Babies, and chaos
When Edan hasn't napped, the universe implodes around her. She is Gozer the Destructor (see footnote) in the form of a toddler, leaving unrest, disquietude and chaos in her wake. The world is no match for her in this condition, and, quite frankly, neither am I.
So yesterday I picked her up from daycare, and she'd "just rested" (which is the euphemism Edan's daycare supervisor uses for "REFUSED TO SLEEP"), but she seemed normal, nonetheless. Eerily normal. No tantrums, no lack of focus, and no signs she was morphing into a mythical creature of destruction. Woo hoo!
But then we got home, and Edan decided she needed crayons -- right now! -- and couldn't wait for me to help her get them. She yanked open the desk drawer where we keep color-making odds and ends, the force of which shook the entire desk -- so much so that the water sitting on top of it toppled and spilled all over the office. It simultaneously scared the crap out of Edan, made her scream, and inspired her to dance around in the new, indoor puddle. I started mopping up the water while Edan started tossing shoes around in the living room -- and before I'd finished with the mess, she screamed "I GOTTA GO PEE PEEEEEEE" (which, incidentally, is exactly what I used to say when I was a kid, so it made me sort of proud). I stopped mopping and rushed with Edan to the bathroom (because she wouldn't go by herself), where she dropped a piece of tissue paper, bent down to pick it up, and smacked her lip on the toilet rim, which must've hurt reeeeeaaaaaly bad. I held Edan while she sobbed and asked for her mother, told her we'd make it better, and convinced her to stop crying by letting her heal herself with large piece of ice. In all the commotion, I'd forgotten about the lake in the office, started making Edan a snack, only to stop so I could comfort her again, after she tried to chew the ice (in spite of my explicit instructions not to) and accidentally swallowed an unexpectedly large piece of it.
"Shh. It'll be ok," I whispered, as I rubbed my hand on her back and ran my fingers through her hair.
* * *
I have no idea what to do with newborns. They're tiny, and they're cute, and they're fun to hold, but beyond that, I'm stuck.
So the first month or so of Edan's life was really weird. Her mother and I agreed to a two-hour window during which I could attempt to see Edan every afternoon. I say "attempt," because, more often than not, Edan was sleeping, or eating, both of which made it impossible for us to visit. Hence, I spent an inordinate amount of time bumming around their house, waiting for Edan to wake up -- which they hated, and I hated, because (at the time), they hated me. Fun! On the days she was awake, the time felt so precious, that I wanted to her hold her the whole time -- or just stare at her -- trying to savor every moment for as long as long as I possibly could.
Besides, she and I weren't allowed to leave, so focusing on her meant I could forget we were trapped in the House of Painfully Awkward Tension.
All this made me desperate for some time alone with my daughter, and, at three months-old, I finally convinced her mother that the world wouldn't collapse if Edan and I went to the park.
From the very beginning, as I buckled Edan into her car seat, I was acutely aware that we'd never been alone together. I drove 10 miles below the speed limit, constantly checking in my review mirror to make sure she was breathing -- meanwhile my heart was racing at roughly 8 times its normal pace. I'd been waiting for that moment for so long, I assumed it would be life-altering -- I thought it would be the moment that my daughter and I understood each other for the first time. Somehow, she would know that I was her father, as if the fundamental tie that existed between us was tangible enough for an infant to comprehend.
But, instead, she screamed. She screamed, and screamed, and screamed, and screamed. We got to the park, and I pulled her -- screaming -- from her car seat, and tried to hold her in one arm, while I fumbled to unfold the stroller. She screamed louder as I put her in the stroller, and other people at the park started to stare. I bounced her in my arms, I cooed, I sang to her, I paced, all the while trying to stay calm because I wanted so badly for her to stop crying, even though I'm sure she knew I was completely freaking out.
And Edan kept screaming, even as I called her mother, who arrived moments later. She held our daughter in her arms for a less than a minute before the crying stopped. It was what Edan had wanted the whole time, and there was nothing I could do about it.
I kissed Edan could goodbye, and she left with her mother. I drove back to my rented room, alone, hoping it wouldn't always be so awful.
* * *
And then, in what feels equally like 15 minutes and 100 years, there we were, with Edan resting her sobbing head on my shoulder -- exhausted, confused, and angry at a world that had so cruelly smacked her noggin on the potty and shoved a piece of ice down her throat. Life is decidedly different these days, but it still felt like a small miracle when she took a deep breath, smiled, and set off to start creating chaos all over again.
Footnote: Gozer the Destructor is the demon at the end of Ghostbusters, who takes the form of the Stay Puffed Marshmallow Man in order to destroy Manhattan.