Originally published in September 2006, The Daily Sentinel, Grand Junction, Colo.
The stupidest dream has entertained me for the last week or so. I imagine that my 3-week-old daughter can talk, and we have this conversation:
“Father,” she says courteously in a melodious voice, “I fear I have grown hungry again. Would you please ask Mother if she wouldn’t mind nursing me awhile? I’d approach her myself, but not being able to crawl and all, it might take me some time to catch up to her.”
“I’d be delighted,” I answer. “However, your mother is preoccupied with her daily shower just now. Might you wait a few minutes for her to finish?”
“Oh, no trouble at all,” she says. “In fact, I hate to be such a bother to begin with. Please don’t interrupt Mother until she’s dried her hair and eaten brunch.”
“Thank you. In the meantime, could you use a fresh diaper?”
“Well, I’m embarrassed to confess it, but as long as you’re asking, I COULD do with a fresh Huggie. Do you have time to accommodate me?”
“No trouble,” I answer.
We both smile as the dream ends, and then I wonder why I am now pleased with the “talking baby” fantasy I find so irritating in movies or commercials.
It probably has something to do with the way many of my real-world interactions with my new daughter go.
“WAAAAH! WAAAAH! HIC! WAAAAAAAH!”
“- Lisa! -“
“WAAAAAAAH! GULP! WA WA WA WAAAAAAAAH!”
“- get AWAY from me, Effie -” (Directed to our dog, whose sensitive ears probably jangle much more than mine when the baby cries.)
Geez. Holding a baked potato fresh off a 500-degree grill is less challenging than struggling with a shrieking infant in your arms.
A baby won’t be reasoned with or tolerate a delay while you wash your hands. Once she’s started crying because she’s hungry or because she needs her diaper changed or because she needs to burp or because whatever (good luck figuring it out), she won’t let up until two minutes after she gets it.
When I told my wife it baffled me that the little ones who need us so much make a noise that drives us crazy, Lisa said they do it so we’ll put food in their mouths as quickly as possible in order to quiet them down.
How awful is it that this is what I have to say about the new little miracle in our family?
I’ve been a father close to six years, which means I still have plenty to learn about parenting (who doesn’t?). One thing I know for sure about myself, at least, is that the kids have exasperated me most when they’re smallest.
This probably doesn’t say much good about me, especially when one considers all the extra demands motherhood has piled on my wife.
When was the last time Lisa got a full night’s uninterrupted sleep? A full night without having to deal with some kind of issue with one of our daughters?
Years. No kidding.
Fortunately, our baby isn’t always crying. Sometimes she sleeps.
And sometimes she’s just neat, which reminds me of all the things I like about kids. Sometimes she sits quietly in someone’s lap and looks around. The lamps, the trees, the furniture, her big sisters … it’s all new to her and she’s curious about it. That’s fun.
Sometimes she shows us she’s already learning, such as when she recently reached up to take hold of a bottle while she was being fed.
And sometimes, already, I look at her and know I don’t get to keep her forever.