Year Moment in Review
At 3:15am, Hendrick was at the gate, whimpering. I sat up, slipped out of bed, and headed to his room to help him back to sleep. I put my hands beneath his arms and lifted him up to my chest, right hand beneath his bottom, left on his back and neck. We went over to his bed. I knelt down, rotated him counter-clockwise till his back was upon the bed, and covered him with his softest blanket. But the unhappy cries did not cease. Even as I was stepping over the gate, I knew he was after my heels.
Once out, in our bedroom, I went for the bathroom to give Hendrick a few minutes to figure out that he would rather get back into bed on his own than stand at the gate crying (at some point I am confident he will come to this conclusion, too). Admittedly, this break was also intended to relax myself in every way possible—to give myself the best shot at patient parenting at that challenging hour. When I returned, I walked in again to place him back in bed, trying to balance warmth, comfort, and reassurance with a sure firmness that it was time to sleep. I laid him back down and again made an exit. Hendrick indignantly got back up and headed for the gate.
At this point, I realized I had missed a key step in my own patented, ideal, early-morning Hendrick protocol: 1) put Hendrick back to bed; if no effect, 2) CHANGE DIAPER; if no effect, 3) comfort and/or put Hendrick back to bed, depending on circumstances; if absolutely desperate, 4) send in big guns: nursing time (but I prefer this only after 5am). Yes, I had forgot the diaper change. So I returned, removed a sopping wet diaper, which, when balled up, was the size of a small softball, and applied a dry one.
Hendrick was then really angry, face wet, breathing uneven. So I picked him up and walked him, back and forth, back and forth, across the open eight-foot stretch of floor in his room. I gently bounced him and shooshed him all the while. With the bounce, my shooshing sounded not unlike a rotating water sprinkler. Finally Hendrick settled down, laid his head on my chest, and tucked his hands under his belly. He was clearly ready. I placed him in bed and covered him up.
Three more trips to the gate later, I went in again and stepped over the gate and the little head cocked up at a 90-degree angle to watch me pass. I went over to his bed, made straight and pulled back his covers, and then patted the bed as I looked at him and said, “Come on, sweetie.” Hendrick crawled over and sat beside me. I placed him once more on the mattress, and he finally cuddled his favorite blanket warmly.
I entered our bedroom and sat on the couch, not knowing in the moment whether he was going to get up again. So I took the opportunity to do something I haven’t done in a very long time: close my eyes, sit, and just be. I let myself relax and just experience whatever was there to experience. I listened to myself breathe. I listened to Katrina breathe. I listened to Hendrick sigh. I listened to the refrigerator buzz. I listened to a train coming and going in the distance, its sound reaching for and then running away from me. I listened to a haunting wind blow in and out of the chimney. I listened to the outside hum that is the sound of nothing and everything all at once. I sat, just being, just experiencing, knowing that moment was only for a time and would never exist again. Moments move. They are born, grow, change, and pass.
I pondered my experience of Hendrick’s first year of life. I found myself thinking about how earlier in the day I had said to Hendrick, as if joking, “Don’t worry, Hen, I promise I’ll be a better Daddy in your second year,” knowing all the while that I didn’t intend it completely in jest, knowing that in my heart there was grief that I had let the first year with my baby pass so fast and had let so many opportunities to be a good Dad go by. This day I had to work, that day I was busy applying for more work. Meanwhile, Hendrick was becoming a new person everyday. Where did all the time go? So much of it was now lost, not to be recovered. Yes, I had to be a better Dad.
But joined for a moment with the moment, surrounded with the sound of nothing and everything, I knew that it was okay. I could do a better job; we all can. Yet I also understood that this was the way of it. This was what it meant to be a parent. They say the first year goes fast, because it does, and none of us are ready for it. And the rest of the experience of parenthood will no doubt prove the same. Every moment will be different. One of laughter. One of joy. One of disappointment. One of sorrow. One of pain. Every moment is special because it cannot be forever. All we can do is embrace it, feel it, and then let it go, sometimes with patience, sometimes with gratitude, sometimes willingly, even happily, sometimes only with visceral sadness and clinging reluctance. But however the moment comes and goes, we must know that movement is its very nature. And if anything, at least this recognition may allow us to be okay.
At 3:50am, okay, I slipped back into bed and found quiet sleep.