replaced with anything I could find on my computer with a beat. Which is why you are now escorted off to lalaland to the sounds of Beck, Brenda Fassie, and Cypress Hill’s Dr. Greenthumb. At least if you go for one of those regressive hypnotherapy sessions, you’ll have a great soundtrack for the trip down memory lane. You should be thankful. You could have grown up with ABBA like your father.
When you are not sleeping, you pee yourself, frequently and with gusto, you cry, for no apparent reason, you drool over everything and generally you like to be entertained for the entirety of your wakeful existence.
But, here’s the But. The first evidence that you are in fact a little human being, and not a machine with a pressure cooker for a stomach sent from the future to destroy us, has emerged. Somewhere along the way you started smiling. Like a clever drug dealer you initially handed out your gummy grins for free. Then, when you were sure you had us hooked, you started making us hustle for it. Your mother and I have pulled muscles in our face medical science is yet to discover.
Sometimes our contortions are awarded with the smallest of grins. And even that makes it worth it. Every time your nose crinkles up and you smile that naughty smile of yours, something ridiculously cute happens somewhere in the world; puppies appear out of nowhere and roll around in three ply toilet paper and on the African Savannah, all the animals hug each other and sing Circle of Life.
Two weeks ago you also started chuckling and we immediately had to recalibrate our cute-o-meter. You now think your mother’s tongue is the funniest thing you’ve ever seen and insist that it is constantly on display. When you are not laughing or crying, your mouth thinks its sole purpose in life is to make saliva. Now it looks like a bunch of invisible snails follow you everywhere and have wild cocktail parties wherever your mouth is.
You are also clearly more conscious of the world around you, which is why we started reading our first book together. It is called Ishmael by Daniel Quinn and concerns the evolution of man and the myth that we are pinnacle of progress on planet Earth. Although the book has a giant talking gorilla, you usually start crying by the second paragraph. Perhaps I was a little ambitious.
Inevitably, I return to Noisy Monsters which is about space traveling abominations that also like to collect sea garbage. It has a giant button, which when pressed, emits maniacal laughter. It’s creepy and you love it, but it drives me absolutely mad. So we reached a compromise. I bought you an Asterix & Obelix omnibus. You are too young for it and I’m too old for it but you like the pictures and I get to be nostalgic about my youth.
On an aside, here is a short story for you. This weekend I drove up from our house on the farm past the workers’ cottages and found one of the guys awkwardly zig zagging on the road with a bicycle. I stopped and he proudly told me he bought it that morning. It was the first time he had ridden his own bike. He was sweating and panting from trying to find his balance, but he had the biggest smile on his face. He is forty years old, but that morning he was a child again.
It reminded me that we should appreciate the small things. Like your smile. Tomorrow you will be one day older than you are today and we will never have yesterday together again. Despite not sleeping much, being a constant handful and not even being able to fart, never mind poo on your own, we are thankful that you are here.
And so we will continue to ride that tired old roller coaster and clench our testicles and hang on for dear life. Because somewhere in the future, we will get off, wipe the vomit off our faces, smile broadly and shout: “Holy shit that was fun!”