When a Week Feels Like a Month

If you read this post from the other week, you may have a sense that it’s been a stressful time for our family. Two weeks later and Michiko 1Trying not to use my daughter’s real name in this writing. is well, we’ve found wonderful, new childcare, and life is returning to normal. That week however, felt so long. We both took time off to take care of Michiko and monitor her. We worked out some emergency childcare with a friend. Then, fortune turned toward us and a colleague’s former nanny was opening up an in-home daycare that week.

In a flurry of emails, phone calls, and meetings, it all worked out and last week was Michiko’s first week there. She’s doing great. We’re getting used to packing up and dropping her off in the mornings instead of having someone come to our house. But that week, it felt like the days stretched on and on. Tension coiled my shoulders up and each day was exhausting. When I look back, it was only two weeks ago, it seems like that week occurred far in the past. I’m not sure what the basis is for that, but it’s strange. Was it just such a stressful time that one copes by distancing one’s self from it?

Notes   [ + ]

1. Trying not to use my daughter’s real name in this writing.

When a baby yawns it’s cute. Their small pouty mouth opens, cheeks like steamed buns rise up. When the baby is yours, most of her actions are cute. She blows air out her mouth. Lays on her back and shakes her arms and legs. She wiggles her toes. Grabs her toes. And, sucks on her toes. Her expression is amusement mixed with curiosity, as if to ask, whose toes are these?

When your baby gets a CT scan, it is not cute. When there is a bump and a blue bruise on her head, and your health insurance cannot be reached in order to pre-authorize the CT scan, which the doctor says is needed, and which it’s best to be performed at the imaging center, instead of hours spent in the emergency room with a six-month-old, who is still in the process of getting her vaccinations, and so you charge the full amount, and your infant is swaddled, then wrapped in lead, while the technician puts lead covers on you and tells you to keep her head still, and she’s screaming, just screaming so loud, her throat raw, her face red, and the scanner whirs and spins, while the platform on which you’re holding her slides into the spinning device, it’s awful. When you wait to hear the results and worries flood your mind, it’s awful. It’s awful driving home with your partner on the phone with the doctor. It’s awful to worry about whether or not your baby should go to sleep. It becomes better when the news from the doctor is good news, but still, it is only good news along a spectrum. It is good news, because it’s not the bad news. There is still the bump, the color-changing bruise, the worry. There is still the image of your child, your baby screaming, afraid and restrained, unable to speak, while the scanner spins and brings her in.

Baby Teaches Fox to Read

Almost six months old and already consuming books!

The house is quiet. The dog is asleep on the couch, tucked in an Auggie-ball in the corner. My wife is asleep. Our baby sleeps too. In this house full of sleep, I am awake. The sounds of the train rumble a few blocks away. My neighbor watches TV on his front porch, a well-stoked fire burns in his yard, an open living room to which the neighborhood is invited. It’s in this quiet that I think about fatherhood. I should be joining my family in dream, and yet, here I am, awake.

The topic of fatherhood came up in conversation the other day. Partly, because I am a new father, but also, because I mostly grew up without a father. I don’t know what that means in terms of learned behavior. After my dad died, my mom raised us alone. I watched her fight for her kids. I grew up in a household full of books and music and curiosity. My mom took us fishing. She fearlessly drove our old Dodge Caravan down overgrown logging two-tracks in the Upper Peninsula, sand spitting and tires humping over pine roots. From my mom, I’ve learned a parent is patient, uses seriousness and humor like sticks and carrots in diplomacy. I have no idea what it means to be a dad. I don’t identify with those caricatures on sitcoms or in Sunday commercials.

I will be there for my daughter. I will teach her to be curious, to ask questions, and to learn. I will watch over her with my wife. Protect her and nurture her. I will do all that I can for her, like my mother did for her sons. We’ll have fun. We’ll all go on adventures, whether they begin in a book or start near the shores of Lake Superior, in the dry heat of August, playing among Blue Spruce and Bracken ferns, the scent of wild blueberries in the breeze.

On page 86 of An Unnecessary Woman. It’s so deliberate. Slow. A long conversation sitting in someone’s apartment. A love letter to literature. A remembrance of what a life in books costs.