Posted by jdg | Tuesday, June 10, 2008

During my wife's recent maternity leave, I always felt like I was running the third leg of a medley relay. It was my job not to lose our lead: to hold the baby, keep him content and quiet for the duration of my leg, and then make sure he didn't get dropped during the hand off to the anchor. Not only did the anchor have working milk ducts, she had that motherly prescience for what was wrong, that wordless, primal bond of murmuring and night. It was this way, too, when Juniper was a baby: I fell into that pattern of fathers who really come into their own when the baby is a bit older, more interactive. Admittedly, I fell hard for her then. But oftentimes, before that, I secretly felt as helpless as my charge.

At the end of her first maternity leave, my wife handed Juniper off to a stranger. At the end of this one, she handed Gram off to me.

And suddenly I had no anchor.

We haven't written much about our son. I've written some about the difficulty of the transition to two kids, but I haven't written much about him. It's not that I don't have anything to say, it's that with this website what it now is, I'm just not sure that it would be fair to him to put his first months under the microscope. Plus, as veterans of the baby-wrangling game, all those little developments, the punch of emotions, none of those things seem revolutionary enough to warrant a few words on this blog at the expense of his privacy.

But I do have this to say about him now: at some point in these recent anchorless weeks, I've fallen for him. Hard. He is such an easygoing, charming dude. He is my son. There is something almost biblical in the way I look at him. But beyond all that, he has given me something of the bond I always envied during my wife's maternity leave: the instinct to hold him against my shoulder and touch his back just the right way when he's upset, or the surest way to make him smile.

One of the coolest parts of staying home with these kids is that no one is around to make fun of me for the way I talk to them. All day I make up stupid songs, talk in horrible Lucky Charms accents, and laugh uproariously at knock knock jokes that don't make sense. I know my wife loves me completely, but I'm not sure if she could still respect me if she heard all of this, and I'm way worse now that Gram is here. With Juniper at preschool, I just sit there with him and do whatever I can to make him smile. This usually involves turning into a much gayer version of Sgt. "Motor Mouth" Jones from the Police Academy movies. Sometimes I hear what I sound like and want to punch myself, but the only person whose opinion really matters weighs fifteen pounds, and apparently he thinks I'm totally awesome.

I love that I know exactly when he's tired. I love that I can now get him to sleep in seconds. I love the way he watches me when I feed him. I love that I know exactly when he's just hungry, before it gets to the point of crying. It took a few difficult weeks, but I'm finally there. I never feel helpless anymore. I'm no longer desperate for that waiting hand, keeping pace ahead, outstretched behind her.

But at the end of the day, it's there anyways. And just because I'm no longer desperate for it doesn't dampen the relief of watching her tuck him under her arm and run with him as well as I ever could.