When we brought Jonah home, I was prepared to do anything. I wanted to help, I wanted to be involved, and I felt myself developing a gritty determination to climb mountains, cross icy streams and wear a pork-chop dress while wrestling a grizzly bear to show I was a New Millennium Dad, one who is involved and engaged in the child rearing. I was so pumped, I should have had theme music. It was tremendous.
Then, the second week started.
We had begun a system where I would feed Jonah the last feeding of the night and Sunday would get up in the middle of the night to feed him. If Jonah woke up after I fed him, however, I was to take care of getting him to be quiet and go back to sleep, before he needs to eat in the middle of the night.
The first time I got “the kick” I was out of the bed and ready for action. For the uninitiated, “the kick” could range in ferocity from a gentle touch with an ice-cold big toe to a foot assault that Pele could not complete.
At any rate, that first night found me ready to accomplish my task and be back in bed within the half hour.
Pitiful Amateurism. Sweet Ignorance.
I swaggered into Jonah’s room and began my efforts to calm him.
First, I picked him up.
I gently rocked him.
I checked his diaper, turned on some music, and told some jokes.
After about five minutes of this, I was on my knees begging this kid to be quiet. I pride myself on being a problem solver, one who can recognize the negativity in a situation and work to resolve it. At the foot of my child’s crib, surrounded by stuffed animals in the shape of Snoopy, my iron will buckled.
I quickly resorted to bargaining, which, by the way, is one of steps a dying person takes when he tries to resolve the idea of dying too soon. I tried everything—and I do mean everything—in the span of 6 ½ minutes and Jonah wasn’t having any. It was embarrassing, but I was pleading with a person who was two weeks old to “quit being a baby and suck it up.” I knew he wanted only one thing—or at least a choice of one or the other thing—and I wasn’t equipped to provide either one, if you know what I mean. Anyway, my efforts failed miserably, so I decided to risk my life and ask Sunday for help.
As I walked the short hallway back to our apartment with young Jonah, I felt a powerful change come over me. I began to zone out Jonah’s cries, my face was contorting and I literally felt my IQ dropping about 25 points. Yes, on that trip down the hallway, I was turning into an imbecile. I was fully prepared to genuflect at Sunday's mighty, motherly powers and never attempt to fly where only mothers tread, or something like that. I had given up. Jonah had whipped me. I couldn’t get him to shut up. I couldn’t think, I couldn’t comfort him, I couldn’t cry louder than he could, and I couldn’t take it anymore. They were the worst ten minutes of my life, a sad commentary on the type of father I thought I’d be and the father I was now becoming. My spine melted and it was replaced with instant Jell-O—sugar free nonetheless.
And it was only a fortnight after Sunday had gone through a pretty tough birth experience. It was tougher than my birth experience, I can tell you that.
It was pitch black in the room, which is good, because it matched the color of my wicked soul. I was about to take the step that could change our parenting. I was choosing the full night’s sleep, the poop free hands, and the world of ignorant bliss. I was choosing to be an old-school Dad in a new millennium. I would get a job, make money and take care of my brood financially. A cave man. That’s what I’d be. I’d be a cave man that continued to club things and eat them raw, trichinosis be damned. I would be brave in other arenas, conquer other hills, and rebuild my spine in the outside world. So what if I was a jelly fish in the middle of the night? So what if my knees buckled at the sound of a baby crying? So what if I didn’t know how to change a diaper. So what?