People tell you that having a child will change your life forever. This statement is assured, unnecessary, and bordering on silly. Of course having a child will change your life forever. Winning the lottery would change your life forever, as would waking to find that your hands had been replaced by flippers and your voice sounded like ducks farting. It goes without saying.
My lament, then, is that I was not adequately prepared by society or my own life experiences to understand what would change. True, comedians had told me for years that having a baby was like caring for a tiny drunk person and that has proven to be accurate. My mother tended to recall my more endearing qualities. Though, if my daughter is anything like her father, Mom must have had to dodge a poop missile once or twice back in the early 80’s. No, both of my parents assured me that I was a wonderful baby, fearless, chubby, and generally happy.
The intent of this writing is not to complain about my lot in life. Nor is it to brag about my daughter even if I think she is the greatest baby since Jesus. I have ideas and musings rolling around inside my head that culminated in a general awareness of myself, an awareness that I am a different self having spent the past sixteen months in the presence of my little girl.
Here I must make a mandatory detour to applaud my wife who ferried this little hellion in her belly for nine months. She never sent me out to get pickles or ice-cream, and she genuinely enjoyed the feeling of life growing within her.
Now back to me.
I guess the first question I should ask is how did Maggie change my life. By that I mean, what is it about her?
About two moths ago Maggie began to point at things and say dat. Whatever dat was she wanted a better view and she wanted to know the name. Often, she was not satisfied to hear it once or even a dozen times. This has led to conversations that would only take place between a toddler and an adult or a crazy person and another crazy person.
Rinse and repeat for three straight minutes. You can substitute any of the following words in place of star: ladybug, strawberry, cookie, butterfly, snowman, so on and so forth.
One morning Maggie woke up and dat suddenly changed to dis. Now she was pointing and saying this instead of that. The words were never interchangeable. For two weeks it was dis and now we are back to dat as of a few weeks ago.
Maggie is very busy. She isn’t much of a sitter. I often wonder what goes through her head as she is deciding which book to look at or toys to smash together. Is it deliberate or is it instinct? She has a habit, especially when Miranda and I are eating on the couch, of walking in elaborate circles to retrieve a sample of food from us. For whatever reason, she usually closes her eyes tightly as she approaches us, groping in front of her with hands like antennae. Once she has the food in hand she will crane her head to the ceiling, close her eyes again, and walk away.
I can go on for pages about the adorable or just strange things she does. But, this is about me and I have to be selfish.
I have never been much of a crier. My older sister and I are a lot alike in that way. This doesn’t mean I am less empathic or affected by tragedy. It just never triggers that particular response, or rarely does anyway.
The twenty-four hour odyssey of Maggie’s birth was physically and emotionally draining. Like any proper husband not corrupted by modern media I witnessed the event, to include the slimy bits. And that is what changed me.
The times I have cried in my life are self-explanatory as to why. I either was hit by a car, hit by a tennis racket, or watched Forrest tell Jenny’s headstone how smart little Forrest was. There was always something there, some feeling (and usually blood) that I could point to as the source.
When I saw Maggie emerge with her eyes wide open I felt like the dam burst. I cried. My face quivered, and I’m pretty sure I was laughing through most of it. Had you stripped away everything else that was going on in the room and just focused on me it would look a lot less endearing.
But, there was Maggie.
Those were very happy tears.
Had I guessed that I would become a crier after Maggie I would have said no. I would probably cry at certain things, sure, but I’d spent twenty-nine years perfectly happy not crying.
A few days ago I decided to punish myself by watching a documentary listed under the heading Twenty-Five Documentaries Guaranteed to Make You Cry. The documentary was lovely and Miranda and I bawled together. Hey, it was guaranteed, what was I supposed to do?
While on my lunch break I watched a video a Facebook friend shared about the Air Force band doing a flash mob at the Smithsonian. They played a Christmas song (forget the name) and I watched the spectators smile, swell with pride, couples hold onto each other, and so on. And then the picture went blurry and I realized I had tears in my eyes.
This is how Maggie changed me.
It’s easy to be affected by the endless streams of negativity. From your personal life to the media, it’s a wonder we all aren’t crazy. Or maybe we’re all just crazy together and so no one knows the difference.
Then I think about Maggie pointing at the same ladybug picture she’s pointed to literally a thousand times and demanding to know the name one more time. I think about how excited she gets when she successfully steals the remote control. I think about her squeals when her Baby Signs DVD starts to play. I think about all of the beauty I can show her and all of the firsts yet to come. Yes, she is a little drunk person with half of my DNA. Yes, reading Goodnight Goon forty consecutive times can challenge even my nearly endless reserve of patience.
Despite any petty drawback I don’t want it to end.
And I know it will some day.
But some day is a long way from today.